Tuesday, September 11
LAS VEGAS – Week 1 of the NFL season was a huge success here over the weekend with sports books all over town reporting standing-room only crowds.
OK, most books just have a few hundred seats, so we’re not talking about sold-out stadiums here – except for Lagasse’s Stadium at the Palazzo on the Strip.
The books, already doing well this fall with back-to-back winning college football Saturdays, came out ahead again with the NFL openers. Underdogs were 9-7 against the spread, which is usually a positive sign for the books as the public – even with it getting it more and more sophisticated as each year passes – still tends to bet the favorites.
The SuperContest at the LVH (formerly the Hilton) has always been a pretty good barometer of how the sharp money did over a given weekend as it used to mostly be played by Vegas wise guys and people outside town that knew about the contest and how you could play if you had a local proxy put the plays in for you every week. This year, the field drew a record 745 at $1,500 apiece and they’re shooting for a prize pool of more than $1.1 million with $447,000 to the champion. The SuperContest only had 345 in the field two years ago (and 517 last year), so those extra 400 people are going to include a lot of so-called squares. As we saw in the poker boom, that doesn’t mean one of those can’t win it, but it does put more “dead money” in the pool.
We definitely saw the impact of this in Week 1 as the five most selected teams were all favorites: Saints, Lions, Eagles, Patriots and Packers with only the Pats covering. The Saints were taken by a whopping 335 players (nearly 45%), though a lot of those were sharps that were also taking the Saints -7 used in the contest while the number was higher in the betting market when the contest plays had to be submitted Saturday morning.
Win or lose, everyone is now looking ahead to Week 2 and there’s several thing we all have to keep in mind:
1. Learn from what you saw in Week 1 and adjust any preconceived notions.
2. Because I’m a contrarian bettor and mostly look for underdogs, I think this is more important: Don’t overreact to what you saw. This seems to contradict #2 (see how I love to be contrarian?), but it really isn’t. You do have to trust what you saw on the field or in the stats on the opening weekend, but the key is to not go overboard. An example, a lot of people were totally down on the Jets after their preseason performance. Their offense sucked, the defense wasn’t what it used to be, etc. etc. A lot of people faded them in Week 1. Then, the Jets routed the Bills 48-28 and the pendulum has swung to now people saying the offensive mix with Sanchez and Tebow is unstoppable and the defense is back. So, yes, if you thought they were terrible, you need to adjust, but just don’t be that guy that reacts to just one game.
3. We’ve already heard the comments about the teams that are awesome (Redskins, Texans, 49ers, Broncos, Ravens) and the teams that reek (Dolphins, Panthers, Bengals). Everyone knows that the oddsmakers are going to have to make adjustments in the lines in upcoming games to account for results on the field as well as for public perception on those teams. The thing most people don’t consider is that the oddsmakers, even if they’re keeping their objectivity, sometimes still have to overadjust their lines to avoid getting lopsided on a game.
To illustrate all these points, let’s take a real-world look at some of the Week 2 lines and compare to what they were last Tuesday when the LVH put up advance lines on all the games (and, in some cases, we’ll look at the Cantor Gaming books (M, Venetian, Palazzo, Hard Rock, Tropicana, Cosmopolitan put up back in early May, right after the draft) I’ll leave out the games where the lines have stayed pretty stable, which are mostly the teams that performed as expected in Week #1:
Bears-Packers (Thursday): As of Tuesday morning, the Packers were a solid 6-point favorite just about everywhere. Back in May, Cantor made this Packers -7 while LVH had it 5.5 last week. After the Packers’ loss to the 49ers, which followed the Bears blowing out the Colts, the LVH put this line up Pack -4.5 on Sunday afternoon. Most other books opened at 5 or 5.5. Bettors clearly thought that was adjusted too low and have bet it back to 6.
Buccaneers-Giants: This line had the defending Super Bowl champs -9 back in May at Cantor. The LVH advance line was 8. Giants lost, Bucs won, and it opened back at NYG -7 on Sunday. It has since been bet back up to 7.5
Vikings-Colts: Colts were -2.5 at both Cantor in May and last week at LVH. Vikings won, Colts lost, and the Vikings re-opened -2.5. Overreaction? It looks that way as it’s been bet back down to 1 and this could close pick-em.
Saints-Panthers: Cantor had the Panthers -2.5 back in May, but LVH only had it pick-em last week. The Saints were upset, which would normally see them downgraded but obviously the Panthers’ loss to the Buccaneers was seen as a worse result (RGIII is being hyped as more of the reason for the Saints’ loss than their own fault), so the Saints are now -2.5 with some 3’s out there.
Raiders-Dolphins: The Dolphins were actually a solid 3.5-point favorite in this game at Cantor back in May. After the whole world being down on them, they were then made a 3.5-point dog at the LVH last Tuesday. The Dolphins’ loss to the Texans was perceived so badly that the Raiders’ loss to the Chargers on Monday night still only dropped this line to Raiders -2.5.
Jaguars-Texans: Cantor has it Texans -5.5 in May. LVH had it Texans -7 last week. Both teams pretty much did what expected with Jaguars losing to Vikings by 3 in overtime and the Texans blowing out the Dolphins, but the bandwagon is filling up with Houston backers as this is now over the key number at Texans -7.5.
Cowboys-Seahawks: Seattle was a 1.5-point favorite at Cantor in May and after the hype of the preseason and the emergence of Russell Wilson as the starting quarterback, this was up to 2.5 last week at the LVH. The Cowboys upset the Giants and the Seahawks came up short in a 20-16 loss to the Cardinals. Now, the line has flipped with the Cowboys a solid 3-point road favorite.
Redskins-Rams: Cantor saw this as pick-em. The LVH had the Rams, yes, the Rams as a 2-point favorite last week. But then the Redskins beat the Saints, and all the attendant hype as mentioned previously, and the Skins are now a 3-point favorite even though the Rams took the Lions to the wire.
Jets-Steelers: Pittsburgh was a lukewarm 4.5-point favorite at Cantor. After the debacle of a preseason for the Jets, the LVH made it Steelers -7.5 last week. After the Jets’ win and the Steelers’ loss, it’s now back under the key number of 7 and sitting at Steelers -6.
Lions-49ers: Cantor had the 49ers -3.5 and LVH had it -4 last week. After the Lions struggled to beat the Rams and the 49ers’ win over the Packers, it’s now 49ers -6.5 and could continue climbing.
Keep an eye on the lines and be prepared to jump in when you think you see the public and/or overreacting to what we saw in Week #1.
Dave Tuley is an award-winning journalist who has covered the Las Vegas race & sports beat since 1998, first for the GamingToday newspaper in Vegas and has written for Daily Racing Form since 2000. Tuley started his own website,ViewFromVegas.com, in 2007 and has written for other websites, including ESPN.com. In 2006, he won "Best News Story" by the Professional Football Writers of America, the only time a gambling story has won a PFWA award. Tuley, 45, grew up in the Chicago suburbs and is married with children in Vegas. His roots can be seen in the names of his three children: daughters Jordyn and Peyton (named for Walter Payton, not Peyton Manning) and son Maddux. Dave can be followed on Twitter @ViewFromVegas