As the National Football League season enters its second half, it seems like a good time to take a look as some of this season’s shockers from a gambling (if it were legal) point of view.

With the help of vegasinsider.com, let’s start with our Bills. With two heartbreaking, last-second losses, they probably should be 6-2 instead of 4-4. Well, in gamblers’ eyes, they are, as those two close defeats to Denver and Dallas helped Buffalo cover the spread six times (including a perfect 5-0 at home).

New England is still perfect at 9-0, but their four-point win Sunday at Indianapolis didn’t beat the 5.5-point spread, marking the first time they didn’t cover. Their high-powered offense is a safe bet in terms of over/under, though, as they’ve gone above the point total in seven of their nine games (in several cases besting the point total before the other team’s score is added in).

Other sure bets against the spread this season include the Colts (6-2), Cleveland (6-2), Pittsburgh (6-2) and Dallas (6-2). The Derek Anderson-led Browns offense, meanwhile, has helped Cleveland go a startling 6-0-2 in the over/under (too bad there was no way to bet on that happening with the quarterback NOT being Brady Quinn).

The league’s worst teams also aren’t faring well versus the spread, but the winless Rams (1-7 against the spread) and Dolphins (2-4-2) have delivered for bettors at least once. While Baltimore’s at .500, meanwhile, their offensive offense has allowed them to cover only once in eight tries. One of those noncovers came against the Bills, who also helped Denver (1-7) to a pitiful mark for wagering purposes.

The Patriots are being given a lot of credit, meanwhile, in their quest to finish the season undefeated. Betus.com has listed them as +185 (meaning you bet $100 to win $185) to finish the season 16-0; the Bills will have the next chance to end that quest in a night game Nov. 18, as New England has a bye this week.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, are being given +350 odds to finish the year winless, which would give them the honor of being the only franchise to finish separate years winless and undefeated.

The Patriots and Dolphins have the same odds (+250,000) to miss and make the playoffs, respectively.

And as a point of reference, the Patriots entered the season with the third-best odds to win the Super Bowl behind Indianapolis and San Diego. The Pats taking the Lombardi Trophy is now an even bet.

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As the NFL enters its midseason, college basketball gets set to tip off this month. According to National Sports Advisors, North Carolina (5-to-1) is the favorite to take this year’s men’s title. Other top picks include UCLA (6-to-1), Louisville (8-to-1) and Georgetown (8-to-1).

Elsewhere in the Big East, Syracuse — led by Falls grads Paul Harris and Jonny Flynn — is given 20-to-1 odds to win the crown. None of the local teams (Niagara, Canisius, UB or St. Bonaventure) are on the list and would fall into the field bet (45-to-1 for any mid-major or lower-tier major team).

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The World Poker Tour’s North American Poker Championship (to which this scribe was denied press entry) wrapped up last week at Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort. Scott Clements took down Jonathan Little at the final table to win the $1.39 million (Canadian) first prize in the main event. He also wins a seat into the WPT’s world championship in April.

Coming in third to the two professionals was David Cloutier of Brampton, Ontario, who won $372,772 after gaining an entry into the tournament via a satellite event. He was the only Canadian at the final table.

The tournament’s main event drew 504 players, the Toronto Sun reported, up from last year, when 497 players came to event in its virginal appearance in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The WPT’s 2008 television schedule is not complete, so airdates for the local taping have not been set. Visit worldpokertour.com for more information.

Contact reporter Paul Lane at 282-2311, ext. 2251, or lanep@gnnewspaper.com.

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