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Sports books can finally set lines for Patriots

Seven months after winning his fourth Super Bowl, Tom Brady prevailed in another big game with the clock winding down. Again, his opponent was second-guessed and properly portrayed as idiotic.

Brady is the most interesting quarterback in the NFL and — similar to the bearded old man who drinks Dos Equis — if he has a 50/50 shot, the odds are 80/20 in his favor. In retrospect, we should have expected all along this would be the outcome of the clumsy Deflategate case.

It never made sense that Brady was sacked with a four-game suspension for his alleged role in a scheme to deflate footballs. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman said as much Thursday, when he threw out the suspension and set Brady free to lead the New England Patriots in next week’s season opener.

“I’m glad it’s over,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “It’s the biggest waste of time and money in the history of the United States.”

Soon to be eclipsed by the presidential campaign of 2016. But if nothing else, commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL have proven they can rival the nation’s political machine in terms of wasting time and money.

What’s most important to football bettors is that Brady is back in the saddle, and Las Vegas bookmakers finally have concluded a summer-long game of playing musical chairs with the Patriots’ odds.

In April, New England opened as a 6-point favorite over Pittsburgh on Sept. 10. In May, with a Brady suspension looming, the game was taken off the board. When the suspension was announced, the Patriots were reposted as 3-point favorites. In July, after Goodell denied an appeal and upheld the random four-game suspension he initially handed down to Brady in the NFL’s kangaroo court, the line was lowered to 2½.

Jimmy Garoppolo was warming up in the bullpen when training camp opened, and most legal experts said Brady’s only hope was a Hail Mary. Oddsmakers agreed.

“All the legal experts were making their calls on it,” Bogdanovich said. “Some legal experts said there was no chance the NFL would lose, and other legal experts were saying Brady had a shot.”

Well, the NFL gained home-field advantage in a Manhattan federal court but still lost its case. Goodell, who paid millions to hire Ted Wells as a hit man, is the biggest loser.

“Goodell and the NFL look bad, especially in the court of public opinion,” Bogdanovich said. “I would say the public is disgusted with what the NFL did.”

For what it’s worth, Donald Trump went to Twitter to congratulate Brady “on yet another great victory,” right after Trump called the U.S. nuclear deal with Iran “one of the most incompetent ever made.”

I have no plans to weigh in on Iran, but Goodell sure appears incompetent. I stated last week that Goodell is a smart man — reasonably smart, at least — but smart people occasionally do dumb things. Pushing for a four-game punishment of Brady, in a soap-opera saga that started before the Super Bowl, was an idiotic gamble comparable to the Seattle Seahawks passing from the 1-yard line.

So, after all of the adjustments, the odds stand this way today:

— New England is a 7-point favorite over Pittsburgh on Thursday, with the total moving from 48½ to 51.

— The Patriots’ regular-season win total has been bumped from 10 to 10½.

— The odds on New England to win the Super Bowl moved from 12-1 to 9-1 at William Hill books and from 10-1 to 8-1 at the Westgate.

“It’s a big deal Brady gets to play all four games,” Bogdanovich said.

In July, I recommended a bet on the Patriots at minus-2½ or 3 because I believed Garoppolo would be good enough to beat the Steelers, but if Brady did get cleared to play, laying a field goal or less would be a steal.

Pittsburgh is missing running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Martavis Bryant to suspensions and center Maurkice Pouncey to injury. On top of that, the Steelers will be walking into an emotionally charged stadium next week, with Brady out to make a bold statement. I sense a blowout and will only consider trying to middle a portion of my bet on the Patriots if the line gets to 7½.

“The right move was laying the 2½,” South Point oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro said. “If Brady didn’t play, you’re still getting a fair number. Whoever did that early, that was the right call.”

Vaccaro said the books “absolutely” will need Pittsburgh to cover.

When asked his thoughts on the Brady case, Vaccaro spoke for a whole bunch of us by saying, “It’s ridiculous. I’m done with it.”

* CLOSING NUMBERS — Not bragging, just stating the facts for the critics-in-waiting, I finished the 2014 college football regular season at 54-41 against the spread. The bowl season was a small winner, capped by picking Ohio State to beat Oregon in the title game. Here are five plays for this weekend (home team in CAPS):

WESTERN MICHIGAN (+17½) over Michigan State; BOISE STATE (-13) over Washington; Virginia (+19) over UCLA; Louisville (+10½) over Auburn; Alabama (-11) over Wisconsin.

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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