Big favorite Indy departs playoffs with stumble


Only in commercials will Peyton Manning continue to appear in NFL playoff games.

All the gossip about Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and his girlfriend Jessica Simpson can be silenced, too.

It was a close competition, but the biggest losers of the postseason are Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, who put up a weak defense of their Super Bowl championship by falling as double-digit home favorites.

After a Sunday of surprises, the league's final four has lost some appeal. The Colts were stunned by the San Diego Chargers, and the Cowboys were upset by the New York Giants.

"We were looking at a dream foursome next weekend," Las Vegas Hilton sports book director Jay Kornegay said. "Despite the Colts and Cowboys getting knocked out, it's still going to be a huge weekend."

The Hilton posted opening numbers for the conference championship games Sunday night, and while the lines held steady the totals moved quickly.

In the AFC, New England is a 15-point home favorite over San Diego. The total opened at 51 and dropped to 49.

In the NFC, Green Bay is a 7-point home favorite over New York. The total opened at 44 and was bet down to 411/2.

Of the four favorites in the divisional round, only the Packers covered. Green Bay closed as a 71/2-point favorite in a 42-20 victory over Seattle on Saturday.

The Patriots eliminated Jacksonville 31-20 but failed to cover as 131/2-point favorites.

The most surprising result was the Colts' 28-24 loss to the Chargers. Indianapolis closed as an 11-point favorite after the line opened at 71/2.

With the line ballooning and the Colts' bubble bursting, the sports books were the big winners. But it was not a lopsided decision, as might be expected, and Kornegay was not break-dancing in his office when Manning's last pass fell incomplete.

Although the money line on Indianapolis reached as high as minus-700, Kornegay said there also was significant wagering on San Diego to win outright.

"A lot of people think the books really clean up when you see a big upset like that," Kornegay said. "We still won on the game, but it wasn't our best result. We really needed the Colts just to win.

"You get a lot of bets on the underdog on the money line, so the underdog winning outright in the playoffs is not necessarily a good result for the books. When you're giving out 4-1 and 5-1 odds on the underdog, that adds up pretty quick."

Similar to the Super Bowl, when public bettors often lay the points with the favorite and take the underdog on the money line, Kornegay said the books needed the favorites to win but not cover Sunday.

The Giants' 21-17 victory over the Cowboys, who closed as 7-point favorites, also was not the best-case scenario for the books.

"Everybody was all over the Giants," Kornegay said.

The Patriots, heavy favorites to win the Super Bowl, are just 2-7 against the spread in their past nine games. In Week 2, New England pounded San Diego 38-14 as a 31/2-point home favorite.

The Chargers, on an 8-0 run straight up and against the spread, are not in great shape for the rematch. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson and quarterback Philip Rivers both were injured in the game against the Colts, but both are expected to play against the Patriots.

The Packers and Giants also met in Week 2, with Green Bay winning 35-13 as a 21/2-point road underdog.

The Hilton's updated line for the Super Bowl has the AFC as a 131/2-point favorite over the NFC, with a total of 541/2.

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0354.