LAS VEGAS — Aaron Rodgers has been a road underdog twice this season, with the Packers quarterback walking away from trips to Chicago and Dallas with convincing victories that shook up the power ratings atop the NFC.
While futures odds are sliding on the Bears and Cowboys, stock prices are rising on the Eagles, Packers, Saints, Seahawks and Vikings. Are the 49ers for real? What’s wrong with the Rams?
“The NFC is wide open right now,” Westgate SuperBook director John Murray said. “It’s as wide open as I can remember it being.”
Green Bay, 4-1 straight up and against the spread, appears to be as good as it gets in the conference. Despite plenty of drama involving Rodgers and first-year coach Matt LaFleur, the Packers are back on track to be a playoff team for the first time in three years.
William Hill lists the Saints as the NFC favorites at 4/1 odds. New Orleans has won all three of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s starts in place of injured Drew Brees.
The Packers are the second choice at 5/1, followed by the Cowboys at 13/2, Eagles and Seahawks each at 7/1, 49ers at 15/2, Rams and Bears each 9/1 and Vikings at 10/1.
Which team is the best bet?
“It’s like the soap opera, ‘As the World Turns.’ Every week it’s going to change,” William Hill director of trading Nick Bogdanovich said. “I don’t think it’s the Eagles or Saints. For whatever reason, the Rams look shaky. I guess it’s the Packers by default. Good question.”
Bookmakers are currently happy to answer all NFL-related questions because the past two weeks were a bloodbath for the betting public.
While the wagering handle on the Packers’ 34-24 victory over the Cowboys was enormous, it was not a major decision for the books’ bottom line Sunday. There was strong two-way action and plenty of interest in Rodgers as a road ’dog. As it turned out, Rodgers was held without a touchdown pass, yet Aaron Jones rushed for 107 yards and four touchdowns and Green Bay’s defense intercepted Dak Prescott three times.
An overseas belly flop by another NFC North team made the day for the books. The Bears closed as 6½-point favorites in London and fell 24-21 to the rejuvenated Raiders. In what was supposed to be Khalil Mack’s revenge game, bettors bought in to the Chicago defense and paid a hefty price.
William Hill reported the Bears drew about 75 percent of the point-spread money at its U.S. books. The new Caesars sportsbook in Indiana, a short drive from Chicago, reported about 90 percent of the money was on the Bears.
“I would say there was sharp money on the Bears and the public masses were on the Bears,” Bogdanovich said.
PointsBet, an online book in New Jersey, took a Bears-Chiefs money-line parlay for $285,000 — a wager that was in contention for worst of the weekend. This one was bad, too: MGM Resorts reported a $120,000 bet on the Chiefs money line (-700) that would pay $17,000. Kansas City, a 10½-point home favorite, was stunned 19-13 by the Colts.
“The Bears and Chiefs games were by far the biggest winners of the week for us,” Bogdanovich said. “If you are ranking Sundays, last week was the best of the season and yesterday was second-best.”
The betting public did cash in with New England, Minnesota and Philadelphia. The Patriots were 16½-point favorites in a 33-7 win at Washington that ended Jay Gruden’s troubled run as Redskins coach.
The Patriots and Chiefs power rated as the NFL’s top two teams entering Week 5, with a significant drop-off between the AFC’s elite and the best of the NFC.
The Vikings covered 5½ points in a 28-10 victory over the Giants, who took their first loss in rookie quarterback Daniel Jones’ three starts. A week after winning at Green Bay, the Eagles were 14-point favorites in a 31-6 embarrassment of the Jets.
The only unbeaten teams were New England and San Francisco, which hosted the Browns on Monday night. The Rams, who have lost two in a row, opened as 4½-point favorites over the 49ers in Week 6.
“I would rank Philadelphia first in the NFC,” Murray said. “The Rams might be in danger of missing the playoffs.”
But as the NFL world turns, all odds and opinions are subject to change next week.
Despite enduring the NFL’s toughest travel schedule and the subtraction of wide receiver Antonio Brown, the Raiders (3-2) are halfway to their posted regular-season win total of six after back-to-back victories over the Colts and Bears.
“The Raiders’ body of work is pretty damn good, especially coming off the Brown fiasco,” Bogdanovich said. “I’ve got to give Jon Gruden credit.”
After a bye week, the Raiders play at Green Bay and Houston and do not return to Oakland until Nov. 3.