LAS VEGAS – The Chicago Bears were three games better than the Green Bay Packers last season.
And that was without a bona fide starting NFL caliber quarterback. Now the Bears have Jay Cutler.
This wasn’t enough, though, to prevent the bookmakers at the Las Vegas Hilton from making Green Bay a three-point home favorite against Chicago for opening week.
The Bears-Packers matchup is one of the 16 Week 1 opening-line numbers the Hilton recently put up on their betting board.
The biggest pointspread was New Orleans -11 hosting Detroit. That game also has the highest over/under at 48 ½ points.
None of the games opened below a field goal. The shortest favorites all were at least three-point chalk.
Those laying three are Carolina hosting Philadelphia, Denver at Cincinnati, Minnesota at Cleveland, Dallas at Tampa Bay and Green Bay home to Chicago.
Going by history, the safest play could be the Vikings. The Browns have lost and failed to cover in their last three Week 1 games. Since returning to the NFL in 1999, the Browns are 1-8 opening week, 2-7 against the spread. They’ve opened at home every year, too.
New England is the second-biggest favorite. The Patriots are -9 ½ hosting Buffalo and its new wide receiver, Terrell Owens.
The next biggest favorite is Indianapolis at -7 ½ home to Jacksonville. The Jaguars haven’t been this big of an underdog to the Colts since 2005.
There are four teams favored by seven points: Baltimore home to Kansas City, Arizona home to San Francisco, Seattle home to St. Louis and San Diego on the road against Oakland.
The season kicks off on Thursday, Sept. 10 with Tennessee at Pittsburgh. The defending Super Bowl champion Steelers are -5 with an over/under of 36.
And, yes, that does seem like too many points for the Steelers to be laying even if Kerry Collins remains Tennessee’s starting quarterback.
The New York Giants are six-point home favorites to division rival Washington. Atlanta is -4 hosting Miami and Houston is 3 ½-point home chalk versus the New York Jets. The Texans could end up higher if the Jets don’t find themselves a quarterback.
Some of the biggest line movements come on the totals. There were five-point moves on the Kansas City-New England game going from 48 to 43 and from 42 to 37 on the Cincinnati-Baltimore matchup last year. Both games easily went under the total. There were eight significant moves on the Hilton’s opening-week over/under numbers last year. All were on the under.
Every total for this season’s opening week numbers, except the Titans-Steelers and Lions-Saints, fell between 40 and 47, which is the over/under on the 49ers-Cardinals.
The Hilton doesn’t mind putting out Week 1 numbers five months in advance because their bookmakers are sharp, they can draw extra business from tourists who just visit Las Vegas during the summer and the hotel also earns interest from holding the money. Added publicity doesn’t hurt either.
As for any edges either way, it’s a guessing game at this embryonic stage. Certainly the house wouldn’t put up the numbers so early if they thought there was any disadvantage.