Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 | 2:05 a.m.
Note: For the next three weeks, Talking Points will go division by division to preview every team in the NFL. This is part one.
One of the NFL’s most ragtag crews could inadvertently plunder Las Vegas casinos.
The Oakland Raiders could force one of Nevada’s largest sports book chains to surrender all kinds of booty if they manage to break through with their first winning season in 12 years. If Oakland could do the unthinkable and capture the Super Bowl, it might completely capsize William Hill sports books.
“We would lose like $1 million almost,” said William Hill Director of Trading Nick Bogdanovich. “It’s incredible.”
Oakland, of all teams, has been one of the most popular bets at William Hill locations statewide. Bettors have scurried to take the Raiders at 100-to-1 to win the Super Bowl and 50-to-1 to win the AFC.
Gambling on them to go over five wins is another popular pick at William Hill. The pro-Raiders phenomenon probably doesn’t stretch to many other books around town.
It’s William Hill specific because of the company’s Northern Nevada locations, which attract optimistic Oakland fans crossing over the state line to bet on their team.
“It happens every year pretty much,” Bogdanovich explained, “but it’s more crazy this year.”
Bogdanovich rests somewhat easy knowing the Raiders are trapped in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions. The Raiders were the only AFC West team not to make the playoffs a year ago.
Even with William Hill adjusting odds for the bias, it gives Oakland less than a 5 percent of winning the division. The Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers should make formidable allies for Las Vegas.
“The Broncos have the most tickets of any team to win the Super Bowl in the AFC,” Bogdanovich explained. “But our biggest exposure is the Raiders.”
Read below to find out more betting tidbits and odds on the four teams in the AFC West.
2013 Against The Spread Record: 11-7-1 (15-4 straight-up)
CG Technologies weeks 1-16 lines: Favored in 13 out of 15 games
Average spread: Broncos minus-5.5 (biggest favorite: Week 14 minus-11.5 vs. Bills; biggest underdog: Week 3 plus-3.5 at Seahawks)
Westgate Superbook odds to win the Super Bowl: 5-to-1
Westgate Superbook odds to win AFC: 9-to-4
William Hill odds to win the AFC West: minus-330 (risking $3.30 to win $1)
South Point over/under win total: 11 (over minus-145, under plus-125)
Bogdanovich’s report: “I don’t think they’ll miss a beat offensively, and they look like they’ve gotten better defensively. So I think you’ll see a mountain full of money weekly for Denver unless they start to show some holes. They were in the Super Bowl last year, and I’d pick them to get back before anyone else. I can tell you that.”
Keefer’s take: Denver was one of the worst teams in the NFL to bet on in the five years before Peyton Manning arrived, going 31-49-2 against the spread. Under Manning, the Broncos are 22-13-1 against the spread. No one will say any player other than Manning is Denver’s most valuable, but linebacker Von Miller is close. The Broncos’ defense was noticeably better in the nine games when Miller was on the field, and went 6-3 against the spread as opposed to 5-4 without him, last year. The health of Miller and left tackle Ryan Clady, who were both injured last season, is even more vital to the Broncos’ success than their high-profile free agent signings of defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
A bet: Broncos to win the AFC at plus-225. Denver is so far ahead of the rest of the conference that this price comes off as a value. A playoff upset is always a concern — who doesn’t remember Baltimore’s Mile High stunner as a 9.5-point underdog two years ago? — but Denver should be well-positioned at lower odds than this come January.
Kansas City Chiefs
2013 Against The Spread Record: 9-8 (11-6 straight-up)
CG Technologies weeks 1-16 lines: Favored in seven games and underdogs in seven games with one pick’em
Average spread: Chiefs minus-.5 (biggest favorite: Week 15 minus-8.5 vs. Raiders; biggest underdog: Week 2 plus-7 at Broncos and Week 5 plus-7 at 49ers)
Westgate Superbook odds to win the Super Bowl: 40-to-1
Westgate Superbook odds to win AFC: 18-to-1
William Hill odds to win the AFC West: 6-to-1
South Point over/under win total: 8 (over plus-110, under minus-130)
Bogdanovich’s report: “Everything broke their way last year. This is a much tougher division this year. Denver is tough. San Diego is tough. Oakland is improved. Can Alex Smith pull the rabbit out of the hat again? I don’t know. They’re a well-coached team with a hell of a running back but their schedule isn’t too easy. That’s one of the reasons I think everyone is betting under.”
Keefer’s take: Does Arrowhead Stadium still count as one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL? Common perception says yes. Betting trends say no. Kansas City went 2-6 against the spread at home last season, which dropped their home record versus the number to 18-31 since 2006. The Chiefs lost their final three home games last season, and failed to cover in the last five. They’ll need much better performances to fight off regression in 2014. The Chiefs go from the easiest schedule in the league last year to the second most difficult this year, according to Football Outsiders. Running back Jamaal Charles is among the top three favorites in the league to win the rushing title and score the most touchdowns at 5-to-1 apiece.
A bet: Titans plus-6 at Chiefs in Week 1. Kansas City should be a tad overvalued at the start of the season, and I didn’t present its underwhelming recent history at home for nothing.
2013 Against The Spread Record: 7-8-1 (4-12 straight-up)
CG Technologies weeks 1-16 lines: Underdog in all 15 games
Average spread: Opponents minus-6 (biggest underdog: Week 9 plus-14.5 at Seahawks)
Westgate Superbook odds to win the Super Bowl: 100-to-1
Westgate Superbook odds to win AFC: 50-to-1
William Hill odds to win the AFC West: 18-to-1
South Point over/under win total: 5 (over minus-130, under plus-110)
Bogdanovich’s report: “They’re betting Oakland pretty good, but the team is a real wild card. They signed so many guys who are at the end of their careers. Will they help them? Who knows? They’re a real mystery to me. I think they could wind up with two wins or 10.”
Keefer’s take: No offense to Bogdanovich, who’s infinitely more knowledgeable than me on football betting, but I’ll spend every Sunday next year rooting for the visiting team in the Black Hole if the Raiders win 10 games this season. It’s not happening. Oakland will be better, though, by virtue of starting the season with Matt Schaub at quarterback instead of Terrelle Pryor and signing Maurice Jones-Drew as insurance for the inevitable Darren McFadden injury. A trio of free-agent acquisitions — Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith — along with first-round pick Khalil Mack should give Oakland a formidable pass rush for once. According to future odds, the Raiders aren’t the worst team in the AFC. The Jaguars edge them.
A bet:Raiders plus-3 vs. Texans in Week 2 Not very confident in this one, but given that I’ve committed to picking one thing for every team, isn’t it conceivable Schaub torches his former franchise early in the season? Don’t laugh.
San Diego Chargers
2013 Against The Spread Record: 11-6-1 (10-8 straight-up)
CG Technologies weeks 1-16 lines: Underdogs in nine games, favorites in six
Average spread: Pick’em (biggest favorite: Week 4 minus-10 vs. Jaguars; biggest underdog: Week 8 plus-8.5 at Broncos)
Westgate Superbook odds to win the Super Bowl: 30-to-1
Westgate Superbook odds to win AFC: 14-to-1
William Hill odds to win the AFC West: plus-550 (risking $1 to win $5.50)
South Point over/under win total: 8 (over minus-145, under plus-125)
Bogdanovich’s report: “They’ve got lots of weapons. I like Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead. Philip Rivers has plenty left and they’ve got playmakers on the outside with Keenan Allen coming into his own and a couple big tight ends. San Diego is going to be very good, and to be honest with you, I’d go over the eight.”
Keefer’s take: Allen got robbed. The wide receiver, a third-round pick out of California, deserved the Rookie of the Year last season but Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy edged him for the honors. That’s the only complaint San Diego could have after an exceptional season in coach Mike McCoy’s first year where it went an AFC-best 11-6-1 against the spread. This preview series’ finest moment last year was labeling the Chargers as a breakout team and picking over 7 wins. San Diego won six of its final seven, going 5-2 against the spread in the span, to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2009. With every starter returning, the offense shouldn’t fall off much. And the defense can’t get any worse after it finished dead-last in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings last season.
A bet: San Diego to win the AFC West at plus-550 Denver should win the division comfortably, but this isn’t a bad spot to back a long shot. The line is too high, as San Diego only needs to win 15 percent of the time to make this a profitable wager. They, at minimum, have better than a 1-in-5 chance.