Rodgers is the best man, better bet

If the game is replayed in two months, the stakes will be raised, the wagering handle will set a record, and Aaron Rodgers will make the Green Bay Packers the favorites.

“Right now, Rodgers is just at the top of his game,” Sunset Station sports book director Chuck Esposito said on the last Sunday in November.

A few minutes earlier, Tom Brady took a sack, an attempted field goal sailed wide right, and bettors on the New England Patriots took a kick below the belt. Both kicks were painful.

But Rodgers was the best man, and the Packers were the better team the first time around, so once again the Patriots would be small underdogs if there is a rematch in the Super Bowl, which will be played in the Arizona desert far from the frozen tundra.

“I still think those two teams are on a collision course to meet on the first Sunday in February,” Esposito said.

Let’s see it again. Hopefully, the commercials will be different — who else is tired of seeing Rob Lowe depicting a caveman and Jimmy Johnson playing electric football? — but the same teams on a neutral field would be a Super Bowl dream.

Rodgers and Brady each passed for two touchdowns Sunday, when Green Bay covered as a 3-point favorite in a 26-21 victory over New England. The point-spread result was decided by a kicker’s mistake, and Rodgers went to a knee to burn the final 2 minutes on the clock, but the game otherwise lived up to the hype.

“In the AFC, you can still talk about a few teams like Denver and Indianapolis,” Esposito said. “In the NFC, it’s Green Bay and everybody else. The team after Green Bay that is the scariest is Seattle.

“Rodgers has got that confidence and that swagger. The Packers can run the ball and play enough defense. Right now, that is the team to beat.”

Of course, there are several crazy games left to be played, and these things are difficult to forecast. In the 1500s, Nostradamus was a seer who predicted major world events. If he lived today and tried to pick NFL winners against the spread, he would be scratching his head, ticked off and lucky to hit 50 percent on Sundays.

Who could have predicted the New Orleans Saints, losers of three consecutive home games and hopeless flops on the road, would go to Pittsburgh and pound the Steelers?

But, Drew Brees passed for five touchdowns and the Saints, 3½-point ’dogs, coasted to a 35-32 win. It was not even close. The Steelers scored 16 points in the final three minutes.

Who could have predicted the Jacksonville Jaguars, 3-point home ’dogs, would wipe out a 21-0 deficit to stun the New York Giants?

But, Eli Manning started coughing up the ball, and the Jaguars made an improbable rally to win 25-24 with the help of a fumble recovery in the end zone and a fumble return for a touchdown.

Who could have predicted the San Diego Chargers would score three fourth-quarter touchdowns to win at Baltimore?

But, Philip Rivers passed for 383 yards and his third touchdown pass, a 1-yarder to Eddie Royal with 38 seconds remaining, capped a 34-33 victory over the Ravens, who were bet up to 6½-point favorites.

“That was a huge, huge game for us,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, oddsmaker at the South Point sports book. “It knocked everything out. That really made our day.”

Who could have predicted Andy Dalton would throw three interceptions and still help the Cincinnati Bengals win the game?

OK, so that was somewhat predictable. Dalton blows, and the Buccaneers find ways to blow games. But, the Bengals were bet from 3½- to 6-point favorites in a 14-13 win at Tampa Bay that also was a big win for the bookmakers.

Buffalo, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis and St. Louis covered as favorites, and those were predictable results. Arizona, which opened as a ’dog and closed as a 1-point favorite, got surprised in Atlanta.

The highlights from those six games: Johnny Manziel ran for a score in a relief appearance for Cleveland. Peyton Manning tossed some ducks in cold weather but stuck it to Kansas City again. The Oakland Raiders were mugged 52-0 by the Rams, who represented the easiest money of the day as 6-point favorites.

A Green Bay ticket represented hard-earned money, but it also was the right side. After rookie Davante Adams dropped a sure touchdown throw from Rodgers, the Packers settled for a field goal and a five-point lead.

Brady drove the Patriots to the 20-yard line with three minutes remaining, but he was sacked for a 9-yard loss on third down. Stephen Gostkowski, usually a reliable kicker, became an idiot kicker when his 47-yard attempt drifted wide.

“I wanted the kid to make the field goal,” said Vaccaro, explaining that the favorite winning and not covering would have been the ideal result, similar to a Super Bowl, because so many bettors laid points with the Packers and took the Patriots to win on the money line at around plus-130.

“We were rooting for the Packers. It was a good game for us,” Esposito said. “The guests backed the Patriots both on the side and money line. Brady and points is too difficult to pass up.”

Esposito and Vaccaro each called it “one of the biggest” games of the season in regards to the wagering handle.

The week wraps up today with the Miami Dolphins visiting the New York Jets, and, Vaccaro said, “There is no action on this game.”

A prediction with a guarantee: The first Monday in December is not a potential Super Bowl preview.

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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