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Manning drives betting action on slow night

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Peyton Manning turned a traffic jam into a drag race. A painfully slow game became another Manning passing clinic and a wide-open shootout.

In reality, it took eight minutes for Manning’s hot hand to break a tie and create a three-touchdown blowout.

And not that Manning needs the help, but the Denver Broncos also were on the right side of more NFL officiating shenanigans that might have played a role in the point-spread result.

Manning was good, the Broncos were lucky and the San Diego Chargers were on the wrong end of a 35-21 score that burned underdog and under-the-total bettors.

“There was no doubt the Broncos got some breaks,” Westgate Las Vegas sports book director Jay Kornegay said. “A couple calls went their way. If those calls don’t go their way, the Broncos probably win by 7. There was definitely plenty of support for the Chargers, and there was some under money, as well.”

Like them or not — and most of the players don’t like them — the Thursday night NFL games are good for the betting business. Any isolated game on a slow night, especially one as attractive as Chargers-Broncos, draws a major wagering handle. And Manning was driving the betting action.

“The Thursday games have been getting a lot of action, a lot more than we anticipated at the beginning of the year,” Kornegay said. “That’s just how strong the NFL is now.”

Denver closed as a 9-point favorite, and the total was 51½. A majority of the public played the favorite, the so-called sharps sided with the ’dog, and some took their shots at live wagering lines. Often, the best way to bet NFL games is to bet during the game.

In-progress wagering is offered on several games at the Westgate and other books in Las Vegas. At each break in the action, a new line is posted.

After the Broncos’ drive to open the game ended in a punt, Denver was lowered to a 7½-point favorite, and the total dropped to 48½.

Just more than a minute into the second quarter, Manning hit Emmanuel Sanders for a 2-yard touchdown pass. With a 7-0 lead, the Broncos were posted as 11-point favorites, and the total was adjusted to 44½.

With 3:07 left before the half, Philip Rivers’ touchdown pass pulled the Chargers into a tie, and the Broncos were made 7-point favorites with a total of 42½. In hindsight, that was the right time to lay the points and bet over the total.

Manning connected with Sanders again, the second touchdown pass from 31 yards with 32 seconds to go in the half. Manning’s third touchdown pass to Sanders early in the third quarter made it 21-7, and Juwan Thompson’s 2-yard run put Denver up 28-7 midway through the third quarter. That’s when the highest line on the Broncos was posted at minus-21, and in hindsight, that was the right time to take the points with the Chargers.

“Sometimes we get some really good action on in-progress wagering, and other times it’s crickets,” Kornegay said. “It’s here to stay. I think this will slowly gain traction. The NBA gets a lot of in-game action, and if there’s a good matchup, in-progress wagering can sometimes outwrite the game itself, but you won’t get that in the NFL.”

Most of the money wagered on NFL games shows up before kickoff, because a majority of bettors are stuck in their ways or can’t commit the time required to participate in live betting. Propositions are another, more popular way to play.

Manning’s three touchdown passes went over his prop total of 2½ (over minus-155). His prop for completions opened at 24½ and closed at 25, and Manning completed 25 of 35 passes.

The first score of the game was a touchdown, a winner at minus-210, and Sanders paid off at plus-700 (an offshore line not offered at the Westgate) as the player to score the first touchdown.

Early in the fourth quarter, with the Broncos leading 28-14, Manning threw a pass into the end zone that Chargers safety Eric Weddle intercepted with an acrobatic one-handed grab. The turnover was wiped out by a bogus defensive holding call, and Denver scored on the next play.

“The Broncos are hot right now,” Kornegay said. “We’re at the halfway point, and there’s a long way to go. It doesn’t hurt to be the hot team. But it doesn’t matter how you play in October.”

A strong argument can be made that the Broncos (6-1) are the best team in the NFL. On Thursday night, they were good and lucky to cover. Still, the best bet was Chargers plus-21.

■ CLOSING NUMBERS — Notre Dame was an easy winner last week, and a questionable yellow flag from being a straight-up win. But it was my first losing week (3-5) of the college season. This could be another tough week. It’s an ugly schedule. At 30-25 overall, here are six picks for Saturday (home team in CAPS):

Unlv (+17) over UTAH STATE; COLORADO (+14) over Ucla; LOUISIANA STATE (+3½) over Mississippi; UTAH (+1) over Southern California; PENN STATE (+14) over Ohio State; UNR (-2½) over HAWAII.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.

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