01/29/2002 1:00AM

Which trend do you trust?


Football handicappers have a tendency to look at trends. Some bettors exclusively rely on them, while others use them as just another factor in the handicapping equation.

At Super Bowl time, trends get even more media attention. The problem is that you can find a trend to support whichever side you decide to bet.

Game trends

* The NFC has won 20 of the 35 Super Bowls, but is only 17-15-3 against the spread.

* The AFC and NFC have split the last six Super Bowls, but the AFC has a 4-0-2 record against the spread record during that span. The two pushes took place the last time each of this year's teams played. The Rams beat the Titans, 23-16, two years ago as 7-point favorites. The Patriots lost to the Packers five years ago, 35-21, as 14-point underdogs.

* Favorites are 24-11 straight up, and an impressive 19-13-3 against the spread.

* Four of the last five Super Bowls have gone over the closing total. Over/under betting on the Super Bowl didn't start until the 1982 game, and the over has a 13-6-1 edge.

* The popular favorite-over parlay, which generally pays at odds of 13-5 (higher at some books), has hit in two of the last three and five of the past 10 years.

Team trends

* With Sunday's 24-17 win over the Steelers, the Patriots are now 12-5-1 against the spread for the season. They are also 9-1-1 in their last 11 games and have not lost straight up since a 24-17 home loss to the Rams on Nov. 18. The Patriots are only 2-2 on artificial turf, but the good news is that both those wins were in domes (at Indianapolis and Atlanta).

* The Patriots are 10-8 with the over, but have combined for more than 53 points (the over/under on the Super Bowl) only three times this season and only once since Oct. 21, in a 38-17 win over the defenseless Colts.

* The Rams failed to cover in their 29-24 win over the Eagles and are now 10-7-1 for the season. They are 9-4-1 against the spread on artificial turf, including 8-3 in domes.

* The Rams are 10-8 with the over. As high-scoring as the Rams' games usually are, they've exceeded 53 points in only eight of their 18 games.

2001 playoff trends

* With both favorites failing to cover in the conference championship games, favorites (which were all home teams) are now 6-4 straight up and 5-4-1 against the spread.

* The early-money moves in Las Vegas, usually a strong indicator, were on both the Steelers and Rams last week. The wise guys are now only 4-4-1 in the playoffs. The early move this week was on the Patriots.

* Both games went over on Sunday, so the over now holds a 7-3 edge. The total on Sunday's game is at 53 and climbing. If you like the over, bet it as soon as possible and at as low a number as possible.