Hous­ton, we have a his­toric un­der­dog

Odd­s­mak­ers list Pa­tri­ots among most lop­sided fa­vorites in NFL his­tory

Houston Chronicle - - PRO FOOTBALL - By Lance Pug­mire LOS ANGELES TIMES

As soon as time ex­pired on the Tex­ans’ wild-card-round vic­tory over the Oak­land Raiders last week, a hum­bling slap of re­al­ity smacked them in the face.

Not only do the Tex­ans find them­selves in the freez­ing en­vi­rons of Foxbor­ough, Mass., where the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots and four-time Su­per Bowl cham­pion Tom Brady await them Satur­day night, but Las Ve­gas odd­s­mak­ers have pegged the Tex­ans as a more than two-touch­down un­der­dog.

Though the spread opened at some sports books with the Pa­tri­ots fa­vored by 14 points, MGM Re­sorts listed New Eng­land as a stag­ger­ing 17-point fa­vorite Fri­day — the third-big­gest spread for a play­off game in the NFL’s Su­per Bowl era.

“When you look at any matchup, you’re go­ing to look at the quar­ter­backs, and there’s cer­tainly a dis­par­ity there when you look at Tom Brady and Brock Osweiler,” said West­gate Su­per­book Race and Sports Book di­rec­tor Jay Korne­gay, who has had New Eng­land posted as high as a 16-point fa­vorite.

While Brady has gar­nered MVP con­sid­er­a­tion af­ter miss­ing the first four games of the sea­son due to “De­flate­gate,” Osweiler (16 touch­downs, 16 in­ter­cep­tions) lost his job to backup Tom Sav­age three weeks ago only to re­gain it be­cause Sav­age suf­fered a con­cus­sion.

The Tex­ans’ top-ranked de­fense, led by de­fen­sive end Jade­veon Clowney, aided the team’s play­off qual­i­fi­ca­tion and their vic­tory over the Raiders, but it’s pro­vided lit­tle com­fort for book­mak­ers in this game. In Week 3 of the reg­u­lar sea­son, the Pa­tri­ots’ third-string quar­ter­back, Ja­coby Bris­sett, led them in a 27-0 tri­umph over the Tex­ans in Foxbor­ough.

Bettors dou­bling down on Pa­tri­ots

MGM Re­sorts Race and Sports Book di­rec­tor Jay Rood thought he was go­ing high when he set the point spread for Satur­day’s game at 16. He then im­me­di­ately took a large wa­ger on the Pa­tri­ots from a wise-guy bettor known as a “sharp,” and said the en­su­ing pub­lic ac­tion on the Pa­tri­ots has more than dou­bled those bet­ting on the Tex­ans.

The only other oc­ca­sions a play­off spread has been higher were the 1995 Su­per Bowl, when San Fran­cisco cov­ered the 19-point spread with a 49-26 tri­umph over San Diego, and the 1969 Su­per Bowl, when Joe Na­math guar­an­teed a New York Jets’ vic­tory in the face of their 18-point-un­der­dog sta­tus and pro­duced a stun­ning 16-7 vic­tory over the Bal­ti­more Colts.

Is there value in bet­ting the Tex­ans in this spot?

“Dou­ble-digit (un­der) dogs usu­ally fare well in the NFL, but there’s not that many peo­ple who’ve been say­ing, ‘I’m go­ing to wait for the spread to reach 16½ and then I’m go­ing to hop on Brock,’ ” Korne­gay said.

Hav­ing it both ways

The early ac­tion on the Pa­tri­ots when the num­ber was at 14 or 14½ does pro­vide some bettor ad­van­tages, how­ever.

Since the num­ber has climbed to 17 at MGM, the early bettor on New Eng­land now can wa­ger on the Tex­ans for the same price, get­ting 17 points with the hope of win­ning both wa­gers, known in the trade as the mid­dle.

Should New Eng­land win by 15 or 16 points un­der that sce­nario, the bettor has risked only the 10 per­cent “juice” that the book charges on both bets, but stands to col­lect dou­ble the profit of a one-way bet.

The Dal­las Cow­boys, who host the Green Bay Pack­ers on Sun­day, and Pa­tri­ots are the two con­fer­ence fa­vorites to reach the Su­per Bowl.

“We gear (point spreads) to­ward the sharps all year, but we’re ap­proach­ing the Su­per Bowl and that’s the only line we make geared to­ward the pub­lic opin­ion,” Korne­gay said. “What we can de­pend on is that the (gen­eral) pub­lic will bet on what they’ve seen last.

“So, what­ever they see in these games will in­flu­ence their opin­ions on the cham­pi­onship games, and it will also in­flu­ence their opin­ion to­ward the Su­per Bowl. We knew last year ev­ery­one would bet the Pan­thers against the Bron­cos. That’s why the books did so well.”

Brett Coomer / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

LeGar­rette Blount, cen­ter, runs be­tween Tex­ans de­fend­ers on Sept. 22 in Foxbor­ough, Mass. The Pa­tri­ots, with­out quar­ter­back Tom Brady, won 27-0.

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