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August 1, 2014

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NFL betting guide: Vegas preview of the AFC

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Steve Marcus

New England Patriots fan Rocky Borders questions a call as he watches the Super Bowl at the Las Vegas Hotel’s Superbook Sunday, February 5, 2012.

Two players have prompted far more bets than anyone else in the NFL over the last 10 years — Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Heading into the 2012 season, Brady’s New England Patriots are the consensus favorite to once again reach the Super Bowl. Manning’s Denver Broncos come in as the most popular team to bet on, according to LVH Superbook Director Jay Kornegay.

Everything seems back to normal in the AFC, except for maybe a few surprise teams drawing action in the sports books.

Find out which teams in the Las Vegas Sun’s team-by-team AFC betting preview below and check out the NFC version here.

    • 2012 Baltimore Ravens
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      Baltimore Ravens

      2011 Against-the-spread record: 9-8-1 (13-5 straight-up)

      William Hill's odds to win the Super Bowl: 17-to-1

      LVH Superbook's over/under win total: 10 (over +145 , under -165 )

      Cantor Gaming’s week 1-16 lines: Favored in 10 games

      Kornegay’s thoughts: “The Ravens defense is aging. It’s getting older. They are still going to be good, but I think they’re fading a bit. They can’t play at the same level they have the last two years. I think they’ll take a step back. I’ve heard the talk about the Ravens up-tempo offense and thought, ‘whoa, how are you getting excited about Joe Flacco?’”

      Overview: Baltimore never receives as much action as archrival Pittsburgh in Las Vegas before the season. It’s the same case this year, as the betting market favors the Steelers to regain the AFC North crown. Comparisons to Pittsburgh are inevitable, and Kornegay has a point. While the Steelers spent the offseason infusing younger players into their defense, the Ravens opted to stand pat for the most part. Their nucleus remains defensive lineman Haloti Ngata, linebacker Ray Lewis, linebacker Terrell Suggs and safety Ed Reed. Ngata is in his prime, but Suggs will miss time after partially tearing his Achilles. Reed, 33, and Lewis, 37, are still standouts but their age has scared off some sharp bettors.

    • 2012 Buffalo Bills
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      Buffalo Bills

      2011 Against-the-spread record: 6-9-1 (6-10 straight-up)

      William Hill's odds to win the Super Bowl: 50-to-1

      LVH Superbook's over/under win total: 7.5 (over -220, under +190 )

      Cantor Gaming’s week 1-16 lines: Favored in eight games

      Kornegay’s thoughts: “Whenever you sign a couple guys and get a few guys back from injury, you’re going to feel higher expectations. The Bills are getting some support from the public, but for the Bills it’s really good. The Bills don’t traditionally get a lot of support.”

      Overview: Winning the offseason directly leads to more support at the betting window in Las Vegas. Buffalo has confirmed the theory perhaps better than any other team in history this offseason. The Bills signed defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson to much fanfare, and suddenly went from an afterthought to trendy sleeper in sports books. The team that had only posted one winning record against the spread in the last four years is now drawing support to win the AFC East at 7-to-1 and even the conference at 10-to-1. The offense zoomed at times last year and tied for the most overs in the league during the regular season with 11.

    • 2012 Cincinnati Bengals
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      Cincinnati Bengals

      2011 Against-the-spread record: 8-7-2 (9-8 straight-up)

      William Hill's odds to win the Super Bowl: 50-to-1

      LVH Superbook's over/under win total: 8 (over +115, under -135 )

      Cantor Gaming’s week 1-16 lines: Underdogs in seven games with two pick'ems

      Kornegay’s thoughts: “You’ve got to think they’re going to regress a bit. I think Andy Dalton is going to be a fine NFL quarterback, but they don’t have a lot of team speed around him. Green-Ellis, I don’t think he’s a step-up or an improvement over Benson. That was a neutral switch. And on defense, they have some injuries. But they have a fairly easy schedule they have to take advantage of.”

      Overview: Cincinnati burned bettors as much as any other team in the league last year. Under 5.5 wins was one of the most popular plays on the board in the preseason, but the Bengals went 6-2 in the first half of the season. The rookie tandem of quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green were rightfully credited for much of the success, but the defense was even more prolific. The Bengals ranked in the top 10 in total defense, rushing defense and passing defense. Gamblers are giving the Bengals more respect this year by ignoring them. The LVH has experienced no significant movement on or against Cincinnati.

    • 2012 Cleveland Browns
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      Cleveland Browns

      2011 Against-the-spread record: 8-7-1 (4-12 straight-up)

      William Hill's odds to win the Super Bowl: 175-to-1

      LVH Superbook's over/under win total: 5 (over -120, under Even )

      Cantor Gaming’s week 1-16 lines: Underdogs in all 15 games

      Kornegay’s thoughts: “I think the Browns are the worst team in the league. But week one, everyone has optimism. Even in Cleveland, they’re confident. But I just got done looking at Browns and thought ‘whoa, I don’t see anything that I think is a strong point.’”

      Overview: Cleveland will become the rare squad that starts two rookies in its two most prominent offensive slots with Trent Richardson at running back and Brandon Weeden at quarterback. A third draftee, third-round tackle Mitchell Schwartz, will also find himself in the opening day lineup. Although the public has eased on their aversion to betting inexperienced teams after the success of young squads last year, the traditional route has held true with the Browns. Finding a bettor willing to side with the Browns in the futures market, especially because of their rough AFC North division, is next to impossible.

    • 2012 Denver Broncos
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      Denver Broncos

      2011 Against-the-spread record: 8-9-1 (9-9 straight-up)

      William Hill's odds to win the Super Bowl: 12-to-1

      LVH Superbook's over/under win total: 9.5 (over -165, under +145)

      Cantor Gaming’s week 1-16 lines: Favored in seven games with three pick'ems

      Kornegay’s thoughts: “The Broncos are driving us nuts with the money on them. We can’t stop it, especially in the last two weeks. Ever since Peyton Manning threw two touchdowns against the 49ers, they’re like ‘hey, he’s back.’ It was against the 49ers top defense and he did look good, but he looked horrible just the week before.”

      Overview: The public couldn’t resist the allure of Tim Tebow and began to back the Broncos frequently in the middle of last season when he went on his 6-1 tear after taking over as the starter. Gamblers have taken it to a whole new extreme with Peyton Manning. The missed year and neck surgery are of no concern. Forgotten with the constant scrutiny regarding who’s under center is a defense that’s become one of the NFL’s best. That unit has helped make Denver the best under team in the league over the last two years. In 32 regular seasons, the Broncos have gone under the total 20 times.

    • 2012 Houston Texans
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      Houston Texans

      2011 Against-the-spread record: 12-5-1 (11-7 straight-up)

      William Hill's odds to win the Super Bowl: 10-to-1

      LVH Superbook's over/under win total: 10 (over -180, under +160)

      Cantor Gaming’s week 1-16 lines: Favored in nine games with two pick'ems

      Kornegay’s thoughts: “There’s no doubt the Texans are a quality and very serious Super Bowl contender. This is it for them. With Schaub and Johnson, they are running out of time. They have a quality line with a dominating defense. I certainly think they should be in the AFC Championship Game.”

      Overview: Score one against the sports books after the Texans 11-5 run to win the AFC South last year. Bettors liked Houston in the preseason because of the uncertainty surrounding the perennial division champions Indianapolis Colts and were proven right. The Texans also went 12-5-1 against the spread for the best mark in franchise history. No bargain prices are out there this year. The Texans are the largest favorite to win their division, carrying even chalkier odds than the New England Patriots, at -600 to prevail in the AFC South. Value may exist going against the Texans at that high of a price, if for no other reason than their stars have proven to be injury prone. Running back Arian Foster, quarterback Matt Schaub and wide receiver Andre Johnson all missed extended time last year.

    • 2012 Indianapolis Colts
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      Indianapolis Colts

      2011 Against-the-spread record: 6-10 (2-14 straight-up)

      William Hill's odds to win the Super Bowl: 100-to-1

      LVH Superbook's over/under win total: 5 (over -140, under +120)

      Cantor Gaming’s week 1-16 lines: Underdogs in 11 games with one pick'em

      Kornegay’s thoughts: “(Bettors) think the Colts are kind of ready to turn the corner, but there’s not a lot of love for them. They might be better than some people think. They could be an average team.”

      Overview: The preseason tends to have little effect on how teams play once the regular season begins. But bettors couldn’t help themselves after seeing No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck excel in two of the three glorified scrimmages in the last month. The Colts went from having no support in local sports books to having a few scattered believers. Those bettors must have forgiven Indianapolis for its disastrous start to the season last year. In their first 11 games, the Colts only covered twice. Even if Luck proves ready for the NFL, his supporting cast leaves much to be desired. An aging Reggie Wayne and mediocre Donald Brown are the skill players most widely at Luck’s disposal. The defense, which ranked 26th last year, isn’t much better.

    • 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars
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      Jacksonville Jaguars

      2011 Against-the-spread record: 7-8-1 (5-11 straight-up)

      William Hill's odds to win the Super Bowl: 200-to-1

      LVH Superbook's over/under win total: 5 (over -145, under +125)

      Cantor Gaming’s week 1-16 lines: Underdogs in 14 games

      Kornegay’s thoughts: "The Jaguars are one of the worst teams in the NFL. Even when the Jaguars were good, we hardly got any play on them. There are certain teams like that. They just don’t have any fan base.”

      Overview: In addition to no national fan base to speak of, the Jaguars have given patrons in Las Vegas sports books nothing to root for recently. They’ve gone a dreadful 25-39 against the spread in the last four years, and had to cover in three of their final four contests in 2011 to improve enough to get there. Their Las Vegas reputation certainly won’t change after the prolonged holdout of Maurice Jones-Drew, last year’s rushing champion. Bettors also have no confidence in second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert or a defense that plummeted from one of the league’s best to one of the worst in the last five years.

    • 2012 Kansas City Chiefs
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      Kansas City Chiefs

      2011 Against-the-spread record: 9-7 (7-9 straight-up)

      William Hill's odds to win the Super Bowl: 50-to-1

      LVH Superbook's over/under win total: 8 (over +120, under -140)

      Cantor Gaming’s week 1-16 lines: Underdogs in seven games with two pick'ems

      Kornegay’s thoughts: “The Chiefs are one of the sexy picks out there. A lot of people think they can win the division and I think they have some of the right formula there. They have key players in the skill positions that can do it, and I think their defense is above average.”

      Overview: The Chiefs were the best under team in the league last year, only going over the total in four of their 16 contests. That's attributed partly to a solid defense, but also the injury-decimated offense. Running back Jamaal Charles tore his ACL in the second game, a few weeks after Kansas City lost tight end Tony Moeaki to the same ailment. Star safety Eric Berry also tore his ACL. Quarterback Matt Cassel was the next to go with a broken hand in week 10. A little luck in the injury department could go a long way this season, hence the enthusiasm at the betting window for Kansas City.

    • 2012 Miami Dolphins
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      Miami Dolphins

      2011 Against-the-spread record: 9-7 (6-10 straight-up)

      William Hill's odds to win the Super Bowl: 90-to-1

      LVH Superbook's over/under win total: 7.5 (over +160, under -180)

      Cantor Gaming’s week 1-16 lines: Favored in eight games

      Kornegay’s thoughts: “They’re horrible. I don’t have anything nice to say about the Dolphins. I guess they’ll be competitive. It’s the NFL, so they won’t go winless or anything. I just don’t see any improvement there, but I don’t think they’re the worst team in the league.”

      Overview: Publicity equals betting handle when it comes to NFL teams. There's no better way to get preseason publicity than to appear on HBO series "Hard Knocks," which featured Miami in its eighth season. Bettors weren't at all impressed with what they saw. They drove Miami's week one line up nearly seven points against the Houston Texans, who are now 13-point favorites after opening at 6.5. The public has also come in strong on the under 7.5 wins. The Dolphins, a team that covered in nine of their final 10 games last year, does have some things working in their favor that weren't highlighted on "Hard Knocks". Linebacker Cameron Wake, for one, is an extremely underrated defender and perhaps the team's best player.

    • 2012 New England Patriots
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      New England Patriots

      2011 Against-the-spread record: 10-9 (15-4 straight-up)

      William Hill's odds to win the Super Bowl: 6-to-1

      LVH Superbook's over/under win total: 12.5 (over +130, under -150)

      Cantor Gaming’s week 1-16 lines: Favored in all 15 games

      Kornegay’s thoughts: "It's amazing what they can do with all their weapons and that quarterback. He might not be at the top of his career, but he's not far from it either. They're the favorite overall right now and probably deserve to be the favorite."

      Overview: Kornegay can remember when the Patriots were one of the least popular teams to bet on in the NFL. It wasn't even that long ago, as it took "four or five seasons" of Tom Brady torching defenses to convince bettors the Patriots were elite. They've taken more money away from the sports books than any other team since becoming perhaps the top publicly-backed franchise. Since the turn of the century, New England has only posted one losing record against the spread. The Patriots have gotten particularly efficient on the road in recent years, going a combined 21-12 against the spread since 2008.

    • 2012 New York Jets
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      New York Jets

      2011 Against-the-spread record: 6-10 (8-8 straight-up)

      William Hill's odds to win the Super Bowl: 40-to-1

      LVH Superbook's over/under win total: 8.5 (over +115, under -135)

      Cantor Gaming’s week 1-16 lines: Favored in eight games with two pick'ems

      Kornegay’s thoughts: "They really haven’t made improvements on the offensive side, so they still have issues there and their defense is deteriorating. We have the Jets at 40-to-1, which means they aren’t even in the top two tiers of the NFL anymore. If they continue to drop back, this might be Ryan’s last year.”

      Overview: Gamblers who like to wager based on streaks would line up on a different side than Kornegay when it comes to Rex Ryan's future with the franchise. Since taking over in New York four years ago, Ryan's squads have arguably proven streakier than any other team in the NFL. Last year, the Jets had three separate stretches of losing to the spread in three consecutive games. They have flipped-flopped wins and losses against the spread in more than three games only once during Ryan's tenure. In the last two seasons, the Jets have posted a combined 22 overs as opposed to 10 unders.

    • 2012 Oakland Raiders
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      Oakland Raiders

      2011 Against-the-spread record: 10-6 (8-8 straight-up)

      William Hill's odds to win the Super Bowl: 40-to-1

      LVH Superbook's over/under win total: 7.5 (over +130, under -150)

      Cantor Gaming’s week 1-16 lines: Underdogs in 10 games with one pick'em

      Kornegay’s thoughts: “I don’t think the Raiders have a chance. It’s still a mess there. Darren McFadden would have to carry this team if they were to do anything. They have a lot of issues there. If McFadden doesn’t have an All-Pro year, they are going to be in trouble.”

      Overview: Quarterback Carson Palmer created some buzz in the betting market when the Cincinnati Bengals traded him to the Raiders midway through last season. Palmer was more successful against the betting line than he was overall, going 5-4 against the spread as opposed to 4-5 straight-up. Sports books project Oakland as the last place team in the AFC West this season, but only slightly. The Raiders are offered at +500 to win the division, which is significantly less than any other team ranked at the bottom of their league.

    • 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers
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      Pittsburgh Steelers

      2011 Against-the-spread record: 7-10 (12-5 straight-up)

      William Hill's odds to win the Super Bowl: 14-to-1

      LVH Superbook's over/under win total: 10 (over Even, under -120)

      Cantor Gaming’s week 1-16 lines: Favored in 11 games

      Kornegay’s thoughts: “They might have some issues at running back, but Dwyer should fill that need. I think Mendenhall is done and that’s OK. I think you can do what you need with Dwyer. Offensively, they have great weapons. Antonio Brown is extremely underrated, Mike Wallace will be fine, Ben Roethlisberger is such an underrated quarterback and I expect the defense to stay on top.”

      Overview: Six teams are favored over the Steelers to win the Super Bowl this season. That sounds like a lot when taking into account the Steelers status as perennial contenders. Bettors have gambled on Pittsburgh somewhat less vigorously than in previous offseasons, according to Kornegay, and that may have to do with the running-game issues he alluded to. Todd Haley arrives from Kansas City as the team's new offensive coordinator, however, so he could work around the question marks anyway. Defensively, the Steelers will continue to be stout. As a team, they've posted more unders than overs in four of the last five seasons.

    • 2012 San Diego Chargers
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      San Diego Chargers

      2011 Against-the-spread record: 6-10 (8-8 straight-up)

      William Hill's odds to win the Super Bowl: 18-to-1

      LVH Superbook's over/under win total: 9 (over +125, under -145)

      Cantor Gaming’s week 1-16 lines: Favored in 10 games with one pick'em

      Kornegay’s thoughts: “Chargers have been kind of quiet. They have no pressure on them compared to the last two years. It’s always been about how the Chargers are going to make it and win the Super Bowl. They haven’t been able to do it. With all the attention on Denver and a lot of people on Kansas City as a sleeper, I think San Diego is the team that will rise above it and win the division.”

      Overview: Rarely does a team go from preseason favorite at the sports book to practically nonexistent in one year with the same basic personnel. That's the story with the Chargers this year, though. Gamblers are sick of their slow starts finished by strong finishes. Once again last year, San Diego was dreadful against the number at the beginning of last year with a 2-9 record. It redeemed itself a little, however, by going 3-1 in the final four. But that wasn't enough to get anyone excited in Las Vegas for next year, which comes as a change.

    • 2012 Tennessee Titans
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      Tennessee Titans

      2011 Against-the-spread record: 6-10 (9-7 straight-up)

      William Hill's odds to win the Super Bowl: 65-to-1

      LVH Superbook's over/under win total: 7.5 (over +115, under -135)

      Cantor Gaming’s week 1-16 lines: Underdogs in 10 games with three pick'ems

      Kornegay’s thoughts: “The Titans you could look at as, ‘OK, they have a little bit of a shot in the South’. But behind the Texans, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone really has a shot in there. But the weakness of this division could help them.”

      Overview: Tennessee was addicted to close games in coach Mike Munchak's first season at the helm. Half of their contests were decided by less than a touchdown. This explains the Titans much-better straight-up record than against the spread mark. While they went 6-2 straight-up in games decided by less than seven points, they only covered in three of those affairs. That usually points to a regression in the next year, but the Titans have young talent at several positions and Chris Johnson could bounce back from a disappointing 2011 that began with him missing training camp due to a contract dispute.

    Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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