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July 28, 2014

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NFL by the Vegas odds: Sports book preview of the NFC

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Christopher DeVargas

A look at the William Hill Sports Book at Terrible’s, one of the many new additions the property has unveiled during their $7 million renovation, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013.

Betting boards around town will undergo a scheduled facelift within the next few days.

They’ll shed all the NFL win totals and other preseason props when the first 10 games kick off Sunday morning. It’s not too late to rush down to the sports books and get some last-minute action, so the Sun is here to help.

Look below for Part 2 of our team-by-team NFL betting preview with win totals and future odds from William Hill sports books on all 16 NFC teams. Nick Bogdanovich, William Hill’s chief of trading, gives an update on the betting action while I’ll provide five win total bets. Click here for the AFC preview.

    • New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90) reacts after the Giants defense stopped a fake field goal attempt by Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 in East Rutherford, N.J. The Steelers won the game 24-20.

      New York Giants

      2012 Against the spread record: 7-8-1 (9-7 straight-up)

      Over/under win total: 9 (over plus-125, under minus-145)

      Super Bowl odds: 28-to-1

      Odds to win NFC East: 13-to-5

      Bogdanovich’s report: “The Giants are drawing a little bit of money. You’ve got to respect them with all the playmakers — Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and the big things being expected of David Wilson. They’re getting bet as the second choice in the East.”

      Keefer’s take: Since winning their first Super Bowl under coach Tom Coughlin five years ago, the New York Giants have treated bettors well. They’ve covered in 57 percent of games, but most of their success has come in the first half of the season and the playoffs. New York is 28-17-1 versus the Vegas number in the first eight games of the season since 2008 and 8-1 in the playoffs. The market isn’t sold heading into 2013, however, as the Giants have seen money on their under win total and a lack of action in the future books. A third division title in six years seems likely if defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and running back David Wilson deliver on the promise they’ve already shown. Getting the only team to win the NFC East twice in the past five years at nearly 3-to-1 sounds like a more than fair price.

    • Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) looks for running room against Cincinnati Bengals' Terence Newman (23) after a reception by Bryant during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, in Arlington, Texas.

      Dallas Cowboys

      2012 Against the spread record: 6-10 (8-8 straight-up)

      Over/under win total: 8.5 (over minus-115, under minus-105)

      Super Bowl odds: 25-to-1

      Odds to win the NFC East: 9-to-5

      Bogdanovich’s report: “They’re an 8-8 machine, but I think they are going to have a really big year. I think Tony Romo is ready for a good year, Dez Bryant has it together as well as the rest of the playmakers — Miles Austin, DeMarco Murray and Jason Witten. For whatever reason, I think the Cowboys have a big year this year.”

      Keefer’s take: Respectfully disagree. There’s a reason the preseason betting popularity of the Cowboys hasn’t panned out the past two seasons: They aren’t that great. And switching up the offensive and defensive coordinators — to Bill Callahan and Monte Kiffin — while leaving virtually all of the player personnel intact isn’t going to change anything. The national fan base of the Cowboys religiously wagers on them to inflate the betting lines and create value the other way. Just look at how they’ve gone 17-30 against the spread the past three seasons. This looks like another case of that. Bidding farewell to the Jason Garrett era by calling for the Cowboys to go under 8.5 wins.

    • St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, left, is fumbles as he is sacked by Washington Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo during the first quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012, in St. Louis.

      Washington Redskins

      2012 Against the spread record: 11-6 (10-7 straight-up)

      Over/under win total: 8 (over minus-120, under Even)

      Super Bowl odds: 25-to-1

      Odds to win the NFC East: 2-to-1

      Bogdanovich’s report: “The Redskins are the one in their division drawing the most money. We’ve seen Redskins money all summer. With the way RGIII and Alfred Morris played last year, they’ve been popular all year long. Everyone assumed RGIII would recover in time for Game 1. They were betting on them regardless.”

      Keefer’s take: Bettors seem to be carrying over what they witnessed at the end of last year with their Redskins obsession. Washington sat at 4-5 against the spread and 3-6 straight-up on its bye week, but proceeded to win and cover in each of the final seven weeks to advance to the playoffs. They almost eked out a cover against the Seahawks in the first round despite Robert Griffin III playing on one leg. The fact that Griffin is ready to go for the first game is a bonus to those backing them, but the health of the defense will prove just as important long-term. They can now pair Brian Orakpo, who was hurt in Week 2 last season, with breakout star Ryan Kerrigan at linebacker. At 8 — as opposed to 8.5 at other spots — it’s a slight lean to the Redskins going over their win total but not enough to act.

    • Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly directs practice as quarterback Michael Vick, left, and Matt Barkley run a drill during NFL football practice at the team's training facility, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, in Philadelphia.

      Philadelphia Eagles

      2012 Against the spread record: 3-12-1 (4-12 straight-up)

      Over/under win total: 7.5 (over plus-115, under minus-135)

      Super Bowl odds: 60-to-1

      Odds to win NFC East: 5-to-1

      Bogdanovich’s report: “The Eagles are a distant fourth in that division. First-year coaches in rebuilding situations don’t usually do so well and this one has disaster written all over it. They’re going to try to run X amount of plays without any receivers, Michael Vick won’t last and I don’t think Nick Foles is the answer.”

      Keefer’s take: At other shops, Philadelphia has become a popular late choice in the future books. Bettors seem mesmerized by the way new coach Chip Kelley has cultivated a sense of mystery about his offense and think quarterback Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy will fit well in the system. But it might not come down to the offense at all. The passing defense was the worst in the league last year, according to advanced metrics. The Eagles brought in a handful of new defenders — including Cary Williams, Patrick Chung and Bradley Fletcher — in an attempt to fix it but no superstars worth counting on without hesitations. It’s hard to trust a team that’s gone 19-29 against the spread the past three years. The range of possibilities are wide, so sit back and see what Kelly has planned instead of getting involved blindly.

    • Green Bay Packers' Eddie Lacy runs during the second half of an NFL preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks on Friday, Aug. 23, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis.

      Green Bay Packers

      2012 Against the spread record: 10-8 (12-6 straight-up)

      Over/under win total: 10.5 (over plus-105, under minus-125)

      Super Bowl odds: 9-to-1

      Odds to win NFC North: minus-125

      Bogdanovich’s report: “Usually they’re the most bet-on team, but maybe the luster has worn off a little. They might have been a little overpriced to begin with but that was accounting for them usually being one of the most popular teams in the league.”

      Keefer’s take: Consistency can breed boredom. That’s the only hypothesis to explain bettors’ relative apprehension to back the Packers before this season. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has led the team to four straight seasons of double-digit wins with a 60 percent success rate against the spread, yet they aren’t one of the more popular choices in the futures book. The debate for best team in the NFC seems to be between Seattle and San Francisco, but would it surprise anyone if Green Bay turned out clearly better than both? The Packers could have a potent running game for the first time in years behind rookie Eddie Lacy, though everyone has heard that hype before. The defense was slightly above average last year despite the negative perception stemming from the season-ending blowout loss at San Francisco. With a tough schedule, the Packers could very well finish 10-6 and go under their win total. But that’s the same record they rode to the Super Bowl in 2010. It doesn’t hurt to shop for a 10-to-1 price and place a wager to find out if Green Bay can repeat that accomplishment.

    • Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) runs past Oakland Raiders cornerback Brandian Ross, bottom, and cornerback D.J. Hayden to score on a 32-yard touchdown reception during the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game in Oakland, Calif., Friday, Aug. 23, 2013.

      Chicago Bears

      2012 Against the spread record: 7-9 (10-6 straight-up)

      Over/under win total: 8.5 (over minus-155, under plus-135)

      Super Bowl odds: 25-to-1

      Odds to win the NFC North: 14-to-5

      Bogdanovich’s report: “Midwestern teams, especially Chicago, always draw money in the futures. It doesn’t matter the circumstances. But I really like this team. They’ve got weapons with the wideouts and made some pretty good moves in the offseason.”

      Keefer’s take: Uncertainty surrounds the starts of new eras. No matter how much the explosive tandem of wide receiver Brandon Marshall and running back Matt Forte appears to fit into what coach Mark Trestman would like to do in Chicago, it’s hard to say definitively. Despite a few key pieces continuing to age past their primes, the Bears defense should be able to hold its own coming off of a season where it was historically dominant for stretches. The market might be making the right move with a wait-and-see approach. Chicago’s prices have stayed virtually identical for months at William Hill. No reason to get involved.

    • Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) play fakes a hand off to running back Adrian Peterson (28) during the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game against the San Francisco 49ers in San Francisco, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013.

      Minnesota Vikings

      2012 Against the spread record: 8-8-1 (10-7 straight-up)

      Over/under win total: 7.5 (over plus-160, under minus-180)

      Super Bowl odds: 60-to-1

      Odds to win NFC North: 10-to-1

      Bogdanovich’s report: “They’re a distant fourth in their division just because Christian Ponder is so much weaker than (Matthew) Stafford, Cutler and Rodgers. The Vikings have drawn a little money to win the division lately, but I think it’s just because they’re being offered at the longest price.”

      Keefer’s take: It’s more than just Ponder that has bettors against unloading green on purple. The Vikings relied almost solely on Adrian Peterson to earn their wild card berth last season. No matter how impressive Peterson was — there’s no doubting he pulled off one of the greatest seasons in NFL history — it’s an unsustainable strategy. There’s hardly any precedent of a running back rushing for anywhere close to 2,000 yards and being as effective the following season. Minnesota went 5-1 in games decided by less than a touchdown last season, well overachieving in relation to their plus-31 point differential. Got to go with the market here. The Vikings will go under 7.5 wins, but it’s not worth betting with the juice too high.

    • Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford signals at the line of scrimmage against the New England Patriots in the second quarter of an NFL preseason football game in Detroit, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013.

      Detroit Lions

      2012 Against the spread record: 6-10 (4-12 straight-up)

      Over/under win total: 7.5 (over minus-190, under plus-170)

      Super Bowl odds: 40-to-1

      Odds to win the NFC North: 3-to-1

      Bogdanovich’s report: “People are liking this team. And maybe they’re right. Maybe this is the year. Sometimes it just takes a while for everything to align. I agree. I see Detroit definitely bouncing back this year.”

      Keefer’s take: In direct contrast with the Vikings, the Lions went 3-8 in games decided by less than a touchdown last year and wound up with a record that made them look worse than they were. After making the playoffs in 2011, the team didn’t handle the attention and expectations bestowed upon it well. Detroit coach Jim Schwartz has still made noticeable improvements since taking over, but he hasn’t been an overwhelming bet-on in Las Vegas with only one winning season against the spread. He’s got a roster that’s probably a little better than the one that went 10-6 two years ago. Detroit will fly over 7.5 wins.

    • Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) tries to get away from Seattle Seahawks' Earl Thomas (29) during the first half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013, in Atlanta.

      Atlanta Falcons

      2012 Against the spread record: 9-7-2 (14-4 straight-up)

      Over/under win total: 10.5 (over plus-180, under minus-210)

      Super Bowl odds: 14-to-1

      Odds to win the NFC South: 3-to-2

      Bogdanovich’s report: “Atlanta is just a model consistency. Now, do they have enough to get over the hump and win a Super Bowl? I don’t know about that. But I think it’s pretty safe to pencil them in for either 10 or 11 wins.”

      Keefer’s take: The strategy of gobbling up the highest-profile veteran free agents in an attempt to win a championship immediately has failed a number of professional sports franchises across a wide range of leagues. It didn’t stop the Falcons from trying this year, inking running back Stephen Jackson and defensive end Osi Umenyiora to deals. Both should help, but the real question is if the Falcons are as close to the Super Bowl as they believe. Sure, last year they were four points from beating the 49ers in the NFC Championship with the conference’s No. 1 playoff seed. But by the end of the year, many sets of advanced numbers — including oddsmakers’ power ratings — had them behind San Francisco, Seattle and Green Bay. It’s not far-fetched to see Atlanta falling behind at least those three in the conference, especially now that they have one of the league’s toughest schedules.

    • New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) throws a pass during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013, in Houston.

      New Orleans Saints

      2012 Against the spread record: 8-8 (7-9 straight-up)

      LVH Superbook’s over/under win total: 9.5 (over minus-115, under minus-105)

      Super Bowl odds: 16-to-1

      Odds to win the NFC South: 3-to-2

      Bogdanovich’s report: “Everyone is in on this team. They expect big things because Sean Payton is back and maybe they can go back to the way things were. But I’m not so sure. I think they’re old in their receiving corps and in a really tough division.”

      Keefer’s take: One problem on Payton: He’s not a defensive coach. Never was, and that’s what the Saints really need. They were historically incompetent on that side of the ball last year. Over bettors remember, as 10 of New Orleans’ 16 games soared past the total posted in sports books. They’ll need a couple newcomers, including rookies Kenny Vaccaro and Johnathan Jenkins, to vastly overachieve in order to even sniff the middle of the defensive ranks. The offense was quite efficient without Payton. It doesn’t have much room for improvement and could potentially even regress as Bogdanovich hinted. The betting market might be off with its coronation of New Orleans. Smash the crown and take the Saints to go under 9.5 wins.

    • Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis catches a pass before an NFL preseason football game against the Washington Redskins Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, in Tampa, Fla.

      Tampa Bay Buccaneers

      2012 Against the spread record: 10-5-1 (7-9 straight-up)

      Over/under win total: 7.5 (over minus-135, under plus-115)

      Super Bowl odds: 65-to-1

      Odds to win the NFC South: 6-to-1

      Bogdanovich’s report: “There’s no basement in that division. If Tampa Bay won it, it wouldn’t surprise me whatsoever. But we surprisingly haven’t gotten much that way.”

      Keefer’s take: Marquee offseason moves almost always trigger betting action in the NFL. Oddsmakers braced for it to happen when the Buccaneers traded for former New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis but the money never came. Gamblers stayed lukewarm on Tampa, betting against the Buccaneers more than for them. It’s an indictment of the old cliché of the NFL being about running the ball and stopping the run. Tampa did those two things as well as any team last year with rookie Doug Martin at running back and one of the league’s best front sevens on defense led by linebacker Lavonte David and defensive lineman Gerald McCoy. Revis could help shore up the secondary, but the passing game on offense will still go as far as Josh Freeman can take it. That’s rightfully scared gamblers away.

    • Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) listens to defensive calls on a radio during an NFL preseason football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Charlotte, NC, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013.

      Carolina Panthers

      2012 Against the spread record: 9-7 (7-9 straight-up)

      LVH Superbook’s over/under win total: 7.5 (over minus-110, under minus-110)

      Super Bowl odds: 75-to-1

      Odds to win the NFC South: 9-to-2

      Bogdanovich’s report: “You see how Carolina ended last year and then you factor in that Cam Newton is a year older. They’re strong. Of teams that can go from below the middle of the pack to a factor, they’re seen as a good long shot.”

      Keefer’s take: Here’s a team quietly ready to make a jump into the elite. Sharp bettors have backed the Panthers all offseason to give their over win total heavy juice, but nearly everyone else has ignored them. The Panthers won and covered in each of their last four games a year ago, further establishing Cam Newton as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL while also showcasing a budding defense. Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly is elite and, along with Houston’s J.J. Watt, a favorite to win this year’s Defensive Player of the Year award. Because they’re off of a down year, the Panthers odds are attractive in every category. Might as well take them all, including an easily attainable over 7.5 wins.

    • San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick throws a pass in front of teammate quarterback Colt McCoy, right, during warmups before an NFL preseason game against the San Diego Chargers, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, in San Diego.

      San Francisco 49ers

      2012 Against the spread record: 10-8-1 (13-5-1 straight-up)

      Over/under win total: 11.5 (over plus-165, under minus-185)

      Super Bowl odds: 9-to-2

      Odds to win the NFC West: plus-115

      Bogdanovich’s report: “We know we’re going to be rooting against them every week. They’ve drawn plenty of money and will continue to. Heaven forbid they get on a roll at the same time as Seattle. That would be a disaster for us.”

      Keefer’s take: In Las Vegas, there’s no debate over whether Jim Harbaugh already deserves mention among the best coaches in the NFL. Bettors will happily place him there after a 23-13-1 record against the spread through two seasons. Futures gamblers correctly called the 49ers making the Super Bowl last year before the season, but they didn’t expect that it would be Colin Kaepernick to get them there. Now the public is solidly behind Kaepernick as the 49ers enjoyed a second straight year of preseason support to win the Super Bowl and NFC, even with the Seahawks stealing some of the late shine. Their win total, however, has gone down at both William Hill and the LVH Superbook as money comes in on the under.

    • Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson throws a pass during the second half of an NFL wild card playoff football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013.

      Seattle Seahawks

      2012 Against the spread record: 13-5 (12-6 straight-up)

      Over/under win total: 10.5 (over minus-135, under plus-115)

      Super Bowl odds: 6-to-1

      Odds to win the NFC West: plus-105

      Bogdanovich’s report: “Seattle has brought huge, huge money. With the way they were beating teams at the end of last year, continued in the preseason and the way Russell Wilson looks, people are falling in love with them.”

      Keefer’s take: The secret is out. Seattle has always boasted one of the toughest home-field advantages in the NFL, but coach Pete Carroll has taken it to a new level. The Seahawks are 19-6 against the spread at CenturyLink Field in Carroll’s three seasons, including 7-1 last year. They haven’t been disastrous on the road either, going 12-14 versus the number. The numbers will be more difficult to cover this year, however, as Seattle has arguably the most betting hype of any team in the league. Both sharp bettors and casual gamblers have lined up with Seattle, as evidenced by the way both their future numbers and win total have been boosted. There’s a sneaking suspicion that either Seattle or San Francisco will disappoint and not live up to expectations this season, but good luck figuring out which one. There’s no point in going against the likelihood of good seasons for either.

    • St. Louis Rams tackle Jake Long warms up for an NFL football training camp scrimmage inside the Edward Jones Dome, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

      St. Louis Rams

      2012 Against the spread record: 11-5 (7-8-1 straight-up)

      Over/under win total: 7.5 (over minus-115, under minus-105)

      Super Bowl odds: 60-to-1

      Odds to win the NFC West: 9-to-1

      Bogdanovich’s report: “I’ve always liked Jeff Fisher, but I don’t know if they’ve got enough. A lot is up in the air. But you’ve got to take notice of how they did against the division last year. The Rams have gotten a little money, but nothing Earth-shattering.”

      Keefer’s take: Anyone backing St. Louis before the start of the season is spouting off the details of its performance against NFC West rivals as often as possible. The Rams went 6-0 against the spread, and 4-1-1 straight-up, against the 49ers, Seahawks and Cardinals a year ago. The chances of that repeating are as likely as Kurt Warner coming out of retirement to rejoin the team. The Rams addressed some of their most glaring needs in the offseason, drafting Tavon Austin to gain a receiving threat and signing Jake Long to take steps towards fixing the offensive line. But they also developed a new concern in the running game by letting Steven Jackson depart. They’ll likely finish right around .500 again with the chance of taking a bigger step next season.

    • Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) lunges for the extra yards as San Diego Chargers defensive back Johnny Patrick (26) defends during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz.

      Arizona Cardinals

      2012 Against the spread record: 7-8-1 (5-11 straight-up)

      Over/under win total: 5.5 (over minus-165, under plus-145)

      Super Bowl odds: 60-to-1

      Odds to win the NFC West: 12-to-1

      Bogdanovich’s report: “Arizona hasn’t drawn a lot of money, which is surprising because of the close proximity and the fact that people like to bet long shots. We would do well if Arizona played well. I think it probably has to do with them being so bad for so long.”

      Keefer’s take: While the public has ignored the Cardinals, sharp bettors at least see something in them as their win total has shifted upwards at shops across town. Their defense provides a nice starting point, as the unit kept Arizona in games even during their infamous 1-10 finish — 4-6-1 against the spread — to last season. Patrick Peterson has transformed into one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. A solid front seven makes running the ball against Arizona difficult. But there’s no reason to believe the Cardinals can run the ball themselves with among the worst offensive lines and sets of running backs in the league. With Carson Palmer at the helm — unlike Ryan Lindley or John Skelton, he might have some shot at getting Larry Fitzgerald the ball every now and then — the passing game is bound to improve at least fractionally. Going over 5.5 wins sounds doable, but like Bogdanovich said, it’s difficult to back a team coming off of multiple years worth of misery.

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

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