Wednesday, May 14, 2008 | 2 a.m.
2008 NFL REGULAR-SEASON VICTORIES
Grand Sierra Resort sports book odds (subject to change)
2008 NFL DIVISION ODDS
Las Vegas Hilton sports book odds (Subject to change)
Oddsmakers have attached an over/under figure of 13 1/2 regular-season victories to the New England Patriots this NFL season, a projection that invites two disparate perspectives.
First, the line of 13 1/2 wins — released late last week by the Grand Sierra Resort sports book in Reno — is the highest for any NFL team in season-wins wagering in at least the past six years.
It’s the highest by two full games — a wide margin in NFL season-wins betting, in which the totals posted by oddsmakers typically fall between 4 1/2 and 11 1/2 and a move in the betting line of a half-game is considered a big deal.
Last season, for example, the Patriots commanded the highest total on the board at 11 1/2 regular-season victories. New England handily cashed tickets for “over” bettors with its freakish 16-0 regular season.
In 2006, the highest total on the board was also 11 1/2, attached to the Indianapolis Colts, who finished 12-4. Two teams were listed at 11 1/2 in 2005, with the Colts exceeding the total (14-2) and the Philadelphia Eagles falling short (6-10).
In 2004, the highest figure set by oddsmakers was 10 1/2, with the Colts, Patriots and Eagles all making winners of “over” bettors. In 2003, only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were listed as high as 10 1/2 before finishing at 7-9.
Second, however, the other way to look at New England’s line of 13 1/2 is that it represents a drop-off of 2 1/2 victories from a year ago. That’s the second-largest projected decline in the NFL, in terms of regular-season wins, behind only the Green Bay Packers. After winning 13 games last season and losing quarterback Brett Favre to retirement, Green Bay opened at over/under 9 1/2 wins for this season, according to Grand Sierra odds.
Football gamblers who believe Bill Belichick & Co. are primed for another monster season will have at least one betting factor working for them: The Patriots figure to enter most of their games as a heavy point-spread favorite.
In the special NFL “games of the year” now available for wagering at the Las Vegas Hilton, for instance, New England makes several appearances:
• The Patriots are a 9-point favorite on the road against the Jets on Sept. 14.
• They’re a 3-point favorite at San Diego on Oct. 12.
• They’re a 14-point favorite against the Broncos on Oct. 20.
• They’re a 14-point favorite against the Jets on Nov. 13.
• They’re a 7-point favorite at Seattle on Dec. 7.
• They’re a 10-point favorite at Oakland on Dec. 14.
The Patriots’ victory over/under was set at 12 1/2 at the Venetian and 12 at the Hilton, which also recently posted their NFL season-victory numbers.
Just because a football team is a big favorite, of course, does not mean you should count the game as a victory before it’s played. In the Jets game, for example, bettors might credit New England with something like .78 of a victory — the rate at which a 9-point NFL favorite is expected to win. A good analogy can be made to Texas hold ’em poker: Even if you get it all-in with pocket aces against pocket deuces before the flop, you don’t necessarily “deserve” the pot, although you could argue you deserve about 81 percent of it.
Nongambling NFL fans, who like to debate endlessly about which teams will improve and which will falter, might be surprised by how many teams figure to finish about the same as last season. Oddsmakers project most teams to finish within 1 1/2 games of last year’s victory total, with only a handful falling outside that range.
Besides the Patriots and the Packers, two teams are projected to win two fewer games than a year ago: The Colts, who went 13-3 and opened at over/under 11 wins for the 2008 season, and the Tennessee Titans (10-6; over/under 8).
The dregs of the NFL last season, the Miami Dolphins and the St. Louis Rams, are each expected to improve. Miami (1-15) opened at over/under 4 1/2, and St. Louis (3-13) opened at 6 1/2.
Other teams on the upswing according to the oddsmakers: New York Jets (4-12; over/under 6 1/2), Kansas City Chiefs (4-12; 6 1/2), Baltimore Ravens (5-11; 7) and New Orleans Saints (7-9; 9).
As is usually the case, adding up the NFL team regular-season victory totals on the betting board yields a sum greater than 256, the expected number of wins by all teams combined. The total wins at the Grand Sierra, for example, amount to 262 1/2. This reflects the bias of the betting public toward betting “overs” — it’s more fun to root your team home after making your wager — and indicates bettors are more likely to find value on the “under” side.