Only 5 yards separated the San Francisco 49ers from completing a historic comeback. Colin Kaepernick, the NFL’s most dangerous running quarterback, surely could cover that distance with his long legs.
Three incomplete passes later, Kaepernick walked off on the short end of a sensational Super Bowl.
That’s not how it would have ended in a movie. In fact, in the 1974 version of “The Longest Yard,” the quarterback (Burt Reynolds) ran for the winning touchdown with no time left. There never was a doubt about the play call, but the prison guards still couldn’t stop the run.
I doubt the Baltimore Ravens defense would have stopped Kaepernick, either, if he were allowed to run a time or two. It’s easy to second-guess play calls that fail, and the bottom line is the favored 49ers fell, 34-31.
Because of the baffling way the game ended, and also because coach Jim Harbaugh has firm control of what appears to be the most talented team in the league, there should be no Super Bowl hangover in San Francisco.
“I don’t really think this 49ers team, based on what the players are saying in the offseason, will take a huge step back,” said Todd Fuhrman, an analyst for DonBest.com and a former oddsmaker at Caesars Palace. “But I’m real reluctant to back sophomore quarterbacks with such high win totals. Every coach in the league has plenty of film on Kaepernick to prepare for his mobility.”
It’s time to bury last season and look ahead. Although the season opener is Sept. 5, every NFL line a bettor could want already is on the board.
Less than 24 hours after the league unveiled its 17-week schedule on April 18, the LVH sports book opened lines for Week 1.
Cantor Gaming took it several steps further by opening lines for the first 16 weeks of the season on May 3, and three days later, the LVH posted odds to win each division.
The Atlantis sports book in Reno was first in the state to post regular-season win totals Thursday, and a day later, Cantor released its win totals.
It all happened so fast, and the race by oddsmakers to put NFL numbers on the board gets more competitive each year.
As Jay Kornegay, LVH sports book director, said, “It’s kind of like Twitter or like CNN versus Fox News — who’s going to be first?”
In the newspaper business, it’s important to be first, but it’s most important to be right. In sports betting, it pays to be right and get the best price. Here’s a look at the first win total prices:
San Francisco, Denver and New England share the top spot on Cantor’s board at 11 wins each, and the “over” price on the 49ers is the highest by a slight margin at minus-125.
The 49ers, 11-4-1 last season, figure to be favored in at least 14 games this season. They are 2½-point underdogs at Seattle in Week 2 and in a pick-’em game at New Orleans in Week 11, according to Cantor’s opening lines.
The schedule appears favorable for San Francisco, and Kaepernick should be better. He started the final seven regular-season games and compiled impressive numbers — 1,814 passing yards and 10 touchdowns, 415 rushing yards and five touchdowns — before excelling in three postseason starts.
Eight teams won 11 or more games last season — Atlanta and Denver (13), Houston and New England (12), Green Bay, Indianapolis, San Francisco and Seattle (11) — and the 49ers are a smart bet to win at least 11 again.
The Atlantis win totals look a little different. The Broncos and Packers top the board at 12, and Denver opened “over” minus-130. So, if you like Peyton Manning to light it up, Cantor offers a better price on the Broncos.
“If you go through their schedule, I don’t see how the Broncos don’t finish at least 12-4,” said Fuhrman, who likes Miami and St. Louis to go over 6½ and Oakland to go under 5½.
The Falcons, with a win total of 10 at Atlantis and Cantor, are expected to take a few steps back.
The Colts won six games by four points or fewer last season behind rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, and oddsmakers view that as a fluke. Cantor set Indianapolis’ win total at 8½.
Five teams won exactly 10 games last season — Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Minnesota and Washington — but Cantor’s expectations for the Redskins (8) and Vikings (7) are significantly lower.
Kansas City, New Orleans and Philadelphia are some of the more intriguing teams. All three were miserable flops last season, but all experienced major change.
The Saints plummeted from 13-3 in 2011 to 7-9 last season, when coach Sean Payton was suspended. Payton is back, and New Orleans’ win total is 9.
The Eagles, 4-12 with coach Andy Reid, hired Chip Kelly from Oregon. How Kelly will adjust from the college game is as much a mystery as his starting quarterback, but Philadelphia’s win total is 7.
Reid landed in Kansas City, which finished 2-14. Alex Smith, pushed aside by Kaepernick in San Francisco, is the Chiefs’ new quarterback, and their win total is 6½.
Kaepernick is ranked No. 81 in the league on the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2013 poll. I’ll bet he gets a better ranking next year.
Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at email@example.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.