Two Sundays ago the majority of Las Vegas sports books opened the Seahawks as 2.5-point favorites against the Patriots for Super Bowl XLIX. Kickoff is 3:30 p.m. PT this Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.
Bettors immediately showed the books they thought the number was wrong and bet the Patriots at a frantic pace where at one point last week Wynn Las Vegas sports book director John Avello said, “I’ve seen 10 out of every 11 tickets written be on the Patriots.”
On Saturday, Avello became the first in town to move the Patriots to -1.5, and he did so more as a means to “test the waters.” For the first week of the Super Bowl, Avello was using only -105 juice on the spread rather than the standard -110 as a way to generate some additional volume and also see if the best number in town for Seattle bettors would have them showing up.
Some Seattle action did arrive, but not to the degree Avello thought it might. On Monday morning Avello went back to -110, but still was using Patriots -1.5, the largest (funny) number in town.
It’s been a stagnant number everywhere with good two-way action that hasn’t merited a move. This is the biggest game of the season where the books want to be at the right number when 85 percent of the overall game action appears this week.
“We’re still at Patriots -1,” said MGM Resorts sports book hub manager Jeff Stoneback Monday morning. “It was kind of a slow weekend, and we’ve still got about 2-to-1 action (actual cash) in favor of the Patriots, but since moving to -1 (last Tuesday) our ticket counts are even.”
From most reports, action has been very even over the weekend. And let’s just say that about 10 percent of the “undecided” category sided with Seattle because of ethical questions about the Patriots’ integrity following the scandal from the AFC Championship game when 11 of 12 New England footballs were deflated by “someone” within two hours of the game.
A little less pressure and the ball is easier to catch, especially in cold, slippery weather – like it was against the Colts.
The Patriots 45-7 blowout win isn’t being questioned – they won 28-0 in the second half with proper balls, but when the team in question is the Patriots (Spygate), fans will be suspicious.
That may be all it took to sway the betting movement. The big press conferences with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were on Friday and the slowdown with bettors’ enthusiasm occurred relatively at the same time when every news network was re-airing clips.
Several sports writers also came down with harsh criticisms of both Brady and Belichick looking guilty. It swayed public opinion, right?
“I think deflate-gate has slowed the trend a bit,” said Station Casinos VP of race and sports Art Manteris. “Last year the general public not only thought the Broncos were the better team, they also all wanted Manning to win. This year after watching the Patriots destroy the Colts most thought the Patriots and Belichick were unbeatable right now; but nobody outside of hardcore Patriots fans are betting on that side with their hearts.
“That being said, we are still pretty high on the Patriots; but not what I expected after the first 48 hours of wagering.”
So is the tide turning toward the Seahawks? Will we see a line shift closer to where it opened, or will the Patriots get that last thrust of action? And how does perception of deflated balls all come into play?
For me, I don’t care whether they did it or not. My only concern is what the distraction before the Super Bowl is worth to the number. From a mental approach on the entire Patriots squad it’s worth something.
From the aspect of Brady being the most important player on the field and he’s had to feel vulnerable and criticized, it’s also worth something. You have to at least add one point back into the Seahawks rating, which takes us back to Seahawks -3.
Remember, Seattle was 3 points better in the ratings than New England all season – sometimes higher. In the AFC Championship game, New England crushed the Colts, and it’s debatable how high you boost them, but it sure isn’t 3 points.
I give them only a half-point boost, but I also takeaway a half-point from Seattle because of five turnovers in the NFC Championship game where they should have lost.
Altogether, it comes out to Seahawks -3, and so based on what the line is right now (NE -1.5), I have to play the numbers, right? Isn’t that what we do all season?
You side with the team where the line is most out of whack. And even though there is no real value in the spread, you can take EVEN money on the money line at the Wynn and stretch it out where you’ve got at least 60 cents to the dollar worth of value if agreeing Seattle is a true 3-point favorite here.
Even before Deflate-gate, I had several questions about the Patriots playing well below their rating in recent years during playoff games and a lot of that has to with Brady.
The Patriots are 4-11 ATS in their last 15 playoff games. They’ve lost their past two Super Bowls outright as favorites and they’re 0-4 ATS in their last four Super Bowls.
Overall, in big games, it has been a losing investment betting on the Patriots. Good defense usually gives Tom Brady a tough time (Giants), and Seattle’s D is No. 1.
Prediction: Seattle, 23-17 (Yes, that means I’m going UNDER 48.5 points as well.)
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].