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With the two No. 1 seeds eliminated and only four teams left, the sentimental choice to win the Super Bowl now is the sixth seeded Green Bay Packers, led by their rising star, Aaron Rodgers.

Of course, fans from the other three teams would disagree, but fans of other teams who have been eliminated can’t help but root for the quarterback who has created his own niche on a team that was so long associated with Brett Favre.

It’s hard not to root for Rodgers just from the aspect of how tough a situation he was put in three years ago when the whole Favre soap opera started. Rodgers didn’t say much and just played the game, while Favre’s true nature became apparent to all in his final year.

We’ve seen glimpses of greatness out of Rodgers in the past, but nothing like what we saw last week on the stage of the playoffs where he completed 31 of 36 passes for 336 yards and three touchdowns in Atlanta. At times, while he was dodging defenders in the pocket and feeling pressure with eyes in the back of his head, scrambling around, I thought I was watching Roger Staubach back there, another quarterback who wore number 12.

The Las Vegas sports books don’t get caught up in sentiment, but rather cold hard facts when creating their lines. Yet they, too, have been greatly swayed by the impressive Packers in their last two games. It was surprising enough when the Packers were a short 1-point underdog at the top seeded Falcons, but this week they are 3½-point favorites on the road at Chicago for the NFC Championship game.

The Packers have been placed as the 8-5 favorite to win the Super Bowl at the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book despite a higher seed such as the Steelers (2-1) still active. The Hilton’s Jeff Sherman believes the Packers would be a pick’em against the Steelers and -2½ against the Jets.

Sherman also said the line would drastically change by what happens Sunday. Should one game produce a blowout while the other plays a tight one, it will be reflected greatly in the Super Bowl line.

3 Magic Number: The only sports book in Las Vegas that doesn’t attach additional money to any of its key numbers is Bert Osborne’s South Point. Rather than move a game from -3 flat to -3 (-120) like most of the books do today, Osborne goes right to minus-3½ flat.

This season more than 18% of all NFL games landed on “3,” but Osborne’s year-over-year analysis proves his strategy more profitable in the end. While most books deflected action last week on the Ravens-Steelers game because of the additional money attached to that line, Osborne kept hopping back and forth with limit bets at +3½ with the Ravens and -3 with Steelers.

In the end, the overall action attracted because of the flat lines helped create a profitable weekend, better than most.

This week Osborne has a major dilemma as both games are hovering around “3.” Should one of the favored teams land on “3,” he’ll get sided and refund several bets while paying out the winning side at +/-3½. Osborne is probably hoping the games run up more to avoid the key number. If they don’t, and you’re looking for value, South Point and the books under their umbrella such as the Cannery, Palms and El Cortez are definitely places to shop.

Bettors Fare Well: You would think with half of the underdogs winning the sports books would have done very well, but that wasn’t the case. The local books were able to scrap out a small win, but just about everyone else fared poorly as both the Packers and Jets found plenty of supporters.

Colbert a dad: Congratulations go out to M Resort and Spa Race and Sports Book Director Mike Colbert and his wife for giving birth to their first child, Michael Alexander, a 9.2 pound baby boy.

Auburn line correct?: Auburn’s 3-point win over Oregon in the BCS title game landed just how the bookmakers thought, right? The game opened Auburn -3 at most sports books, but dropped considerably to a pick’em by kickoff.

Most all of the power ratings had the game as an initial pick’em, which begs the question, where did the “3” come from? No one wants to be out of line in a big game like that, but it appears there was some early manipulation on the number that set the market, and it wasn‘t necessarily by any book in Las Vegas either.

It’s not unusual to see instances of early pre-seeding games by sharp groups at a few sports books with hopes of influencing the entire market. All it takes is a few limit plays by respected players at respected books early on to get the ball rolling and then everyone else falls in line. When the sharp’s desired line is set, they can bet over 20 times the amount initially seeded later at all the other sports books who follow.

The final move proved wrong, other than those who pushed with Oregon, but most of the books still lost money on the game. It wasn’t a result of the possible manipulation, but rather because of extended risk from over a month of taking Bowl parlays with Auburn or Oregon being the final leg.

NASCAR is close

Tension is building with NASCAR fans because the wait for the 53rd running of the Daytona 500 is not too far away. It’s only been two months since the last race was run, but it feels like an eternity. This week, fans and bettors can get a sneak preview of who will be fast in next month’s speed weeks as the Sprint Cup series will be having a three-day test session at Daytona.

During a recent Goodyear tire test, it was found that the new Daytona surface made the cars a little too fast, so they will be experimenting with an even smaller restrictor plate than last season for the testing. However, don’t expect too much to change from last year. Those who were good in the plate races, namely the Childress and Ganassi teams, will be good again this year.

Just about every sports book has their Daytona 500 odds up. While the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book leads the way with the lowest theoretic hold percentage in the city, it’s still a good idea to check all the books around town to find value on certain drivers that maybe the Hilton considered more of a favorite. Must stops for finding early value are all of the MGM Resorts properties, Lucky’s and the M Resort and Spa.


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