Not long after winning the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts were knocked to No. 2 on the NFL’s pecking order.
The New England Patriots became slight favorites to win the championship in early April, and bettors never stopped backing them.
“It was a steady stream of Patriots money,” MGM Mirage sports book director Robert Walker said. “The Colts were under the radar the whole season.”
After a 16-0 run through the regular season, the Patriots are now prohibitive favorites to win the Super Bowl. The betting value on the futures board, however, appears to be with the Colts.
Tom Brady stole the spotlight from Manning and broke his record for touchdown passes in a season Saturday with his 50th, but Walker said the underdog Colts might get the last laugh.
“I’m predicting a Colts victory over the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game,” Walker said.
The odds on New England to win the Super Bowl are 1-7 at MGM Mirage books and as high as 1-8 at Caesars Palace and Station Casinos. The Patriots are a more reasonable 1-2 at the Las Vegas Hilton. Indianapolis looks more attractive at 4-1 odds.
In early April, before New England traded for wide receiver Randy Moss, the Hilton posted the Patriots as 5-1 favorites to win it all, and the Colts were at 9-1.
“The Colts are basically getting no respect,” Hilton sports book director Jay Kornegay said. “Do I believe the Patriots are the best team? Absolutely. But it wouldn’t surprise me if the Colts win.
“The general perception out there — not with everybody — is a lot of people are backing off the Patriots because of them not covering and not winning by 21 points every game.”
New England was 8-0 against the spread before its 24-20 comeback victory at Indianapolis on Nov. 4. The Patriots, who did not cover in that game as 5-point favorites, went 2-6 against the spread in the second half of the season.
The Colts lost defensive end Dwight Freeney to injury, but running back Joseph Addai had a big game against New England, and wide receiver Marvin Harrison is returning for the Colts’ playoff games.
“The Colts have all the weapons, and they can run the ball effectively with Addai in the cold weather,” Walker said. “The Patriots are just begging to get beat.”
Walker said the Patriots will be about 7-point home favorites over the Colts if they meet for the AFC title.
Most books took an ugly beating on the proposition bet of New England going 16-0. The Hard Rock sports book posted 20-1 odds against the Patriots going undefeated before Week 1.
The San Diego Chargers, considered strong title contenders before the season, go into the playoffs as the AFC’s No. 3 seed. The Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars are both getting 18-1 odds to win the Super Bowl.
“The Chargers might be the fifth-best team in the league, but it’s a distant fifth,” Kornegay said.
San Diego is a 9-point home favorite over Tennessee in Sunday’s wild-card game. Titans quarterback Vince Young is questionable because of injury but is expected to play.
The Jaguars are 2-point road favorites over Pittsburgh in Saturday’s AFC matchup.
In the NFC wild-card games, Seattle is a 31/2-point home favorite over Washington on Saturday, and Tampa Bay is a 3-point home favorite over the New York Giants on Sunday.
The Dallas Cowboys, the No. 1 seed in the NFC, are at 7-1 odds to win the Super Bowl, with the Green Bay Packers at 9-1.
• R-J NFL CHALLENGE — Las Vegas handicapper Joseph D’Amico won the fourth Review-Journal NFL Challenge with a 47-36-2 record against the spread. The contest was published Sundays and used lines from the Hilton SuperContest.
Vegas Insider handicapper Mark Franco (47-37-1) finished second, followed by R-J handicapper Lisa Perry (46-37-2), R-J sports editor Joe Hawk (43-40-2) and R-J assistant sports editor Allen Leiker (42-41-2).
The 10 contestants were a combined 10 games over .500.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 387-2907.