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The Bettor's Edge

Home dogs are not home free

By Ed Ryan
Globe Correspondent / October 28, 2011

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Some bettors have unwavering faith in home underdogs, but like most spread trends in the NFL, the return rate hovers around 50 percent - even for home teams getting points.

To be precise, this season home underdogs are 18-17-2, coming in 51.4 percent of the time. When comparing home underdogs against other trends, you notice the 50 percent mark is always in play: favorites are at 52 percent (51-47-5), home teams are at 53 percent (52-46-5), and home favorites are at 54 percent (34-29-3).

We have four home underdogs to consider this week: Pittsburgh, Seattle, Kansas City, and St. Louis. Odds are they’ll go 2-2, so choose wisely, my friends.

This week’s picks (home team in caps):

SEATTLE (+3) over Cincinnati: Here’s a home underdog that’s growling. The Seahawks are dreadful on the road but - dating back to last year - have won four of six straight-up at home. Facing Cincinnati’s defense will be challenging for Seattle’s terrible offense, but the Bengals have challenges of their own. Running back Cedric Benson is finally serving his suspension and Cincinnati is bringing a rookie quarterback into a hostile environment. Cincinnati has taken advantage of its easy schedule, but this is a difficult trip for any team. Risking $110 to win $100.

New England (-3) at PITTSBURGH: Here is a home underdog that won’t cover. New England’s defensive issues are obvious, but Pittsburgh is missing something, and the proof can be found in its schedule. The Steelers are a soft 5-2. Their two losses came against Houston and Baltimore, and none of the five victories was against a team above .500. After the Patriots win comfortably, the postgame talk will revolve around what’s wrong with the Steelers. Risking $220 to win $200.

BALTIMORE (-13) over Arizona: A report this week indicated that Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb needs to improve his footwork. If anyone’s looking for results in that area, waiting until after Baltimore crushes Arizona is recommended. Risking $110 to win $100.

Dallas (+3 1/2) over PHILADELPHIA: The Eagles lose four straight, beat a terrible Washington squad by a touchdown, go out of sight for a week on a bye, and suddenly all of their problems are solved? I don’t think so. Philadelphia’s offense is a handful, but the Eagles give up too much defensively. The Cowboys were hesitant to put the game in Tony Romo’s hands in crunch time against New England, but Dallas is ready to make a statement that it’s a playoff-caliber team. Risking $110 to win $100.

Last week: 1-2, minus $70. Season: 10-13-2, minus $590.

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