Seven days from Super Bowl Sunday, Las Vegas bookmakers are praying for Peyton Manning to go out with a win.
The betting public is putting far more faith in the opposing quarterback, Cam Newton. The Carolina Panthers have attracted a staggering percentage of the early wagers placed on Super Bowl 50. Barring a dramatic shift in the next week, the books will desperately need the underdog Denver Broncos to cover the point spread, if not win outright.
“There are good storylines with Denver. It’s Manning’s last hurrah, and it’s the best defense in the NFL, so you can make a good case with the Broncos,” said Matthew Holt, vice president of CG Analytics. “But nobody wants to bet the Broncos.
“If the Panthers win and cover, the Vegas books are going to get killed, unless something mysterious changes. I think we’re going to be big Broncos fans.”
Combining spread and money-line bets, Holt said, almost 90 percent of the action is on the Panthers at CG Technology sports books. William Hill sports books reported 94 percent of the spread action is on the Panthers.
“Every bet is on Carolina,” William Hill book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “It’s one ticket after another. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s just crazy. We’re absolutely buried on the game.”
The Panthers are 5½-point favorites at about half of the books in Las Vegas. The Golden Nugget, South Point and Station Casinos are among the books currently at 6.
“I don’t think it goes to 7,” Bogdanovich said. “If it gets to 7, I would be shocked. Not in a million years did I think it would go to 7.”
The line is likely to reach 6½ at some point, which is why bettors interested in siding with the underdog would be wise to wait.
“I’ve heard a lot of sharp players say, ‘We think this might get to 7, so why would we take 6?'” Holt said. “We got a tiny bit of buyback when we briefly went to 6. We haven’t taken any big bets yet. There has to be some Denver money come in, right?”
With the Panthers opening as 3½- to 4-point favorites, bookmakers are hesitant to move to 6 or 6½ and risk a worst-case scenario with Carolina’s margin of victory landing in the middle.
The money-line price on the Panthers ranges from minus-220 to minus-240. In most Super Bowls, the public likes to bet a little to win a lot by taking a shot on the underdog.
“We’re not even getting any underdog money-line action right now,” Holt said.
Still, a majority of the wagering handle will show up in the last three days, so things could change by kickoff.
“It’s not going to change much,” Bogdanovich said. “People have made their minds up, and they are betting Carolina.”
— Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.