The first Sunday of the 2012 NFL season features two potential playoff previews as the San Francisco 49ers visit the Green Bay Packers and, in the Sunday night game, the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the Denver Broncos - and both games will have live play-by-play betting at the book.
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The Pack and 49ers combined for a 28-4 regular-season record in 2011 and reached the postseason as the top two seeds in the NFC. Green Bay was stunned in the divisional round at home by the Giants, while San Francisco upset New Orleans in that round before falling in overtime to the Giants in the NFC Championship Game. Not since 1999 have two teams with this many combined wins from the previous season squared off in Week 1 (Vikings-Falcons that year).
Green Bay is a 5-point favorite for this matchup and has won eight straight vs. the 49ers, although the teams haven't played since 2010. The Pack have won a franchise-best five straight openers. The Packers and 49ers are the top two betting favorites at the book to win the NFC this year at 10/3 and 11/2, respectively. Green Bay was 11-5 ATS a year ago and 7-1 ATS at home, while San Francisco tied for the fewest ATS losses overall with an 11-4-1 mark and was 4-4 on the road.
Denver is where Pittsburgh's season ended last year, courtesy of a Tim Tebow overtime touchdown pass in the wild-card round. Tebow is now a backup (for now) with the New York Jets and Sunday night will mark Peyton Manning's debut as a Bronco. Manning somehow only faced the Steelers three times during his days in Indianapolis. Manning's team won two of the three but his 84.3 career QB rating vs. Pittsburgh is one of No. 18's worst vs. any club. Manning's over/under totals for the 2012 season are set at 4,250 yards (under -140 favorite), 30 touchdowns and 15.5 interceptions (all at -115). Before sitting out last season, Manning had started all 16 games in every season. Doing so again in 2012 is a -300 favorite, with Manning failing to start at least one game at +200.
The Broncos are 1.5-point favorites at the book as Manning faces the No. 1 overall defense and top scoring defense from 2011. However, Pittsburgh will be without excellent safety Ryan Clark because of a rare blood disorder that can be life-threatening when he plays in altitude. Clark also missed that January playoff game. Pittsburgh was 2-6 ATS on the road during the 2011 regular season.
There is one additional Sunday game available for live betting: Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints. That's the debut of 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III at quarterback for the Redskins. Griffin's totals for 2012 at the book are 3,700 yards, 22.5 touchdowns and 16.5 interceptions (all -115). The Saints, meanwhile, play their first regular-season game without head coach Sean Payton, interim head coach Joe Vitt, linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith, all suspended for their roles in the bounty scandal. Payton and Vilma are out for the year, while Vitt will return after six games and Smith after four. Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer will be the head coach while Vitt is out.
New Orleans was one of three teams to go unbeaten at home in the 2011 regular season and averaged more than 41 points a game at the Superdome. The Saints, who are 7.5-point favorites for this game, were the only 8-0 ATS home team a year ago. In the wake of all the suspensions, New Orleans is now the fifth-favorite in the NFC at 9/1. Washington is a 35/1 long shot, ahead of only St. Louis and Minnesota.
Monday Betting Doubleheader
The book will offer live play-by-play betting on every "Monday Night Football" game this season and as has been the case in recent years there will be two MNF games on opening weekend. This year the night belongs solely to the AFC as Cincinnati visits Baltimore in the opener and San Diego goes to Oakland in the nightcap.
On the way to winning the AFC North, the Ravens were 8-0 at home last season and swept all six overall games inside the division. The two wins vs. Cincinnati were by a combined 15 points. Baltimore is 4-0 in openers under Coach John Harbaugh. The Ravens reached the AFC Championship a year ago but are only fourth-favorites to win the conference this year at 7/1. Cincinnati is 18/1. The Bengals are 6-points dogs for the opener and they had one of the NFL's best ATS away records last season at 5-1-2.
Not too long ago, the Chargers had won 14 straight against the AFC West-rival Raiders. But Oakland has won three of the past four in the series after each team won on the other's field in 2011. San Diego opened as the 1.5-point favorite for this game but now Oakland is favored by a point.
Part of the reason for that move could be the uncertain status of Chargers Pro Bowl running back Ryan Mathews as he tries to get back from a broken collarbone suffered in the preseason opener. The Raiders covered just once last season in five tries as a favorite. San Diego was 2-3 ATS as a dog.
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