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Consultants mull myriad factors in setting lines

No words can describe the joy in our Las Vegas Sports Consultants office when the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints got the fun started Thursday.

It’s fashionable for everyone in the sports wagering industry to whine about how grueling a grind it is when football season starts. In reality, it’s the most enjoyable time of year for everyone involved — oddsmakers, sports book directors and handicappers alike.

The pennant races in baseball are competitive and entertaining, but let’s face facts: Nothing beats the NFL.

As a point of introduction, LVSC is a team of oddsmakers creating the suggested opening line for virtually every sport that has odds posted at the vast majority of the sports books across Nevada. Each Sunday, I’ll discuss the oddsmakers’ opinions on key games and the impact on the initial lines we send out.

The first step on opening weekend is to describe the process of making the lines.

In essence, the numbers already are determined in the oddsmakers’ opinion. They have power ratings for individual players on every team that bloom into a team rating. As each Sunday unfolds, we closely watch each game to monitor personnel and keep an eye out for key injuries that, more than any other factor, would impact next week’s wagering lines.

By 5 p.m., the oddsmakers submit their opinions, which often are dissenting. After discussion, a consensus number is determined and sent to the books, where they make a final decision and post the opener.

The Week 1 lines in the NFL have been on the board locally since late July. Only three games have moved more than one point since that time, with two-point shifts in the Nevada consensus surfacing on betting favorites Dallas, Pittsburgh and Houston.

The Texans were sent out as 1-point favorites, but the Nevada consensus now has them favored by a field goal. By no small coincidence, this game featured several key differences from the oddsmakers.

Mike Seba settled on a pick ’em game, with Sean Van Patten and Dan O’Brien siding with the Texans in their home opener by 3 and 1 1/2 points, respectively. Jason Been was the lone supporter for the Chiefs, feeling they should be favored by 3.

The betting public’s opinion of Kansas City has been soured for a number of reasons. The Chiefs were lackluster in the preseason, and neither veteran Damon Huard nor youngster Brady Croyle seized control of the offense in a prolonged battle for the starting quarterback position.

Almost everyone I’ve spoken with thinks the Chiefs’ season win total of 7 1/2 is a big under play. I’m not so sure. On an annual basis, Arrowhead Stadium sports the NFL’s biggest home-field advantage (3 1/2 points). A 5-3 home record is well within reach, and with road games at Houston, Oakland and Detroit, eight wins seems attainable.

A high-profile game today sends the defending NFC champion Chicago Bears to San Diego. The send-out had the Chargers as 5 1/2-point favorites. That number still is on the board at some locations, with San Diego a consensus 6-point favorite around town.

The send-out process was interesting for this game, featuring San Diego the favorite by 6 1/2, 6 and 5 1/2 points. Van Patten, however, believed the Chargers should be favored by 4. He’s a huge Bears fan. By trusting his objectivity and counting on his devout attention regarding Chicago, his opinion was taken into account and slightly influenced the send-out.

Most of the oddsmakers have favorite teams. It can be perceived as a slippery slope, putting numbers out on teams in which you have a rooting interest, but at the same time, the more you see, the more you should know.

Across the board, the oddsmaking team keeps each other honest and accountable for their opinions. As in any walk of life, pride and egos come into play. Everyone wants to see a solid number that generates two-way action.

A team that will bear close watching this season is the Atlanta Falcons. With the sordid Michael Vick story came immediate reaction from Las Vegas, in terms of future odds and season win totals, not only for the Falcons but their division foes, as well.

The public perception is that Joey Harrington won’t get the job done with his third NFL team. Oddsmaker Kenny White thinks the dropoff from Vick to Harrington is in the neighborhood of 3 1/2 points per game and maybe as much as two wins for the season.

The season begins with the belief that the New England Patriots and Chargers are the league’s best two teams, and the NFC, featuring several contenders, is wide open.

As for the oddsmakers, this week is important. The team at LVSC is challenged to make the early-season adjustments quickly and correctly. This is a bottom-line business, and the ‘what have you done for me lately’ philosophy is pervasive.

Brian Blessing, project manager for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, can be reached at bblessing@lvsc.com. Hear the LVSC oddsmakers on Sportsbook Radio, weekdays at 4 p.m. on Fox Sports Radio (AM 1460).

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