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Line likely to move back up

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Oddsmaker Ken White doesn't put much stock in rumors; on the other hand, he knows that where there's smoke, there's usually at least a little fire.

The chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sports Consultants thinks New England quarterback Tom Brady may have a slightly sprained ankle, but doubts there's anything seriously wrong with his foot.

Photographers caught Brady wearing a boot cast as he walked to his model-girlfriend's apartment after the Patriots disposed of San Diego 21-12 in the AFC Championship on Sunday.

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New England will meet the road warrior and NFC champion New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3 in Glendale, Ariz.

The G-men upset favored Green Bay 23-20 in overtime in last weekend's other game.

"If it was anything serious, he'd be wearing a cast and he'd be on crutches," White said of Brady, adding he also wouldn't be surprised if the Pats were stirring the pot, "just to give New York something else to think about."

While he doesn't sense anything seriously wrong with the NFL MVP, White acknowledges loss of its star quarterback would be devastating for New England.

"If Brady couldn't play, it would make a huge difference," White said.

"I imagine the rumors have had something to do with the line going to 12, though I think it was inflated to start with. It seems to have settled in at 12, though Bodog had it as low as 11."

Las Vegas sports stores had the number 12 across the board Tuesday morning.

"We sent it out at 14, which I considered a little high," White observed. "It was put up at 13 1/2, which I thought was right. If Brady can't play, the line's 3 on a neutral field."

The oddsmaker believes the number will rise again. He says Joe Public likes the Patriots big-time and predicts that 80 percent of "square money" will come in the weekend of the game, driving the spread closer to the original number.

"The public can thank the pros for (temporarily) driving the number down," White observed. Of course some people hate New England so much they're not going to bet the Patriots no matter what. Others, the old-timers, want to see the '72 Dolphins remain the only undefeated team in history. The Pats are a team you love or love to hate."

White notes that while New England failed to cover double digits versus San Diego, had circumstances dictated a necessity, the Pats most likely would have responded.

"The Chargers were 3-12 on third down conversions and the Pats were 7-13.," he said. "There's your ballgame right there. It was cold and all the pressure was on New England. I think they did fine. San Diego got a few scores that were kind of flukie or the Pats would have won by more."

The Green Bay-New York spread ended up Packers minus 8 1/2 at some places, which White thought was overpriced. "I sent it out at 7 and thought that was a little high," the oddsmaker said. When I saw it at 7 1/2 and then 8, I knew the number was going in the wrong direction."

White pretty much summed up the NFC Championship meeting as Eli's coming of age versus Old Man River's swan song.

"You've got (Brett) Favre going on 40," he said. Manning's what? 26 or 27? He's still a kid. The weather was so cold. I was pulling for New York because Green Bay futures started off so high."

White also considers the loss of tight end Jeremy Shockey with a broken leg a possible blessing in disguise for the Giants.

"He had such a bad attitude," White observed. "Eli's improved with him out. He's finding his other people."

White sees the Super Bowl handle as being a swing that could go either way.

"The handle will be huge," he forecast. "Whether it'll be a record is a little hard to say right now. The economy is down and people are losing their homes. That's going to hurt. The number of for sale signs I've been seeing is amazing. I don't think people who are struggling to keep their homes are going to have money to make Super Bowl bets and a large percentage of these wagers typically come from Joe Public.

"Other Super Bowl bets are big ones that come from guys who can afford them. Whether they'll be playing this Super Bowl or if we'll get a lot of people stopping here on their way to the game in Arizona remain to be seen."

Some bookmakers have said the matchup is disappointing, as compared to New England-Dallas or New England-Green Bay.

"I can see that," White says. "Dallas and Green Bay were the No. 1 and 2 NFC teams all season. Now, instead of the top two teams in football, you have No. 1 in the AFC against No. 3 from the NFC."

  
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