Green Bay made for New Orleans

Last September, readers of this column were advised to support the Green Bay Packers to win Super Bowl XXXI at a pre-season price of 7-1. Four months later, the odds about the Pack emerging victorious in New Orleans next weekend are pretty much the same, save for the important addition of the "on".

One of betting's more worthwhile dictums is that no one ever went broke by taking a profit. Even so, anyone with 7-1 against the Packers will surely be throwing bad money after good if they save on the New England Patriots at a top-priced 9-2.

True, home-field advantage - in particular acclimatisation to an average wind-chill of minus 20 degrees - has assisted Green Bay thus far, but their strength in every department is so overwhelming that the question is surely not whether Green Bay will win next Sunday, but by how much.

Or, put another way, will the Packers cover the spread? Early odds from one British bookie quoted both teams at 5-6, with Green Bay conceding just a 101/2-point start, but the line in Las Vegas opened at 14 points and it has now settled at around the two-touchdown mark in Britain too. It is quite a start to overhaul, but with dome conditions likely to favour high scoring, the Pack must be fancied to beat New England as thoroughly as did the Chicago Bears, by 46-10, in 1986.

Cautious punters may be prepared to take 8-11 with the Tote, who give Green Bay just an 111/2-point start, but there seems little danger in giving away two more points in return for odds of 10-11 (Hills).

Only Coral have so far priced up the first Test between the New Zealand and England cricketers, which begins on Friday. The weather - i.e. the draw - is clear favourite, at 5-4, with England 7-4 and the hosts 9-4.

The Kiwi national side is at almost as low an ebb as England's at present. Even so, 9-4 looks an excellent price for the home side, as does 2-1 for a series victory for New Zealand with the same firm in a list that the bookmakers are betting to a 1.5 per cent profit margin.

SUPER BOWL XXXI (New Orleans, Sunday): Best prices: 2-9 Green Bay (Tote), 9-2 New England (Hills). Handicaps: Tote: 8-11 Green Bay, evens New England (+111/2). Hills: 10-11 Green Bay, 10-11 New England (+131/2). NEW ZEALAND v ENGLAND CRICKET TEST SERIES: Best series prices: 2-1 NZ (Coral), 6- 4 England (Ladbrokes), 5-2 drawn (Tote).