Ravens lure early action vs. Broncos in Week 1


Most guys can tell a regretful story about the one that got away, and it’s usually a personal tale about a girl. The biggest regret of Peyton Manning’s professional career has to be a double-overtime game that got away in January.

Manning’s stirring comeback season for the Denver Broncos ended in stunning heartbreak with a 38-35 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Three months later, it’s still hard to believe.

The guys who piece together the NFL’s schedule puzzle always show an appreciation for good storylines, and so the Broncos and Super Bowl champion Ravens will square off again to open the regular season Sept. 5.

“The Broncos are in it to win it right now, and they are making the moves to do it,” said LVH sports book director Jay Kornegay, who huddled with three other oddsmakers to compare numbers and consider offseason moves and intangibles such as likely wagering patterns.

Revenge is a factor working for Denver, which opened as a 9½-point home favorite over Baltimore. After a few bets came in on the underdog, the line dipped to 8½, exactly where it closed when the teams met in the playoffs.

The 17-week schedule was announced Thursday, and less than 24 hours later, betting lines for Week 1 were posted at the LVH. The limits are $5,000 for sides and $1,000 for totals. Sharp money surfaced immediately, and more action will trickle in all summer. Only the NFL has such a powerful attraction during the offseason.

It has been a positive offseason for the Broncos, who made their defensive backfield stronger and swiped wide receiver Wes Welker from New England. Manning wants to orchestrate a faster-paced offense in his second year with Denver, and Welker seems a perfect fit.

“There is going to be so much Broncos buildup this offseason,” LVH oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said. “They will be in the forefront of what everyone is talking about with Manning and by adding Welker.”

The betting public will see the Broncos, 13-3 and the AFC’s top seed last season, as a hot ticket again. Denver did let defensive end Elvis Dumervil get away to Baltimore, but the Ravens lost linebacker Ray Lewis to retirement and parted with several other stars, including safety Ed Reed.

“I can’t say the Broncos improved a lot, but they did improve,” Kornegay said. “The Ravens lost a lot.”

Here’s a two-minute drill on the rest of the Week 1 lineup:

■ New England (-7) at Buffalo: It will be odd seeing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throw to Danny Amendola, who was signed from St. Louis, instead of Welker. Brady is 20-2 against the Bills, who will break in new coach Doug Marrone and a new quarterback. Expect the line to close at 7½ or 8.

■ Tennessee at Pittsburgh (-6½): After an 8-8 finish, the Steelers lost linebacker James Harrison to Cincinnati and leading receiver Mike Wallace to Miami. With a line lower than 7, there’s no reason to bet the Titans now.

■ Atlanta at New Orleans (-2½): The Saints went 7-9 without suspended coach Sean Payton. He will return with a vengeance, and this looks like a tough opener for the Falcons. The total of 54 is the highest on the board.

■ Tampa Bay (-2½) at N.Y. Jets: The line opened pick ’em and was bet to Jets minus-1. But the favorite flipped Sunday after the Jets traded cornerback Darrelle Revis to the Buccaneers, coincidentally. Revis, off major knee surgery, is not worth the $16 million a year risk, and New York did well by getting a first-round pick (13th overall) in this week’s draft.

“There’s no guarantee Revis is going to be the same player,” Sherman said. “It’s crazy. It’s not like Tampa is right on the cusp of the Super Bowl and is a player or two away.”

■ Kansas City (-2½) at Jacksonville: The Chiefs were poorly coached last season. Andy Reid should be rejuvenated after burning out in Philadelphia, and he upgraded the quarterback position by trading for Alex Smith.

■ Cincinnati at Chicago (-3½): It’s hard to say the new-look Bears — linebacker Brian Urlacher is gone and Marc Trestman replaced Lovie Smith as coach — will be improved. The Bengals are worth a look.

■ Miami (-1) at Cleveland: The Dolphins, 2-6 on the road last season, are better on paper and have 11 draft picks.

■ Seattle (-3½) at Carolina: Russell Wilson was a revelation as a rookie quarterback, and he’s not a fluke. The Seahawks, who dealt for wide receiver Percy Harvin, are serious contenders to win the NFC. But laying 3½ points on the road is seldom a bargain.

■ Minnesota at Detroit (-2½): The first bets were on the ’dog after the line opened at 3. Running back Reggie Bush, a free-agent signing from Miami, will help the Lions.

■ Oakland at Indianapolis (-7): Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck was good, but the luck factor played a major role in the Colts’ 11-5 finish. As for the Raiders, it’s tough to be optimistic, and this is a tough game to bet.

■ Arizona at St. Louis (-6): The Raiders shipped quarterback Carson Palmer to the Cardinals. The Rams, who lost running back Steven Jackson to Atlanta, went 4-1-1 against NFC West opponents last season.

■ Green Bay at San Francisco (-5½): The 49ers won both meetings last season, 30-22 in the season opener at Lambeau Field and 45-31 in the playoffs at Candlestick Park. Aaron Rodgers gets another shot at Colin Kaepernick in potentially the best game of the week.

■ N.Y. Giants at Dallas (-2½): Eli Manning and the Giants are 4-0 at the Cowboys’ new stadium. Dallas went 1-7 against the spread at home last season, which ended with another regretful throw by Tony Romo.

■ Philadelphia at Washington (-5½): Chip Kelly is bringing a version of his fast-break offense from Oregon to the Eagles, but will Michael Vick be his starting quarterback? And will Robert Griffin III be ready to start his second season with the Redskins?

■ Houston (-3½) at San Diego: The Chargers open a new era minus clueless coach Norv Turner. This is the second half of a Monday night doubleheader, and I wish more of these were on the NFL schedule.

Contact Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM, 98.9 FM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.