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November 23, 2014

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Vegas Super Bowl favorites Broncos, 49ers were heavily bet before season

Sports bettors proving accurate in preseason assessment

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning looks down field during the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, in Denver.

This weekend's lines

  • Ravens +9.5 at Broncos; over/under: 46
  • Packers +3 at 49ers; over/under: 44.5
  • Seahawks +2.5 at Falcons; over/under: 46.5
  • Texans +9.5 at Patriots; over/under: 47.5
  • Note: Check Talking Points blog Friday for a preview on the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

Odds to win the Super Bowl

  • Broncos — 5-to-2
  • Patriots — 11-to-4
  • 49ers — 5-to-1
  • Packers — 6-to-1
  • Falcons — 7-to-1
  • Seahawks — 8-to-1
  • Texans — 20-to-1
  • Ravens — 25-to-1
  • Source: LVH Superbook

Odds to win the AFC

  • Broncos — Even
  • Patriots — 6-to-5
  • Texans — 9-to-1
  • Ravens — 11-to-1
  • Source: LVH Superbook

Odds to win the NFC

  • 49ers — 2-to-1
  • Falcons — 2-to-1
  • Packers — 3-to-1
  • Seahawks — 7-to-2
  • Source: LVH Superbook

A few hours before the NFL season kicked off last September, Jay Kornegay peered into his computer screen at the LVH Superbook to get an update on which teams bettors were taking to win the Super Bowl.

To no surprise, the executive sports book director found the LVH had continued to print tickets on the two most popular teams of the offseason, the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos.

“We can’t stop it,” Kornegay said incredulously at the time. “The 49ers have by far the most tickets and the Broncos have the second-most. They both continue to get a ton of public support and there’s only a distant third.”

Fast-forward to this weekend, the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, where the Broncos and 49ers are favored to meet in Super Bowl 48.

The Superbook lists the Broncos at even money to represent the AFC on Feb. 3 in New Orleans. The 49ers are tied with the Falcons at 2-to-1 to win the NFC, but San Francisco has lower odds than Atlanta to win the Super Bowl.

The two most likely Super Bowl results, according to William Hill sports books’ exacta odds on 32 possible matchups, are San Francisco beating Denver at 7-to-1 or Denver defeating San Francisco at 8-to-1.

“They aren’t favorable results for us,” Kornegay said of the Broncos or 49ers winning the Super Bowl. “But they’re not a big problem either. They don’t come with a lot of liability.”

San Francisco and Denver closed around 6-to-1 and 12-to-1, respectively, in the future book before the start of the season. Paying out wagers at those prices, obviously, pales in comparison to bookmakers’ nightmares like when the St. Louis Cardinals won the 2011 World Series a month after a few gamblers took them at 999-to-1.

Kornegay said the Superbook was able to balance its futures as the season went on to relieve some stress on the 49ers or Broncos winning.

But the books are in a position where they could lose even more money on the NFL in a season where public sports bettors found an unprecedented level of success. The support for San Francisco and Denver stretched all across town.

Jimmy Vaccaro, legendary oddsmaker for William Hill, also noted the 49ers and Broncos as two of the most popular choices in future bets before the season. John Avello, executive director of the Wynn Las Vegas sports book, reported three teams he’d root against to win the Super Bowl — Atlanta, and of course, San Francisco and Denver.

“I’ve got a little bit of hazard there,” Avello said. “None of them are terrible, but none of them are great.”

Denver gained momentum in the betting market all year. With Peyton Manning steadily rediscovering his classic form to lead his team to 11 straight wins at the end of the season, reluctant bettors turned into Broncos backers.

Despite San Francisco’s 11-4-1 record, betting support fizzled as the season progressed. Gamblers were turned off by a number of factors, including quarterback Alex Smith’s injury midway through the season that ultimately gave way to Colin Kaepernick becoming the starter.

Kornegay said New England passed San Francisco in money wagered in futures by the end of the year at the Superbook. He’d rather see a team other than Denver, New England or San Francisco hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

“Those are just our least favorite results,” Kornegay said. “I would say the rest are favorable. There are a bunch that would be great results for us — Texans, Falcons, Ravens, Seahawks.”

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

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