The heck with LeBron James or the baseball All-Star Game, NFL training camps open in two weeks!
But Las Vegas bookmakers aren’t waiting; they’ve already posted some early betting lines.
"The interest is high this year due to parity in the NFL," said Jay Kornegay, race and sports director at Imperial Palace. "It’s tremendous for the fans because they think anyone can win this thing. And, they’re right."
The IP has posted NFL future bets on the season totals for wins as well as odds to win the Super Bowl.
Another casino that has released early betting lines is the Palms. (See page 21 for complete list of odds and lines.)
"There has been a lot of interest on the popular teams such as Dallas (7Â½ wins) and Oakland (9Â½ wins)," said Fred Crespi, race and sports director at the Palms. "The action has been brisk on Tennessee (9Â½) as well."
Crespi said the Cowboys have generated the most betting action, possibly because of new coach Bill Parcells. The Raiders are being wagered "under" (that they will win less than 9Â½ games for the season) by the majority of customers, who believe age will finally catch up with the Silver and Black.
In fact, only Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay (10Â½), Philadelphia (10Â½) and Green Bay (10) are the only teams to open with double-digit win levels. Houston (5) and Arizona (5) have the lowest win totals.
"In the old days, the Cowboys, 49ers and Rams would be 12 or 12Â½," Kornegay said. "Now, you’re seeing the Bucs at 10Â½. This just increases the interest because any team is capable of reaching that 10-win plateau.
"I like the Falcons," Kornegay continued. "There’s a lot of hype around Michael Vick, but I think he will be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for quite some time. Atlanta was a hair away from the NFC championship game and adding Peerless Price gives Vick the quality receiver he missed last year."
Other teams to watch in 2003 include Carolina, which spiced up an anemic offense with the additions of running back Stephen Davis (from Washington) and receiver Kevin Dyson (Tennessee). The Panthers also have a defense that ranked second in the league to Tampa Bay.
As far as futures betting on next year’s Super Bowl, there have been some early moves.
"Minnesota and Buffalo have been bet down heavily," Kornegay said. "The Vikings opened at 35-1 and have dropped to 15-1. Buffalo opened at 35-1 and is down to 18-1."
At the Palms, Crespi suggests that if there is an overrated team in the NFL, it could be the Green Bay Packers
"Like Oakland, the Packers and Brett Favre are getting older," Crespi said. "New Orleans (8) is a longshot team that has attracted some betting interest. The Super Bowl odds on the Saints have fallen from 30-1 to 20-1, so it’s best to get those bets in now before the camps open."
In addition to futures betting, Las Vegas sports books will begin taking action on preseason NFL games beginning in late July.
The preseason kicks off with the American Bowl and Hall of Fame game on Aug. 2 and 4, respectively.