The NFL season is months away, but the betting has begun. And the embattled New Orleans Saints remain the story.
Tuesday, shortly after the NFL released its schedule, BetOnline.com opened Week 1 odds
with the Saints as 6-point home favorites versus the Redskins. On Wednesday, the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino SuperBook hung Saints -11, creating an eye-popping middle and some frantic line movement.
BetOnline moved its number all the way up -9 within a couple hours, and Lucky’s sportsbooks in Nevada joined them there, with the Saints laying 9 to Washington.
With head coach Sean Payton out for the season and multiple player suspensions looming, oddsmakers are facing a situation they’ve never had to deal with.
“We wrote down several numbers,” said Lucky’s sportsbook director Jimmy Vaccaro. “The highest we had was 10.5, the lowest was 7.5. Someone could have hung -14, and I wouldn't have budged."
After a horrific offseason, the Saints will be emotional for their home opener and have arguably the best home-field advantage in the league, going 8-0 straight up and against the spread last season in the Mercedes Superdome.
But is that enough to make up for being led by a third-string head coach and possibly a patchwork defense?
On the other hand, the Redskins could be led by a rookie quarterback in Robert Griffin III. Imagine making your first NFL start in what promises to be a raucous Superdome.
Vaccaro, a Vegas icon who has worked in sportsbooks for more than three decades, says this is the earliest he’s ever posted NFL spreads, but says the buzz created is valuable.
“Everyone’s talking about them around this time,” Vaccaro said. “I’ve had local radio guys call, and now you guys. It creates a lot of buzz and cheap advertising for your book.
“And it just goes to show how much interest there is in the NFL,” added Vaccaro. “I could hang a Blues-Penguins game in July and wouldn’t take a single bet, but put up NFL and everyone’s interested.”
Vaccaro plans on releasing lines on every NFL game this season in approximately “six weeks.” Cantor Gaming also expects to post lines on every game in late May.
Vaccaro characterized the early action on his NFL lines as “square-ball money,” but said bettors have taken the Eagles against the Browns, the Panthers against the Buccaneers and the Broncos versus Steelers.
Other early line moves included:
- The Bears began as 7.5-point home favorites vs. the Colts, but are now giving 9.5.
- The Lions opened as 7.5-point home favorites vs. the Rams, but are now favored by 9.5.
- The Falcons opened as 1-point favorites at Kansas City, but the line had drifted back down to a pick as of Wednesday night.
- The Panthers attracted early attention after opening as 1-point favorites at Tampa Bay. Cam Newton and Carolina were laying 2 points by Wednesday.
Only four road teams are favored in Week 1. Last season, only five home teams were favored in Week 1.Over/unders
Totals on the Week 1 matchups also started popping up at sportsbooks Wednesday.
The Redskins-Saints’ total, set at 52 at BetOnline and at 51.5 at the SuperBook, was the largest. The Jacksonville-Minnesota total was the lowest at 38.5.
Sixty-three percent of games eclipsed the total through Week 5 last season.