With the unbeaten New England Patriots and glamour-boy quarterback Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, the stage is set for potential record-breaking betting numbers.
The Patriots improved to 18-0 on Sunday, and their continued pursuit of NFL history is sure to result in big business for Las Vegas sports books.
As expected, New England is a heavy favorite to win Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3 at Glendale, Ariz. But in a surprising twist to the script, the New York Giants will be playing the Cinderella role.
The Patriots were posted as 131/2-point favorites over the Giants when the opening line for the Super Bowl went up Sunday night.
"I have every reason to believe this Super Bowl will be one of the biggest ever, if not the biggest one ever," MGM Mirage sports book director Robert Walker said.
MGM Mirage books opened New England as a 13-point favorite, while Las Vegas Sports Consultants sent out 14 as the suggested line. The consensus number settled at 131/2. The total is 54.
With two weeks of hype to follow, the wagering handle in Nevada could reach $100 million for the first time.
"I'm very confident this is going to be a record-setting Super Bowl," Las Vegas Hilton sports book director Jay Kornegay said. "People are very intrigued by the Patriots' perfection and their run at history."
The state's record handle for a Super Bowl is $94.5 million, set two years ago when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks.
A total of $93 million was wagered on last year's Super Bowl, when Peyton Manning led the Indianapolis Colts to a 29-17 victory over Chicago Bears. The Colts were 7-point favorites the total was 47.
Eli Manning led the Giants to a 23-20 overtime victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. The Giants closed as 8-point underdogs and the score went over the total of 41.
Brady did not have one of his best days in the AFC Championship Game, throwing three interceptions, but the Patriots were good enough to grind out a 21-12 victory over the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers covered as 14-point underdogs and the score went under the total of 48.
New England is 2-8 against the spread after starting the season 8-0.
One of the Patriots' point-spread losses came in Week 17, when they needed a fourth-quarter comeback to defeat the Giants 38-35 at New York. In that game, New England was a 13-point favorite and the total was 461/2.
The Giants' upset of the Packers spoiled the best-case scenario for the sports books. A Super Bowl pitting Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre against the Patriots likely would have produced the biggest wagering numbers.
But there was no complaining about a New England-New York Giants rematch.
"I think for people handicapping this game, you can't bet the Patriots blindly," Walker said. "They have been doing enough to win, and that's it. I think it has caused a few people to pause a little bit.
"I don't know what more we can ask for, and I would think the public will be really excited. I'm just glad the Patriots got there. I didn't think the Chargers and the Giants would be the most attractive matchup."
Sports books on the Strip were crowded with football bettors Sunday, and Kornegay and Walker reported brisk business. Walker characterized the AFC game as "kind of a yawner."
The NFC game, played in Green Bay at sub-zero temperatures, had one of the season's most dramatic finishes.
After Favre threw an interception on the first series of overtime, New York's Lawrence Tynes kicked a winning 47-yard field goal. Tynes had missed a 36-yard kick at the end of regulation.
The betting majority was on the Packers, who were posted as minus-180 favorites on the overtime line. The Giants extended their road winning streak to 10 games.
Kornegay said the Hilton plans to post about 300 proposition bets on the Super Bowl by Tuesday night.
New England, in the Super Bowl for the fourth time in seven years, is about a minus-500 favorite on the money line to defeat New York. Support for the underdog is anticipated.
"The books are going to need the Patriots to win the game but not cover the point spread," Kornegay said. "The Patriots haters will come out to bet the Giants on the money line. It's a love-hate relationship with the Patriots."