LAS VEGAS — Training camps are weeks away, but Las Vegas’ legal bookmakers are already making bets on what the NFL season will look like.
Turns out it could be a lot like the last, with the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos favored to meet again next February in Arizona.
Seattle is a 9-2 favorite at the LVH sports book, while the Broncos are next at 5-1 to win the Super Bowl. Both teams are favored to win more regular-season games than any other team, with oddsmakers putting the over/under for wins at 11 games.
“The Broncos have a real tough schedule so it won’t be an easy task,” said Jeff Sherman, part of a team that sets the odds at the LVH. “They have some tough early games outside their division, including the Super Bowl rematch with the Seahawks in Week 3.”
The Seahawks are 3½-point favorites to beat the Broncos at home in that game, a line that figures to draw some early action even before either team puts on the pads this summer. Denver was a 2-point favorite in the Super Bowl, which Seattle won 43-8.
Sherman said there is more parity than ever in the NFL, with 19 teams expected to win between seven and nine games and only five expected to win 10 or more. At the bottom of the pack is Jacksonville, with a 4½-win line, and Oakland at five games.
Despite the parity, teams in the NFC are favored more than teams in the AFC. Bettors can wager on which conference wins the Super Bowl, with the NFC a 3½-point favorite.
“The one thing that really stood out when we sat down and went through this game by game was how many good teams are in the NFC,” Sherman said.
NFL games are by far the biggest attraction for sports bettors, who placed a record $119.4 million in legal wagers in Nevada on the last Super Bowl alone. Nevada is the only state where full betting on games is allowed, though bettors in Delaware can wager on parlays of more than one team.
Sherman said most of the so-called “wise guys” who can move the lines at sports books wait until the exhibition season to begin making wagers, though some might pounce on the early numbers if they think the oddsmakers have made an error evaluating a team.
“Once the preseason games start and you can see what the coaches are thinking it becomes more clear,” he said. “But they will move in if they think there is a weakness in a line.”
The LVH is traditionally one of the first to post over/under win totals for the season, which were put up Sunday afternoon. Sherman said there was a small flurry of wagers made by bettors who thought teams might either be undervalued or too highly regarded by the oddsmakers.
This year’s draft didn’t change many opinions on win totals, he said, because rookies rarely have a big impact on seasons. That was particularly true with the Cleveland Browns, who are listed at 6½ wins despite the addition of Johnny Manziel at quarterback.
“He doesn’t have an effect on what we do,” Sherman said. “We like the Browns overall as a team, their defense is good and they’ve gotten better even if the results don’t show it. But in a tough division we just couldn’t go any higher.”