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Opening Line Report - Week 16

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LAS VEGAS – The New York Giants are still the favorite to win the Super Bowl at 2-1, according to odds released by Las Vegas Sports Consultants.

But the Giants have lost some of their luster following losses the past two weeks to Philadelphia and Dallas.

Now the Giants host surging Carolina, winners of eight of its last 10 games. The opening number was Giants minus 3, with many books making those taking New York lay higher juice.

Is the oddsmaker trying to tell us that the Giants would be pick’em with the Panthers if the game were at a neutral field since home field advantage usually is worth three points?

“I still think the Giants are the better team, but their stock has gone way down during the past two weeks from a public perception standpoint,” said Mike Seba, a senior linesmaker for LVSC. “The Giants aren’t the same team without (Brandon) Jacobs and (Plaxico) Burress.”

The Giants figure to get Jacobs back, but Burress is suspended following a gun incident.

The LVSC oddsmakers were deciding between making the Giants either 2 ½ or three-point favorites before going with three.

“I think the Giants will put out a better effort,” Seba said. “But they really miss Burress. He was their playmaker. They really don’t have anyone else. They’re limited in what they can do passing-wise right now without him.”

The Houston Texans are road favorites for only the third time in franchise history. The Texans were minus 2 ½ at Atlanta last season and lost by 10. They laid one-point at San Francisco in 2005 and lost by three.

Now the Texans are minus seven at Oakland. Houston is 6-17 on the road under Gary Kubiak, 2-8 in its last 10 away contests.

“It’s a shame the Texans got eliminated because they’re one of the better teams in the AFC right now,” Seba said. “But this line is more a statement against the Raiders. You just can’t trust them.”

Making numbers on Week 16 games often is tough for oddsmakers because they have to figure out each team’s mindset. That’s certainly the case with this week’s card.

“Teams have difference incentives,” Seba said. “Arizona is a perfect example. The Cardinals mailed it in Sunday. If the Cardinals needed this game, the line would be four or 4 ½.”

But because the Cardinals didn’t show up Sunday in a 35-14 home loss to Minnesota, the perception is the Cardinals are going to coast into the playoffs rather than play hard. That’s one of the factors why New England was minus 7 ½ or eight, depending on the sportsbook, hosting Arizona.

Another reason is the Cardinals’ miserable showing this season when playing in the Eastern Time Zone. The NFL schedule-makers didn’t do the Cardinals any favors making them travel to Washington (a 24-17 loss) to the New York Jets (a 56-35 loss), to Carolina (a 27-23 loss) and to Philadelphia on Thanksgiving (a 48-20 loss). The Cardinals have lost these four games by an average of 15 points.

Motivation could play a part in the New Orleans-Detroit matchup. Seba was thinking of making the road Saints minus nine until word came out that New Orleans was eliminated from playoff contention. The consensus number on Monday was Saints minus seven.

Detroit, of course, has strong incentive to avoid being the first 0-16 team in NFL history. This is the Lions’ final home game.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see it close 6 ½,” Seba said. “Even at 6 ½, I wouldn’t lay with New Orleans. You probably won’t see much of an effort by the Saints.

“I like (Dan) Orlovsky. He gives Detroit a better chance to win than (Daunte) Culpepper.”

Seba was surprised to see Green Bay only a 4 ½-point road underdog at Chicago on Monday night. LVSC’s opening-line recommendation was 6 ½, while Seba’s number on the matchup was Bears minus seven.

Seba believes Green Bay is a dead team now that the Packers are officially eliminated from the post-season after coming within an overtime loss to the Giants of reaching the Super Bowl last season.

Green Bay, though, could prove dangerous to Chicago. The Packers have beaten their long-time rivals 12 of the past 14 times at Solider Field. Green Bay played its finest game of the season when it beat the Bears, 37-3, in Week 11.

Aaron Rodgers is largely untested in cold weather, but the Packers may treat this Monday night game as their Super Bowl.

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