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Despite no agreement with the NFL Players Association for the 2011 season, the NFL released its schedule for the upcoming pro football season giving hope to fans everywhere that it’s business as usual.

Once the schedule was announced, the crew over at the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book wasted little time and began crunching the numbers.

By Friday night, after only a few hours, the Hilton staff came up with their own lines and then finally a consensus number. The Week 1 lines are now on the board and await some opinions with limits taken at half the amount they do during the regular season.

“We used last year’s ratings to come up with the lines,” said the LV Hilton’s assistant manager Jeff Sherman, “The only real adjustment we had to make was due to the rule changes regarding kickoffs, which lowered the totals a little for each game.”

The change Sherman refers to was made by the NFL last month. It has kickoffs starting five yards closer to the end zone, which means booting from the 35 yard line. This change was put in place to alter the amount of kick returns in hopes of limiting some of the jarring collisions and possible concussions.

Last season there were 23 kicks returned for touchdowns. Unless returners start returning kicks from deep in their end zone, that figure should significantly drop.

The Hilton didn’t just put up the point spread either. They went all in as if the regular season was beginning next week with a full lineup of totals and money lines. The first game on the schedule is Thursday, Sept. 8, pairing the last two Super Bowl champions (Saints and Packers) against each other.

New Orleans travels to Green Bay with the Packers, a five-point favorite with the highest total of Week 1 at 47 points.

The early numbers offered by the Hilton likely will be adjusted a bit once more information is obtained for each team. Critical pieces to the point spread puzzle such as players arriving from this week’s draft, free-agent acquisitions and starting quarterback announcements will all play a role in tightening the number.

As for what will happen with the quarterback situations of some teams, Sherman doesn’t think the number will be affected too much by team decisions.

“It’s not like a team with a question mark at quarterback is going to get a Tom Brady,” he said. “We’re only talking about a minor adjustment when looking at teams like Seattle with Matt Hasselbeck or Charlie Whitehurst, or even Denver with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow.”

For many bettors, though, none of that matters right now. Seeing NFL lines on the board, despite the possibility they may never take place, gives some semblance of hope things will work out.

At the moment, there is no urgency from either side to make an agreement. It’s likely one or two weeks of the preseason will be missed, because that is the only leverage the players have right now.

When the owners start to see the millions lost in revenue from one preseason game that includes ticket sales, parking, concessions and gear sales, they’ll be more inclined to cave.

The NFL worked the schedule out to give itself all kinds of room for adjusting (up to three weeks) in case the lockout runs longer than hoped. The regular season could start in October and the 16 weeks and playoffs could be made up with the Super Bowl still being played Feb. 12.

By releasing the schedule this way, it’s kind of showing the players they are holding ground and fully ready to accept the huge financial losses of a lengthy lockout.

The Hilton has also made a few additional notations for the possibility of date changes. All bets have action as long as each game is played within 30 days of the scheduled date, but must be played at the listed site. The Hilton’s official house rules during the season state a game must be played within eight days of the scheduled date, but the exception was made in this case due to the circumstances that may occur.

The real losers while the two bicker over a few billion dollars are the fans. That’s where the Hilton comes to the rescue. The NFL lines get us back to talking football with the only money talk being about how many units are going to be bet from our pocket book.

The NFL has done all they can to disassociate themselves from gambling and Las Vegas, but the league office should send the Hilton at least an anonymous thank you note for getting their millions of fans off the subject of greedy players and owners and at least talking about what will actually happen on the field, not the negotiating table.

USA Today’s daily lines

With all the recent Federal blockades to major poker sites it makes you wonder how come the Feds haven’t tackled another issue – allowing advertising for sports betting websites.

It is illegal to make wagers within the U.S. to any off-shore sports book, yet we still see ads everywhere. USA Today uses an off-shore book as the source of its daily line when the only place in the country to legally bet individual games is Nevada. Even Danny Sheridan’s stolen daily lines from Las Vegas were ethically better than what the newspaper is doing now.

USA Today may say it’s okay because you can’t bet on the Internet and that it’s a free instead of a site where money can actually be played, but it’s still wrong. The newspaper is simply making money off the line source, which makes it no longer a news line service, but a paid advertising venue. The paid service is enticing Americans to go to the website and bet illegally.

Someone should stop it.

I’m not into the government interfering with things more than they already do, but if they’re going to go after these poker sites with such a vengeance, they should also get into the root of all their marketing within the U.S.

NFL draft party

One of the best football experiences between the Super Bowl and preseason is watching the NFL Draft. It has become a gala to throw your team colors on and gather with a bunch of other equally football-starved fans to cheer or boo each team’s first round selection.

ESPN radio is sponsoring two parties that fit the criteria perfectly at the Santa Fe Station and Bally’s race and sports books. Radio personalities Mitch Moss and Seat Williams will be at the Santa Fe while Dave Cokin and Steve Cofield will be at Bally’s. Food and drink specials will be offered to everyone with special deals given to those who show up with a team jersey on.

Clay Baker, the touchdown maker and producer of both local ESPN shows, who is responsible for all the comedic and timely sound bites we all hear daily, will be at Bally’s. Baker has a renewed vigor on football life as his Detroit Lions draft days now consist of experts talking about the player who will help them make the playoffs rather than the ridicule of drafting a first round wide receiver. He won’t be hard to find, either, as he’s likely to be the only one in attendance with Detroit Lions sneakers on.

If you can’t be with the rowdies at Radio City Music Hall in New York, then Bally’s or Santa Fe Station is the place to be.

Betting the draft?

Even with a more open than ever Nevada Gaming Control Board, the likelihood we’ll ever see the day here in Nevada we’ll be able to wager who the No. 1 overall pick is would be the longest shot in Las Vegas. This year’s draft would be the most exciting ever to wager on with at least five legitimate candidates who could be that top pick, unlike other years when everyone figured out the pick.

We could get nice odds on the first overall pick with a six-way index proposition with Cam Newton (9-5), Marcell Dareus (4-1), Von Miller (11-2), Patrick Peterson (6-1), A.J. Green (8-1) and a field (25-1) wager. Since only a small group within the Carolina Panthers organization knows the pick, GCB would never go for it because the outcome is somewhat predetermined.

The only idea on betting the draft that GCB could possibly accept would be to offer over/under prices on positions taken in the first round. It would be inconceivable to think all 32 teams would collude to win a bet.

If a submission were put in like number of QB’s drafted in the first round or more offensive or defensive players drafted, GCB might listen.

I can’t see the Panthers taking Newton like all the experts are saying. He’s just too unpolished. Unless Carolina plans to run the same offense he ran in college, they might be better served waiting for a traditional quarterback – like the one they drafted last year – to run their offense.

Who wants a project that early? A top pick should be a player who can step in, start right away and make an impact. Carolina has needs everywhere, so I could see them taking anyone of the players listed above besides Newton. My choice would be Miller to get their pass rush going, but I could see a game breaker like Green.

Week 1 Lines (c/o Hilton)

Thursday, Sept. 8

Saints +5 at Packers (47)

Sunday, Sept. 11

Steelers +3 ev at Ravens (37)

Lions +3 at Bucs (41½)

Falcons +1 at Bears (41½)

Bills +6½ at Chiefs (43)

Colts -1 at Texans (47½)

Eagles -4½ at Rams (45)

Bengals +3 ev at Browns (38)

Titans +2½ at Jaguars (41½)

Giants -3 at Redskins (40½)

Panthers +3 at Cardinals (37½)

Seahawks +6½ at 49ers (41½)

Vikings +10½ at Chargers (42½)

Cowboys +4 at Jets (41)

Monday, Sept. 12

Patriots -3½ at Dolphins (46½)

Raiders +1½ at Broncos (42)

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