10/06/2011 04:33 AM
Who doesn’t adore the cute, cuddly Lions?
They went 0-16 just three years ago, an unmatched NFL low. They play for a beaten-down city that deserves something to cheer.
They feature a swashbuckling quarterback, superhero-types at wide receiver and defensive tackle, a penchant for dramatic comebacks. Oh, and they’ve gone 11-0-1 against the spread in their last 12 games, counting preseason.
Monday Night Football at Ford Field will be a national lovefest when the Lions host the Bears.
The only people not smiling are Vegas sportsbook managers.
If 4-0 Detroit wins the Super Bowl, “it wouldn’t be pretty,” MGM Mirage sportsbook manager Jeff Stoneback told Covers.com. “That is our largest loser.”
The book opened the Lions at 75-to-1 to win it all. That was right before the Super Bowl. Bettors pounded the Lions and kept doing so even as the odds dipped steadily, all the way to their current 6-to-1.
Maximum win per ticket: $50,000.
“Our biggest liability is at 40-to-1 and 30-to-1, besides that it’s pretty spread out,” Stoneback said. “I’m sure there are people out there who have $30,000 and $40,000 tickets if not $50,000 tickets.
“We just lowered ‘em to 6-to-1 [Monday morning] and it’s funny, we’ve already written 10 tickets on them [in the first hour],” he added. “They’re not a dominant 4-0 team, but with their offense, they’ve got a capacity for comebacks. They’re an exciting team and that’s caught people’s imagination.”
Detroit’s true odds should be 10-to-1, Stoneback acknowledged, but “we shaded them lower because we opened them at 75-to-1 and have taken so much money on them since February.”
The Lions have the fourth-lowest odds, behind the Packers and Saints (4/1) and Patriots (9/2). Next are the Ravens and Chargers (7/1), followed by the Texans (8/1). Detroit is 5-to-2 to win the NFC.
In futures tickets, bettors picked the Packers more than any other team. The Lions, Patriots, Steelers and Jets came next, all within 200 tickets of one another, Stoneback said.
“And obviously the Patriots, Steelers and Jets were low odds,” he said.
The situation isn’t as dire at the Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook, where the Lions opened at 50-to-1 to win it all, 25-to-1 to win the NFC. Now they’re 10-to-1 and 9-to-2.
“We have a little bit of liability on the NFC, not too much on the Super Bowl,” the Hilton’s Jay Kornegay told Covers.com.
“We kind of moved it a little earlier than most people because we thought they were a threat,” he said. “The Lions have legitimate stars, big names, high draft picks. They haven’t even used their No. 1 pick from this year [DT Nick Fairley], and he’s going to make a difference I’m sure.”
The Lions are 22-5-1 ATS since the start of last preseason. Their last ATS loss was on Thanksgiving to the Patriots.
NFL futures usually turn a healthy profit for books, but this year could be different.
Scanning his tickets, Kornegay cracked, “Right now the Giants and Chiefs would be a great Super Bowl for us.”
TOPSY-TURVIEST YEAR EVER?
Not a single 2010 division winner leads its division at the quarter-pole. Reigning division champs are a combined 12-20.
NFC: Eagles (1-3), Bears (2-2), Falcons (2-2), Seahawks (1-3).
AFC: Patriots (3-1), Steelers (2-2), Colts (0-4), Chiefs (1-3).
The Patriots are tied with the Bills but lose the tiebreaker due to their Week 3 loss in Buffalo.
Sunday’s slate brings two playoff rematches, the Jets visiting the Pats and the Packers visiting the Falcons.
Oddsmakers made the Pats 9.5-point favorites, the same spread the last time New England played the Jets. Gang Green of course won that game outright and ended the Pats season in the process.
Baltimore avenged its playoff loss by whipping Pittsburgh 35-7 in Week 1. Chicago did not follow suit in Week 3 against Green Bay, losing at home 27-17.
The red-hot Packers opened as 4-point favorites against Atlanta and have been bet up to 5.5 or 6.
NINERS AN EXCEPTION TO RULE
We hear all the time the NFL is a QB league. Heck, I’ve written that. That’s why it’s striking to see San Francisco at 3-1 SU and 3-0-1 ATS, the only team besides Detroit without an ATS loss.
Alex Smith is averaging under 200 passing yards but he’s thrown only one INT and just orchestrated a comeback from 20 points down in Philly.
Just goes to show you what defense, special teams and coaching can do.
“It’s a completely different mindset, a different attitude,” Smith told SI.com.
San Fran opened as a 1-point favorite against the Buccaneers, who must travel cross country on a short week. The Niners are now laying 2.5 at the Hilton, Mirage and Caesar’s.