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Head or heart: the Colts quandary

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Posted Aug. 09, 2010 @ 8:37 a.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Jay Rood, the race and sports book director at the MGM Resorts International casinos in Nevada, has noticed something about some of the people who bet the Colts to win the Super Bowl. Some bettors, Rood observed, might make a wager "on a team they like, but they put a saver bet on the Colts."

The Colts, the 5-1 favorite to win Super Bowl XLV at MGM, which has 12 properties in Nevada, including 10 in Las Vegas, haven't gotten a "ton" of play from bettors, Rood said, but the action has been "steady," he reports, and that is fitting, really, for there is probably no better adjective to describe the Colts, the defending AFC champions and winners of at least 12 regular-season games in the past seven seasons. Their marquee player, QB Peyton Manning, is the reigning NFL MVP, and he has never missed a start. No surprise, then, that the Colts' Over-Under for wins has been set at 11½ at MGM, higher than any other club.

Such reliability of results explains why Rood notices that some bettors will put "50 (dollars) on their hometown team, 25 on the Colts." The Colts may not be beloved by the betting public, but they are respected. And there is a reasonable expectation as to how they will perform, which attracts bettors looking for some shred of certainty in making a bet coated in uncertainty.

"The conservative speculator in the futures market, you kind of have to go with a team that you think is going to be there (at the end), and the Colts are that kind of team," Rood said.

At the palatial Wynn Las Vegas and Encore casinos, the Colts are also the lowest price to win the Super Bowl. Just like at the MGM properties, they are not getting bet heavily.

"They're the favorite at 8-1," said John Avello, the director of race and sports operations at Wynn Las Vegas and Encore.

He added, "Can you imagine that?" referring to the relatively high price on a preseason Super Bowl favorite.

Meanwhile, the Jets, who fell at Indianapolis in the AFC title game, are being bet big, and they are just 9-1 to win their first Super Bowl in 42 years.

"That's really low," Avello said of the odds on Rex Ryan's club, "but the money keeps coming in on the Jets."

The same thing is happening at the MGM properties, where the Jets sit at 10-1 on the line. And the Jets are also getting a lot of play at Lucky's Race and Sports Book, which has 13 Nevada locations, two in Las Vegas.

"There is no doubt they are enamored with the Jets," Jimmy Vaccaro said of the betting public. Vaccaro is director of sports operations and public relations at Lucky's.

Interestingly enough, the Colts are not the Super Bowl favorite at Lucky's; they opened that way, but they have been surpassed by the Cowboys, always popular with casual bettors and especially so this season with the Super Bowl to be played at Cowboys Stadium. Dallas is 8-1, while Vaccaro has raised the Colts' price to 9-1 in an attempt to get more money on Indianapolis. (The defending Super Bowl champion Saints are also not drawing much action on the board at Lucky's, Vaccaro said, and they are 12-1 at MGM off an 8-1 opening line.)

Vaccaro isn't sure why the Colts aren't catching the bettors' fancy, but noted that a Super Bowl victory by Indianapolis or San Diego — another AFC power not getting a lot of play — would be a good result for Lucky's.

The Patriots, another perennial AFC contender, aren't being bet like a Super Bowl-title team in Las Vegas, either. They are 10-1 at MGM, and Rood is taking a wait-and-see approach with New England, citing concerns about WR Wes Welker's recovery from a knee injury, the play of the defense and whether WR Randy Moss can still be a top-caliber deep threat.

Some believe the Jets, who advanced two playoff rounds beyond New England last season, are strong contenders in the AFC East. And certainly, they are being bet like it.

Which brings us back to the Colts. Really, who will push them in the AFC South? Is Houston capable of being more than a mild irritant? Can Tennessee bounce back after an uneven 2009 season? And what about the Jaguars? They're an astounding 100-1 to win the Super Bowl at the MGM Mirage after opening at 45-1, which should give you some idea as to the lack of confidence, and interest, in the Jags.

Rood sees the Colts winning their division "without much trouble," which helps explain their standing as the MGM future-book favorite to win the Super Bowl. After all, no one navigates the regular season as effortlessly as the Colts. Of course, the postseason has proven more difficult to master, and Super Bowl XLIV — Cowboys-Bengals in Canton, Ohio, notwithstanding — is the last NFL game fresh in our minds. And Super Bowl bets that look wise in January but end up crumpled and tossed in February are the pits.

If your heart spurs you to the betting window, the Colts may not be your sort of gamble, particularly if they have broken your heart before, and especially recently. And if their regular-season brilliance is simply boring to you, the natural inclination is to try to beat them.

But if your head guides you, the Colts may be the play to win Super Bowl XLV, and perhaps never as much as now, when the price, perhaps inflated because we are so used to their routine stacking of wins before New Year's Day, seems right.


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