Bettors, NFL get down to business

Seven months ago, Pete Carroll coached the Seattle Seahawks to a Super Bowl blowout win that served as a boring sendoff into a long offseason.

Finally, the thrills of NFL betting are back, with the Seahawks shooting for a successful sequel, opening their title defense today as 6-point home favorites over the Green Bay Packers.

A matchup pitting Seattle’s dominant defense against Green Bay star Aaron Rodgers, one of the league’s elite quarterbacks, essentially guarantees a strong wagering handle and packed sports books.

“It’s a great way to kick it off,” Sunset Station sports book director Chuck Esposito said. “The Packers are one of the most public teams we have in the NFL, and they have a lot of backers out there.

“Can the Seahawks repeat? It’s so difficult in that league to repeat, and I think there’s a lot of pressure on the Seahawks. This might be a preview of the NFC Championship Game.”

The hype leading up to the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 helped create a record wagering handle of $119.4 million on the game at Nevada’s sports books. The Seahawks made a mockery of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in a 43-8 slaughter.

Rodgers and the Packers figure to put up a much tougher fight, though two obvious trends are working against them.

The defending champions are 12-2 straight up and 9-4-1 against the spread in season openers since 2000. The Baltimore Ravens were one of the losers, but they opened on the road last year against the Broncos.

Digging ditches is a tough way to make a living, and so is betting against the Seahawks on their home field. Seattle is 18-2 straight up and 15-5 ATS in its past 20 home games under Carroll.

Still, Las Vegas handicapper Dana Lane (DanaLaneSports.com) is putting his money behind Rodgers and the Packers’ potentially explosive offense.

“Six points with the better quarterback is too much to pass up,” Lane said. “I tend to side with the better QB in most games that figure to be close.”

Esposito said he expects a high-scoring game — the total is 47 — with two-way wagering action.

“I think at 6 you’re going to see some Packers action,” Esposito said. “If you look at betting the underdog, you have to think the underdog can win the game, and I think the Packers can win this game.”

Thirteen games are scheduled Sunday, with 10 kicking off at 10 a.m. The Broncos are 7½-point home favorites over the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday’s nightcap. A Monday night doubleheader starts with the New York Giants at Detroit, followed by San Diego at Arizona.

The NFL generates big business for sports books, and the arrival of another season is an opportunity for the betting public to profit, too.

“Every game is on TV, and there is so much information out there in the media and social media dedicated to the games. I think the bettors on the other side of the counter feel more knowledgeable,” Esposito said.

“There is so much parity in the league, too. If you are a fan of one of the top 20 to 25 teams, you have to feel your team has a chance to make the playoffs. All of that bodes well for the popularity of the NFL.”

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.

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