So who is the best team in the NFL? The Giants, right? After all, the G-Men are just a little more than 24 hours removed from winning the Super Bowl and one can only assume they’re spending most of Tuesday sleeping after getting little or none Monday.
But, when it comes to the odds-on favorites in 2012, the Outfit in Vegas is saying, “Not so fast, my friend.”
Not only are the Giants not viewed as being likely to repeat, the Giants aren’t even best in their own division.
The Super Bowl loser (the New England Patriots) are the opening-line favorite at 5-1 in the opening betting odds on next year’s Super Bowl winner – which became available Monday at the MGM Grand Sports Book in Las Vegas. They are followed closely by the Packers at 11:2, a strong betting line of its own and one that is likely to drop as Packer fans start pouring cash into Vegas $10 and $20 at a time.
When it comes to the betting odds for wagers that won’t get cashed in, you have to know your audience. Loud South Boston residents will find excuses – they always do when their teams lose – to claim the Patriots got jobbed and will win it all next year. The same goes for Packers fans, who are loyal to a fault.
But after that, it gets weird. Next to check in are the Steelers and Eagles at 6:1. Pittsburgh was a wild card that was dominated by the Ravens during the regular season and one-and-out in the playoffs. Philadelphia didn’t even make the playoffs, despite assembling Team Nightmare (at 8-8, you can no longer be referred to as a Dream Team).
Then we finally get to the defending champs. The Giants checked in at 8:1, followed by fellow NFC Division winners New Orleans and San Francisco at 10:1.
The odds start getting longer with another surprise candidate. Jesus loves Tim Tebow, but Vegas doesn’t. Big-time Christians don’t gamble, so Vegas has no use for them. San Diego had an epic collapse after a rare strong start to the 2011 season, yet they and AFC South champion Houston both clock in at 12:1 odds.
In what can’t be viewed as good news for the Vikings and one of the continuing anomalies of the betting culture is that the next two teams on the odds-maker’s list are the Bears (17:1) and the Lions (18:1). Nobody with any common sense would have reason to believe at this point that Chicago will be better in 2012 than Detroit, except gamblers who love their Bears.
Atlanta and Baltimore got little to no respect in the opening odds. The Falcons finished behind Chicago at 18:1 – almost double the early betting line for the division-rival Saints. The Ravens, who admittedly face a lot of big-money questions heading into free agency, tied with Dallas and the Jets at 20:1. The Ravens were a missed field goal away from potentially going to the Super Bowl. The Cowboys and Jets got their only playoff exposure watching games on TV. Go figure.
Here’s where it gets a little spooky. The 2-14 Colts, who own the first pick in April’s draft, are at 25:1, higher than playoff team Cincinnati and playoff contender Tennessee – both of whom came in at 30:1.
Remember Tebow and the Broncos? They won their division and, until they were slow-roasted spit-style by the Patriots, were living the dream. Apparently it was just a dream. Denver is a massive 50:1 odds to win the Super Bowl – at the same level as also-ran contenders Buffalo, Carolina, Kansas City, Miami, Seattle and St. Louis.
Unfortunately for Vikings fans, 25 teams have already been listed above with scarcely a mention of the boys from Minnesota. Of the seven teams left, the Vikings are stuck in a three-team logjam at 60:1 with the Raiders and Cardinals (the Vikings are 75:1 by Bovada).
So, who does Las Vegas’ greatest sports minds think has less of a chance than the Vikings to win it? The Not-So-Fab Four of Cleveland (75:1), Tampa Bay (100:1), Washington (125:1) and Jacksonville (150:1).
The trick to setting betting odds for the teams at less than 50:1 is to set a number that will convince fans of that team to bet on them. If you were setting a realistic betting line, you would have teams like Baltimore’s odds much lower and teams like Chicago much higher. For fans in Boston, Green Bay, New York, New Orleans, Chicago and Philadelphia, the odds were set to a level that will make a loyal fan in Vegas drop $50 or $100 on their team.
The Vegas boys have spoken and, if the Vikings meet the Raiders in the Super Bowl next February, there will be a lot of low-level gamblers cashing in time-worn tickets.
The changes to the Vikings administration and coaching ranks over the last few years have all been in the form of firings, not losing people to other teams looking to lure them away, like the Steelers did with Mike Tomlin. That may change this week. Director of Player Personnel George Paton had a second interview in less than a week with the St. Louis Rams. The Rams cleaned house of their front office following the firing of their last coaching staff and front office and the subsequent hiring of Jeff Fisher.
Brett Favre poked his head out from the farm in Mississippi last week, a clear signal that there are six more weeks until free agency, and said the only time last season that he missed football was when the playoffs began. And, if you believe that, he has some swamp frontage on the back 40 that he’s willing to let go for dollars on the penny.
Favre has taken a lot of heat from fans because he still wanted to play and the Packers wanted to move on. Given the finite window of NFL careers, it’s hard to blame Favre – even if his ego is big enough to have a river running the middle of it. Peyton Manning is just the next in line and the speculation of where he will end up will be Favre-like fodder for the lag period between now and the start of free agency. Favre was summer discussion. Manning is just the latest (and perhaps the greatest) to be in this situation. Joe Namath didn’t want to quit, so he went to the Rams. Joe Montana went to the Chiefs. Warren Moon came to the Vikings (and the Seahawks). Favre was nothing new. Manning may re-define the term “bidding war” for a team looking for a short-term fix … and a ton of jersey sales.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.