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After 611 days away from his last NFL regular season start, Peyton Manning made his debut with the Denver Broncos on Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

No one quite knew what to make of the 36-year-old four-time MVP – coming off of four neck surgeries – and how it would all relate to the Broncos team rating in relation to the betting numbers.

Las Vegas sports books actually gave Manning the benefit of the doubt by increasing the Broncos ratings by about 5-to-6 points from last year’s Tim Tebow-led squad, but it was more cautionary.

Kind of like dipping your foot in the water to see if it’s cold.

When the LVH posted early Week 1 spreads in April, they listed Denver as 2-point favorites. They got a little bit of Steelers action, dropped to -1½, and it stayed there for most of the summer all the way through Sunday night. This showed that sharp money was just as cautious and curious about what Manning would do as well.

During the preseason, we didn’t get too much to look at. He had a couple games where he threw a few interceptions off tipped passes, but then in the third game of preseason against a great 49ers defense, he went to work and put up 17 points in his one quarter of action.

It was in that game that he showed he still had something left in the tank and gave us a preview of what would happen Sunday night.

After a sluggish start and some slow playing by the Steelers offense, which led to a 10-minute advantage in possession time, Manning got into a groove and scored on four straight possessions to end the game. Peyton ran the hurry-up no-huddle offense, calling plays on the fly and moving players around with hand signals just as he did in Indianapolis.

It was a thing of beauty to watch as he completed 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns, doing so against the top rated defense from last year.

The betting public was all in with Manning and the Broncos Sunday night. Straight bets, which move the numbers, were close to being even, which is why there wasn’t any line movement. But as far as Joe Public with his $20 parlay – which consists of the majority of play, about 75 percent of them had the Broncos with another 50 percent of those having the OVER.

Needless to say, the 31-19 win by the Broncos wasn’t a good decision for the books. The first 12 games on Sunday went well for the house with the public favorites going 5-7 against-the-spread, but half of the winnings from those games were wiped away with one Manning Denver debut.

The Book Report

Earlier, the books had taken their biggest lumps with the Texans blasting the Dolphins 30-10 as 13-point favorites. They also got toasted on the Patriots beating the Titans 34-13, despite having large sharp action on Tennessee pushing the line down to -5.

When those were the first two games posted, it looked like it would be the beginning of a very bad day. But everything was gravy from there on out, or at least prior to the Broncos game.

Sharp money had bet the Redskins all week, pushing the Saints from -9 to -7. The public didn’t care what the spread was. They were intent on firing away on the Saints until they came marching home with another home cover.

Why not? They covered all nine home games last season and had the highest home rating in football. Washington dominated 40-32 with a money-line payout of +320.

Although the books hate losing to the sharps, they were pleased this time because of the mounting risk piled up from the Patriots and Texans going into the Saints. Had it not been for Manning’s return, Robert Griffin III would have been the lead topic on all sport talk radio shows.

When the Lions failed to cover 8-points against the Rams, and then the Eagles didn’t cover 9 at Cleveland, it eliminated any real serious risk damage from eight, nine and 10-team parlays.

Things got even better in the afternoon when all three underdogs won outright.

The Packers, Panthers and Seahawks had all the public support and the sports books raked in most of the chips with those games.

Not only did they knock out the parlays and straight bets, but they eliminated most of the live teasers and the favorite money-line parlays that were still alive.

It was looking like the perfect weekend for the sports books that had begun with the Cowboys beating the public’s popular choice of the Giants on Wednesday night.

College football had once again been excellent with 14 of the 26 underdogs that covered winning outright.

They had weathered the parlay storm with the Texans and Patriots, now the only thing left to extract almost every piece of loose change in the bettors pocket was knock down the Broncos, and keep the game UNDER.

Well, you know how the story ends. To make the burn sting a little more, Denver cornerback Tracy Porter took a pick-six back for the final Broncos score to send it OVER in the final three minutes, which sealed the deal.

Don’t feel sorry for the books, though. They still won on the day. Most of all, they should be proud for putting on such a great show everywhere in town.

Micah Roberts is a former race and sports book director, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday.  Contact Micah at [email protected]


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