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Beefed-up Eagles stir hype, gain traction at books

In order for the Philadelphia Eagles to soar, they could not surround quarterback Michael Vick with turkeys. So they brought in stars, several of them, and assembled another so-called superteam.

Expect the media to pump this up for all it’s worth. Eagles players also are feeding into the frenzy by touting their “dream team” as the Miami Heat of the NFL.

The New England Patriots remain the Super Bowl favorites, a position they deserve. But even professional gambler Steve Fezzik, who’s on record as a Vick cynic, said he’s beginning to buy in to the Philadelphia story.

“I still power rate New England higher, but not by much,” Fezzik said.

Mike Colbert, the sports book director for Cantor Gaming, is not as eager to jump on the Eagles’ bandwagon, saying, “It’s a little bit too much hype.”

Minus the dancing, smoke and the Heat players’ annoying predictions of multiple championships, the Eagles flipped the switch on the hype machine last week by signing free agent Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the league’s top two cornerbacks.

Philadelphia previously traded for another Pro Bowl corner, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and added those two to Asante Samuel, who has a league-high 36 interceptions over the past five seasons.

Needing a stronger defensive line, the Eagles beefed up their front by snagging end Jason Babin, who had 12½ sacks last season, and tackle Cullen Jenkins.

Vick was handed another playmaker, too, as running back Ronnie Brown was signed to back up LeSean McCoy, and Vince Young jumped on board to back up Vick.

On July 27, two days after the 4½-month lockout ended, Cantor Gaming opened Philadelphia’s regular-season win total at 9½ (over minus-130). The Asomugha deal last Friday prompted Colbert to raise the price to minus-220, and he said, “after taking numerous bets,” the number has been adjusted to 10½ (over minus-125).

“I think it’s an inflated number with the Eagles now,” Colbert said. “I would guess the Eagles win nine or maybe 10 games. Eleven is a lot of games for them to win. I really think 11 is a big number.”

At least two potential problems could trip the Eagles — an injury to Vick and an unhappy DeSean Jackson. Young looks good as a backup, but he was recently terrible as the starter in Tennessee. Jackson, a dynamic wideout, is underpaid and holding out of training camp.

As awesome as Vick can be, he was humbled some during the second half of last season, when he missed three games to injury and sat out the finale as Philadelphia finished 10-6.

In his first six games, Vick threw 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions. In his final six games, he passed for 10 touchdowns, was intercepted six times and lost three of his nine fumbles. He also was sacked six times in a 24-14 loss to Minnesota, which was a double-digit underdog in Week 16.

“The Eagles will be good, and they will be exciting, but there are questions about Vick and different opinions on him,” Colbert said. “I think defenses figured out how to play him late in the year.”

Fezzik (LVAsports.com) said he did not bet Philadelphia’s win total, but he took advantageous numbers on the Eagles in several games: minus-3 against the New York Giants in Week 3, minus-4 at Buffalo in Week 5 and plus-1½ against the Patriots in Week 12, for example.

“The Eagles won’t be a home ‘dog to anybody this year,” Fezzik said.

The Patriots are at 5-1 odds to win the Super Bowl, while Colbert adjusted the Eagles from 12-1 to 8-1. New England’s win total is either 11 or 11½ at Las Vegas books.

“I expect the Patriots to win 13 games, and to me they are the clear favorite to win it,” said Colbert, who opened registration Wednesday for a $10,000-entry fee NFL handicapping contest.

No bettors are taking a liking to the Cincinnati Bengals. MGM Resorts opened the Bengals’ win total at 7½, and the number has dipped to 6 (under minus-120) at Cantor.

“The Bengals could be the worst team in the NFL,” Fezzik said. “Carolina is the worst team, but the Bengals and Bills are right there in the discussion.”

I expect a decline in the Oakland Raiders and recommend betting them under 7 (minus-110). The Raiders just lost tight end Zach Miller to Seattle and, of course, Asomugha to Philadelphia.

The Eagles aren’t done with the hype, either. Rumors are they might sign LeBron James to play tight end, Dr. Phil as team psychologist, Lindsay Lohan and Kim Kardashian as cheerleaders and Charlie Sheen as their Super Bowl afterparty host.

Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts the “Las Vegas Sportsline” weeknights at midnight on KDWN-AM (720) and thelasvegassportsline.com.

 

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