Best trends in the NFL

With only three weeks remaining in the National Football League's regular season, it's about time we review which trends have been the best moneymakers so far this year. Point spread records may vary depending on what sources you use.

Remember, these are not predictions. Handicappers must also factor in season scores, weather, injuries, common sense, hunches etc., when making their wagers.

The teams with the best spread records all have exceeded preseason expectations: Indianapolis, Denver, Chicago and the New York Giants.

The teams to bet against have been major disappointments: St. Louis, Philadelphia, Arizona and the New York Jets.

The clubs playing the best at home against the spread are also contenders for the playoffs: Minnesota, Kansas City, Seattle, Denver, Chicago and the New York Giants.

The strongest road warrior is Indianapolis. The Colts are undefeated, always the favorite, and 6-0-1 spread-wise on the road. Jacksonville is the second best when a visitor.

It appears that if a team doesn't cover much on the road, it is in for a long season. The New York Jets are always the underdog and a perfectly awful 0 for 7 when visiting. Next worst are San Francisco, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Baltimore.

It is bizarre to note that Cincinnati and Houston are going in opposite directions, yet they have been quite similar on the betting board. Powerful Cincy and horrible Houston are both weak at home and surprisingly strong on the road.

The team that has caught the most fire recently in the standings and against the spread is Minnesota with six consecutive wins and covers. Indy and Kansas City are next best with current 3-0-1 streaks spread-wise. Bay Area clubs Oakland and San Francisco are presently the coldest by losing and failing to cover three in a row, with the 49ers 0 for 5 when quarterback Alex Smith plays.

• Many handicappers also enjoy betting Over and Under totals. A majority of games this season have gone Under the total, and the strongest trends do reflect that.

The most consistent Under team this year is Chicago. Baltimore, Cleveland and Minnesota are close behind.

The Over teams are led by Jacksonville, St. Louis and Arizona.

All six of Baltimore's home games have gone Under. Chicago, Cleveland and Washington have had all but one game go Under when hosting.

Lower scoring usually occurs when Tampa Bay, Minnesota and the New York Jets are on the road.

Higher scoring often happens when Seattle, Arizona, San Francisco and Denver are visitors.

The most predictable team has been Pittsburgh, going 6-0-1 Over at home and 5-0-1 Under on the road.

Finally, the longest current streaks are all Unders. Carolina, Washington and the entire NFC North Division have played four or more Unders in succession.

• The college football bowl season kicks off this Tuesday. Here are predictions for the bowls that take place before next Friday's column:

New Orleans Bowl (at Lafayette, La.) - Under 49 1/2

GMAC - Under 61 1/2

Las Vegas - California -7

Poinsettia - Navy - 3 1/2


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