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Week One of the NFL is finally here and there might be no place happier than Las Vegas because of the tremendous spike in business drawn from the allure of betting the games or playing contests.


Last season we had the Dirty Half-Dozen that the public kept betting against all season where the books had to rapidly increase point spreads, despite what the ratings said, in an attempt to create action on the ugly sides. The Rams, Buccaneers, Browns, Chiefs, Raiders and Lions all contributed to a rough start out of the gate for the books and all culminated in the perfect storm of week seven, the sports books’ biggest losing day ever.


Despite finding sharp money on the inflated lines of those ugly teams throughout the weeks, nothing could stop the massive public pile-up betting against those teams. And when the public bets, the majority of the action is parlays paying 6 to 1, 10 to 1, 20 to 1 and 40 to 1 odds; numbers that can’t be recouped no matter how much straight action comes in from the sharps on the other side.


“Last year was the biggest disparity I have ever seen in the NFL from the have’s and the have-nots,” said Boyd Gaming’s Race and Sports Director Bob Scucci, “What we saw in the first seven weeks last year was some really, really good teams and really bad teams with not a lot in between and we had to do some major adjusting in the numbers along the way to compensate for each side.”


Things ultimately evened out over the course of the year, but it was still a disappointing season for most just because of September and October’s win being so far below expectations.


This season looks to be a little different in that five of those ugly teams from last year are improved. When saying improved, it doesn’t mean they are close to playoff contention but rather they are close to staying where their true rating is and should be able to be competitive within the point spread.


“From what I have seen so far, it doesn’t appear that a group of teams like we saw last year will be as bad and those teams that the public love such as the Patriots don’t look to be as good,” said Scucci, “Even the Saints aren’t getting the type of attention that a Super Bowl winner usually gets.”


Here’s a look at the new and improved Dirty Half-Dozen:


With only preseason to go by, the Rams look much more improved with Sam Bradford, even though as a rookie, he’s sure to have kitchen sinks thrown at him by opposing team’s defenses. They can’t possibly be any worse than the 1-15 team they were last year and Bradford still has one of the best running backs in the league with Steven Jackson. Bradford will struggle at times, no doubt about it, but he has the look of being more like the successful rookies like Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, rather than Tim Couch or JaMarcus Russell.


The Buccaneers have a much improved defense and really came together down the stretch last season playing competitive football. The question out of the gate rests with their quarterbacks. Josh Freeman didn’t get a lot of preseason play but he’s got some nice weapons to work with down field that should create more big plays than we saw last year.


The Browns had a good preseason in terms of just looking cohesive on offense lead by veteran Jake Delhomme. They were one of the worst offensive teams over the first 10 weeks of the season, but that should change this season as the Browns will score some points and not put their defense in such a position that they are always down.


The Raiders have the fortune of finally winning their battle with owner Al Davis who demanded the starting of Russell each week. Both Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski can move the ball and make the simple passes Russell couldn’t. They also show up for film sessions and can read defenses. They already have a very good defense and should be very competitive in most games.


The Lions have all the looks of being drastically improved, both offensively and defensively. Matt Stafford looks likes he’s going to evolve into one of the NFL’s best and the addition of Jahvid Best could really help make some big plays. The defensive line is about as good as any in the league which should make it tough for opposing quarterbacks.


The one team that doesn’t look to be improved much is the Chiefs. They still have a floundering Matt Cassel at quarterback and much of the same team on defense that allowed 34 points or more in six games. They could be the one team picked on all year by bettors. There’s always got to be one each year, just hopefully for the sports books’ sake, not six teams like last season.


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