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Big Game Betting Notebook: Could sharps back Patriots late?

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By Mike Wilkening

In our Sunday installment of Pro Football Weekly's "Big Game Betting Notebook," we get some insight from one of Nevada's most experienced oddsmakers.

The Patriots are three-point favorites at Lucky's Race and Sports Book in Nevada, and Jimmy Vaccaro, Lucky's director of sports operations and public relations, doesn't expect to move off that number, he told PFW Sunday morning. New England is even-money on the pointspread, while a wager on the Giants at plus-3 has a vigorish of -120.

Lucky's has moved to New England -2½ on a couple of occasions, as's line movement chart shows.

Vaccaro believes money from professional bettors could show on New England closer to game time.

"You can just feel ... that the big guys are going to jump in," he said, citing instinct honed from years of experience. 

Nevertheless, Vaccaro notes that a New England cover would probably be good for the majority of Nevada oddsmakers.

"I believe most of the sportsbooks will end up rooting for the Pats," he said.

Mickelson vs. Pierre-Paul prop popular at Lucky's

One prop that's gotten some play at Lucky's, Vaccaro said, is the one pitting Phil Mickelson (final-round birdies in the Phoenix Open) vs. Jason Pierre-Paul (solo tackles + assisted tackles on Sunday). Overall, money wagered on all prop bets will be a "minimum" 40 percent of the total handle on Sunday's game at Lucky's, Vaccaro said.

Beauty vs. the Beast

Throughout the regular season and the first three rounds of the playoffs, I've charted how the most-bet (the "beauty") and least-bet (the "beast") teams in a given week have fared.

For Sunday's big game, I've talked to numerous oddsmakers, and the sense I've gotten is the Giants fit our "beauty" criterion, with the "Under" fitting our beast mold, as the public prefers the Over in games like this. MGM Resorts International oddsmaker Jay Rood told me Saturday that he expected 75 percent of the total bets to be on the Over. However, the total has fallen some since the game opened, and the sharps have preferred the Under, Rood noted.

Our picks:

Beauty: Giants +3 (-120)

Beast: Under 53½

Prop picks

Here are three prop selections I like Sunday. The odds were furnished by LVH — Las Vegas Hotel and Casino earlier in the week:

1. Giants WR Mario Manningham's longest reception to go OVER 17½ yards (-110).

2. Patriots RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis to exceed 47½ yards rushing (-110). 

3. Giants WR Hakeem Nicks to exceed 5½ receptions (+105).

Finally, my prediction

If you missed it earlier this week, here's my look at Giants-Patriots from a handicapping perspective, along with my spread pick for Sunday's game.

Earlier notebook pages:

Saturday, Feb. 4

Public backing long shot Woodhead to score first TD at Caesars

At the Caesars Entertainment sportsbooks, the betting public believes Patriots RB Danny Woodhead is a live long shot to score the game's first touchdown on Sunday. As of Saturday afternoon, Woodhead's first-TD odds had dropped from 28-1 to 20-1, Todd Fuhrman, Caesars' race and sports book analyst, told PFW. 

Woodhead has scored one TD this season — a 10-yard third-quarter rush in the regular-season win at Denver.

Another popular gamble with prop bettors at Caesars: Giants WR Victor Cruz to catch more than 5½ passes, Fuhrman said.

Not a wide gap in spread wagers on Patriots, Giants at MGM

At MGM Resorts International, whose properties include The Mirage and the MGM Grand on the Las Vegas strip, bettors have made more wagers on the Giants than the Patriots, but not many more. As of Saturday morning, the MGM books had taken about 5,000 pointspread bets on the game, but there were only 70 more tickets on New York, said Jay Rood, MGM's vice president of race and sports.

The Patriots are 2½-point favorites at MGM. Rood said he does not anticipate moving the line any further, but he said he believes the vigorish, or the house's cut on a spread bet, could decrease on New England's side. As of this morning, the vigorish on New England was -125, and it has fallen further to -120, per's line movement chart.

Overall, as of Saturday morning, MGM had taken $3 million to $4 million in wagers on the game, with another "seven figures" on proposition wagers, Rood said. The veteran oddsmaker said the state's sportsbooks are hoping to take in $90 million on the game. About $87.5 million was legally wagered in Nevada on last year's big game, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.


Friday, Feb. 3

Oddsmaker won't be surprised if line falls half-point

The Patriots are consensus three-point favorites vs. the Giants on Sunday, with the LVH Las Vegas Hotel and Casino among the sportsbooks offering that line. However. Jay Kornegay, LVH's vice president of race and sports book operations, told PFW Thursday that he would not be surprised if the line fell to 2½ by Saturday. That number already is fairly easily found in Nevada, per

The Wayne Rooney vs. Brandon Jacobs prop

I have LVH's voluminous prop sheet — 41 printed pages after shrinking the font and adjusting the margins. I'll be sharing some of the more interesting props here and on Twitter, but here's a particularly fun one I'll post here:

Who will have more: 

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney (goals on Sunday) — PK (+250)

Giants RB Brandon Jacobs (touchdowns on Sunday) — PK (-300)

Manchester United plays at Chelsea at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday.

The Giants' game in question? I would believe you know that answer.


Thursday, Feb. 2

Bettors essentially split on Clarkson

Now, a few words on one of everyone's favorite proposition wagers. has set the Over-Under on the length of Kelly Clarkson's rendition of the national anthem at 1:34. Fifty-one percent of bettors have taken the "Over," head oddsmaker Pat Morrow told PFW Thursday morning. The vigorish on both sides is -120.

The house rules on the bet are as follows:

"From first note starts until she completes saying 'Brave.' All wagers have action, if she restarts for any reason, wager will start from restart. Book manager's decision is final."

The sportsbook also has set 5-2 odds on Clarkson leaving out at least one word from the anthem.

Giants win would mean six-figure loss

A Giants win Sunday would result in a $500,000 loss for Bovada, Morrow said. Eighty percent of the loss would be on futures wagers, with the rest coming from spread and money-line bets on New York.

Morrow said he doesn't expect the line, currently New England -3 (-105), to move, although Bovada could adjust the vigorish if needed.

"We rarely move below three," Morrow said.


Wednesday, Feb. 1

Nevada sportsbook heavy on Giants money-line bets

At the Club Cal Neva sportsbooks in Nevada, the house will be pulling for the Patriots on Sunday, it appeared early this week. 

Chris Andrews, Club Cal Neva's assistant race and sports book director, reported Tuesday that the sportsbook was heavy on Giants win, or "money line" bets, but that the spread bets on both sides were about "even," as he put it. However, because of future-book liability and money-line wagers, Club Cal Neva, which has 31 sportsbooks in Nevada, would need the Patriots Sunday, and that figured to remain the case, Andrews said.

The Giants were as high as 100-1 to win Super Bowl XLVI at one point this season

"They did look bad," Andrews reminded.

The (double) safety dance

Club Cal Neva also sent along their props. My favorite: They have set odds on the Patriots and Giants finishing with four points.

Four points. Two safeties. That's the only combination that gets you there, unless there's some sort of weird rouge rule buried in an NFL rulebook. And if ANY team would unearth such a guideline, it would be the "Hey Doug Flutie, Go Drop Kick This Extra Point" Patriots of Bill Belichick. 

The Patriots, since you must know, are +900000 to finish with just two safeties, while the Giants — who DO have the better pass rush, of course — are +750000.

A successful $100 wager on New England would return $900,000, while a winning Giants ticket would return $750,000.

For the record, 19 clubs have recorded two safeties in a game. The Giants have done it three times, most recently in 1961. The Rams, in fact, did it this season, in the third quarter of a loss at Arizona. Those were the only points the Rams scored in the quarter, marking the first time in NFL history a club had scored four points in a quarter. The Patriots never have done it.

Of course, to win this bet, two safeties would have to be the ONLY points scored by the club you chose to accomplish this … feat.

A search of shows only one final score in pro football history ending in a "4," and per their records, it came on Nov. 25, 1923, when the Racine Legion defeated the Chicago Cardinals 10-4.

Oh, the poor Cardinals.

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