Seven days before Super Bowl Sunday, the game within the game has started. Several hundred proposition wagers have been posted at Las Vegas sports books, and bettors have been busy crunching numbers and picking them apart.
Prop bets are responsible for about one-third of the money wagered on the NFL title game in Nevada. If a new record is set in terms of handle -- something in the neighborhood of $100 million -- we're talking about $33 million that will be devoted to the approximately 300 unique prop bets.
And just who are the individuals developing the proposition wagers that will provide so much additional entertainment when the New England Patriots meet the New York Giants?
At Las Vegas Sports Consultants, oddsmaker Dan O'Brien has the daunting task of creating and mapping out the props that are posted across the state.
Las Vegas Hilton sports book director Jay Kornegay's five-man team, headed by book manager Ed Salmons, does incredible work on the props, and they are deserving of the many accolades they receive on an annual basis.
LVSC's O'Brien is faced with a challenge that features a ton of work and angst. For starters, his desk looks like a hound's breakfast. The odds-making team in the office rallies around O'Brien at this time of year. We are quick to offer him assistance and platitudes.
But on Feb. 4, if a few prop lines go bad and the phones start ringing, everyone in our office gets alligator arms.
In his seventh year of tackling the pile of props, O'Brien is philosophical about the process and the pressure.
"It has gotten a little easier as the years roll by," he said. "New England's participation, for me, is a good thing. The Patriots provide a multitude of players that will generate action, and they have a large core group that has been extremely consistent."
By this weekend, O'Brien will have a pretty good idea which props will bear watching during the game.
"Professional bettors will do their level best to dissect these numbers and wager early," O'Brien said. "The other reality that's out there is the offshore numbers. We may have set the perfect number, but if an offshore shop offers a marked difference, there is room for exploitation."
A prime example of such a scenario exists with the prop on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's gross passing yards. His projected total is set locally at 306 yards, but offshore numbers are available at 294 yards, a 12-yard differential. That's one of many reasons lower betting limits are imposed on some proposition wagers.
The truth about O'Brien's thankless task is he can make 298 solid proposition numbers but generally will draw criticism for the few props that get the sports books beat.
When formulating the meat-and-potato props for Super Bowl XLII, a 41-game database is available to reference.
Such props include: Will the team that scores first win the game? (Yes is minus-260); Will there be a score in the final two minutes of the first half? (Yes is minus-300); Will there be a successful 2-point conversion? (No is minus-700).
Whether New England will finish unbeaten and make history likely will be of little concern to O'Brien. He's more focused on whether Patriots running back Kevin Faulk's longest gain from scrimmage will be longer than 111/2 yards.
Prop bets deserve in-depth analysis, and we will do so during a special edition of "Sportsbook Radio" at a new time (3 p.m. to 4:15) on Thursday from the Hilton.
Brian Blessing, project manager for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to the LVSC oddsmakers on "Sportsbook Radio," weekdays at 4 p.m. on KENO-AM (1460).