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Pro sports bettor backs Raiders over Saints in Las Vegas opener

The New Orleans Saints have won and covered their last seven road games. But at least one professional sports bettor expects that streak to end in the Raiders’ inaugural home opener in Las Vegas on the 50th anniversary of “Monday Night Football.”

The Raiders are consensus 6-point underdogs to the Saints in their first game at Allegiant Stadium, and pro bettor Jeff Whitelaw is banking on the home team to cover the spread.

“I thought that game should be closer to 4. I like the Raiders +6,” he said. “I’d like it a lot more if there were fans and hoopla for the first game in the stadium. But even without fans, the Saints having to travel West is a mild disadvantage and hopefully the Raiders players will put forth a little extra effort to win the first game they ever play in this stadium.”

Had Allegiant Stadium been christened with a sold-out crowd, Sunset Station sportsbook director Chuck Esposito and Westgate sportsbook director John Murray said the line would be about a point lower than it is now.

“Maybe a half point to a point. Nothing major,” Murray said. “I think there’d be Saints fans there, too.”

The line has bounced around a bit since May, when New Orleans opened as a 4-point favorite. The Saints were reposted as 5½-point favorites Sept. 13 following their 34-23 win over Tampa Bay and the Raiders’ 34-30 victory at Carolina. The line climbed to 6½ on Tuesday before dropping as low as 5 at Station Casinos after it was reported that New Orleans wide receiver Michael Thomas was expected to miss the game with a high ankle sprain.

“(The Raiders) caught a break with Michael Thomas being out,” Westgate sportsbook vice president of risk Ed Salmons said. “I think the Raiders can hang with these guys. One thing about the Saints is Drew Brees has really lost his arm strength. It’s getting to the point of dinking and dunking.

“The Saints still have a lot of weapons and a lot of stuff in their arsenal with Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara. But I think the Raiders have a chance to keep it close.”

Murray and Esposito each said Thomas is worth a half-point to the spread.

“There’s only probably two or three wide receivers in all of football that would impact the number and by no more than a half point,” Esposito said. “That would be Michael Thomas and Davante Adams and maybe DeAndre Hopkins as well.”

The total has dipped from 51½ to 48½ with Thomas ruled out. The Saints have a 13-4 over-under mark in their last 17 road games.

As of Sunday, Las Vegas books need the Raiders. At William Hill, 70 percent of the tickets and 61 percent of the money is on the Saints, who also are the ticket leaders at Station.

“But I could see that changing by the time they kick off,” Esposito said. “We saw the Rams play really well in their home opener in a new stadium on ‘Sunday Night Football’ and now the Las Vegas Raiders get a chance to repeat that on ‘Monday Night Football.’”

Las Vegas books have put up a plethora of props on the game. Raiders running back Josh Jacobs and Saints running back Kamara are the 5-1 favorites to score the first touchdown.

“It’ll be a monster handle just because it’s the Saints and Raiders on Monday night,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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