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Opening Line Report - Week 1

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John McCain and the Republicans putting up a woman for vice-president. What’s next, the Detroit Lions being a road favorite?

Yep, it’s true. Detroit is laying three points at Atlanta opening week. It’s just the fourth time this decade the Lions are road chalk. The Lions haven’t been favored during their last 23 road games.

It’s not that the Lions are supposed to be any good. They aren’t. But Atlanta is terrible. That’s why linesmakers assigned the Falcons the lowest regular-season ‘over/under’ win total at 4 ½.

Rookie Matt Ryan is expected to start at quarterback for Atlanta. That could be a factor why early money has moved Detroit from minus one to a field goal favorite.

“I don’t agree with the move,” said Mike Seba, a senior linesmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants. “I don’t think Detroit should be laying three on the road to any team.”

Several underdogs look tempting to Seba. LVSC, for instance, opened New England minus 14 ½ at home against Kansas City. The line is at 16 ½ and headed for 17. Seba admits his company, which supplies the betting lines to many of Nevada’s hotels, opened the Patriots short.

But Tom Brady didn’t play during the entire preseason. He could be rusty and perhaps not 100 percent because of a knee injury. New England lost all four of its exhibition contests.

“I can’t argue with taking a big ‘dog in Week 1,” Seba said.

Carolina is another such big ‘dog. The Panthers are traveling to San Diego. They will be without suspended star wide receiver Steve Smith. However, the Chargers most likely won’t have injured center Nick Hardwick and suspended linebacker Stephen Cooper.

Plus tight end Antonio Gates and linebacker Shawne Merriman, their best defensive player, are each playing through a debilitating injury.

San Diego currently is a 9 ½-point favorite. Seba believes the line will close nine, although it had reached 10 at one prominent Internet book.

The Minnesota Vikings are one ‘dog early money has come on. The Vikings opened plus 3 1/2 at Green Bay. Currently the Packers are minus three and even 2 ½ at some places.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Seba said about the Packers being less than a field goal favorite at Lambeau Field. “There’s going to be a lot of pressure on Aaron Rodgers. I’d hate to be him.”

Dallas has drawn early money, too. The Cowboys are up to minus four after opening a 3-point road favorite against Cleveland.

“I can see that because Cleveland’s defense has looked terrible,” Seba said.

The Cowboys-Browns total of 48 ½ is the highest Week 1 ‘over/under.’ The lowest is 36 on the New York Jets-Miami matchup. Guess oddsmakers aren’t anticipating a Brett Favre-Chad Pennington shootout.

All of the early totals moves have been to the ‘under.’ The biggest line adjustments have been on Cincinnati-Baltimore going from 42 ½ to 39 and Detroit-Atlanta going from 44 to 41.

Another early significant totals move is on Kansas City-New England dropping from 48 to 46.

Early money showing on ‘unders’ isn’t surprising to Seba. He said LVSC anticipated this, so they purposely shaded a number of totals lower.

“We can’t make totals low enough for Week 1,” he said pointing out that his company first made opening-week numbers back in the early spring.

The combination of new quarterbacks, the perception of defenses being ahead of offenses at this stage and superstars who could be rusty such as Brady and Peyton Manning, all account for the early ‘under’ action.

“I’d imagine most totals will be bet down this first week,” Seba said. “That trend already has emerged.”

We’ll find out soon enough if betting ‘unders’ is the right opening-week approach.

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