Published Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012 | 8:20 p.m.
Updated Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012 | 9:21 p.m.
For the fourth time in the last nine years, Las Vegas sports books have posted the New England Patriots as favorites in the Super Bowl.
New England opened as a 4-point favorite over the New York Giants at Wynn Las Vegas in Super Bowl XLVI, which takes place Feb. 5 in Indianapolis, after Sunday’s conference championship games.
Early money on New York, which came in immediately after it defeated the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 in overtime, dropped the point spread to 3.5 in favor of the Patriots.
“I’m a little bit surprised,” Wynn sports book director John Avello said of the early movement. “I think it was an easy number to make. I was thinking 4 the entire time with the Giants. I was thinking Patriots by 6.5 over the 49ers.”
Some shops, including the LVH Superbook, listed the Patriots as 3-point favorites, but the 3.5-point spread appears the most widespread. Wynn set the over/under of this year’s game at 53 and bettors drove it up to 54 within minutes of the posting.
The Patriots and Giants, of course, met four years ago for the Lombardi Trophy in a game that many fans consider the greatest Super Bowl ever. Nevada bookmakers’ memories of the game aren’t as fond.
The Giants 17-14 victory over the Patriots resulted in the state losing more than $2.5 million. It’s the only losing Super Bowl for sports books since the turn of the century.
But there’s no concern this year because of what happened in that game, according to at least one prominent sports book director. The statewide loss in 2008 came because of bettors gambling on the Giants to win the game straight up on a moneyline of more than +300 (risking $1 to win $3).
Without a miraculous two-minute drive led by New York quarterback Eli Manning, New England would have won but not covered the 12-point line. In other words, sports books would have raked in a massive win.
“Everything was shaping up perfectly there before the David Tyree catch,” MGM Resorts International sports book director Jay Rood recalled last week. “We needed the favorite winning, but not covering. So, no, I think the Giants and Patriots would give us a great opportunity this year. The matchup would be great to drive interest.”
Rood and his colleagues will be optimistic that the 2012 Super Bowl can surpass last year’s handle of $87.4 million on the game because of the national profile of both teams.
The Giants possess one of the largest fan bases in professional sports. The Patriots have, by most accounts, become bettors’ favorite team over the last decade because of the proficiency of quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady will play in his fifth Super Bowl this year. He’s gone 3-1 in the first four, but only 1-3 against the spread.
He led New England to a 20-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams as 14-point underdogs in the 2002 Super Bowl. But Las Vegas favored New England by a touchdown in 2004 and 2005 against Carolina and Philadelphia, respectively.
New England won each game by a field goal. Three points have decided all four Super Bowls that Brady has started in.
“There’s a story here in the Patriots being the best in the AFC and getting here,” Avello said. “The Giants had to claw and grind their way into the playoffs. And to beat the No. 1 and No. 2 NFC teams on the road, I think it’s a good matchup for the betting public.”
New England appropriately beat the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, but failed to cover the 7-point spread.
The Patriots are on a 10-game win streak, but have only gone 6-4 against the spread during the tear. Their last loss came to the Giants during Week 9 of the season in a game at home where they were favored by 9 points.
New York, behind improved play from Manning, has gone 6-5 since the regular-season win over New England and 7-4 against the spread.
“There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but this is a great time for the sports books,” Avello said. “It’s another Super Bowl. I’m glad to have it. Bring on (Super Bowl) No. 46.”