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The stage is set. The Super Bowl now has its two contestants and it couldn’t be more appropriate that it comes down to the two best teams in the league. Both the Colts and Saints matched each other win for win throughout the regular season without a loss through week 13 and now they’ll match up in what has become a rarity in pro football, the top teams from each conference facing each other.

The No. 1 seeds from each conference will square off for the first time in the Super Bowl since 1993 when the Bills played Dallas. The matchup on paper looks like one of the better ones in years, matching up the Saints’ and Colts’ passing offenses against each other.

There are also plenty of storylines with Saints’ first trip to the Super Bowl ever. Peyton Manning will be making his second visit to the Super Bowl, a game won in Miami, the site of this year’s game. In fact, now, all four of the Colts’ Super Bowl games will have been played in Miami.

Then there’s the story of Manning growing up in New Orleans, the son of Saints legend Archie Manning. We’ll have two weeks to sift through all the Super Bowl stories and hype, but the top immediate story rests with the Las Vegas line, what was offered to the public and how they responded.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants sent a recommendation with the Colts a 4-point favorite and a game total of 52. The Las Vegas Hilton was the first Las Vegas Sports Book to offer the Super Bowl posting the Colts at -4, but bumped their initial total offering to 56.

When the other sports books opened the game, they all began with the Colts -3.5 and the high total like the Hilton posted. As soon as the NFC title game was over and the lines were posted, the bets started coming in on the Colts. Within the first few minutes the spread had been pushed up everywhere until finally settling at 5.5 at the Hilton and 4.5 everywhere else.

The initial rush on the Colts makes sense because 60% of the bettors who had the Saints Sunday had lost laying the 4-points, compounded by the fact that the Saints were lucky in many folks eyes during their overtime win against the Vikings.

Bettors who had the Vikings felt Minnesota should have won straight up and didn’t believe that the Saints can keep up with the Colts.

The Colts were very impressive on both sides of the ball. They didn’t seem too affected by the Jets No. 1 defense and were merely slowed in the first half of their 30-17 win. The feeling is that the Saints defense will have a tough time stopping Manning.

Opinions will surely vary for the next two weeks and some of those early thoughts on the Saints will be buried when people start feeling nostalgic and sentimental about the city of New Orleans. Everyone has a soft spot for the city and their fans, especially following the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.

When the uninformed masses come out to bet the game – the folks who don’t bet all year but have to because it’s the Super Bowl – they’ll likely side with the Saints. The public will also opt to go with the money line, forsaking the points to win straight up as is always the case with the underdogs in the Super Bowl.

As far as the “sharps” go, their opinion will matter less for this game than any other sporting event all year. This is the ultimate public game where sharp money is barely noticed because of all the public funds dropped for the game.

The sports books are hoping that the game stays around the dead numbers of 5 or 5.5, rather than having it bumped or lowered to the key numbers of 7, 4, or 3 to avoid getting sided.

This will be an attractive game for the public and it could set a Nevada record for handle. The previous high was in 2006 when $94 million was wagered on the Steelers-Seahawks game. Despite the current economic climate, the sports books have been one area of the casino that hasn’t been affected as much, with many books stating they’re flat in year-over-year football numbers.

The sports book numbers are more a reflection of locals still playing sports regularly, but the Super Bowl handle will be more of a reflection of what visitors bring in from out of town. Start making plans America! If you can’t be in Miami, there is no better place to be for Super Bowl weekend than Las Vegas.

Books Do Well on Championship Games

The favored teams had about a 60-40 edge in handle on Sunday making both games pretty balanced. The Colts winning and covering wasn’t all that bad just because the larger risk was any scenario that had the Jets winning on the money line which was one of the favorite bets of the weekend by the public.

The Saints outcome was a bookmaker’s best friend when the favored team won but didn’t cover, negating all point spread wagers on the Saints and terminating all wagers on the Vikings money line.

Not all books carry teasers during the playoffs, but those who did probably wished they hadn’t for Sunday. Just about every side covered if playing 6-point teasers going 7-1. If playing a 7-point teaser, every side won. The Colts game landed on 47 with a total that was hovering around 40 to 41 points.

Super Bowl Props

The Las Vegas Hilton Super Book has been the leader in Las Vegas with innovative and very opinionated Super Bowl proposition bets for almost a decade. The same crew at the Hilton used to run the Imperial Palace, which then was the industry leader in props.

The crew was hard at work analyzing every stat angle from the moment the game was set and will likely have their first wave of props up early this week before the unveiling of their massive 15 page prop sheet later next week.

Look for all the fun stuff dealing with Super Bowl stats going against stats from the NHL, NASCAR, Premier League Soccer, NBA and college basketball events going on that weekend.

Unlike just about every sports book in Nevada, the Hilton offers parlays on the props that aren’t correlated.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Micah Roberts

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