Aaron Rodgers just showed bettors why he’s worth backingBy Yonce'
December 15, 2018
LAS VEGAS — Not all Hollywood endings are about overcoming the odds in triumph. Sometimes the result is depressing and it leads to a sequel, so that’s the script for Aaron Rodgers this week.
After letting the Super Bowl favorites off the ropes in Los Angeles, Rodgers leaves the undefeated Rams in the rearview mirror and packs his bags for a trip to New England, where five-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady will be waiting.
It’s time to cue the dramatic music and get Al Michaels on the call. A Sunday night showdown between the Packers and Patriots and the NFL’s top two quarterbacks sets up as a box-office thriller.
“A puncher’s chance is a perfect way to describe the Packers,” Westgate SuperBook director John Murray said. “Aaron Rodgers is capable of just about anything.”
In a league with some dead ’dogs — the Raiders and Eli Manning, for example — Rodgers is the definition of a live underdog. Spot him a few points and bettors get interested. Spot him around a touchdown or more and bettors get excited.
A week ago, oddsmakers flirted with making Green Bay a double-digit ’dog at LA. The line peaked at 9½, closed at 7½ and in the biggest underdog role of his career Rodgers rewarded the Packers’ supporters with a point-spread cover in a 29-27 loss to the Rams. Rodgers’ opportunity at a drive to win the game never happened because Ty Montgomery fumbled the kickoff return at the two-minute warning. It was a clumsy ending to what should have been a cliff-hanger.
Now, Rodgers and the rejuvenated Packers are 6½-point underdogs at New England. From facing the NFC favorite to the defending AFC champion, Rodgers is running a two-game gauntlet tougher than any other.
“There was a ton of money on Green Bay last week,” Murray said, “and I think the public is going to back the Packers again.”
A Rodgers-Brady duel on the first Sunday in February is a dream scenario for bookmakers. It would mean a record wagering handle and two-way action. But that’s a dream, and in reality this is Week 9 and the first Sunday in November.
It’s also tough to say Rodgers will even survive to see January. Eight teams in the conference have more wins than Green Bay (3-3-1), which trails Chicago (4-3) and Minnesota (4-3-1) in the NFC North. The Packers still must visit both.
Green Bay’s odds to win the Super Bowl have ballooned from the 10/1 range to 30/1 at the Westgate and 35/1 at William Hill sports books.
“Because the Packers are in a division which is wide open, you have a chance, and they have a shot at a wild card, too,” said Vinny Magliulo, VSiN oddsmaker and Gaughan Gaming sports book director. “If you get to the playoffs, you do have a puncher’s chance.”
The postseason picture for the Packers could get darker before dawn arrives. Green Bay is in a stretch of four road games in five weeks. After playing the Patriots and returning to Lambeau Field to face the Dolphins, there are trips to Seattle and Minnesota.
The bright side is the Packers figure to be favored in each of their final five games against the Cardinals, Falcons, Bears, Jets and Lions. Rodgers is no stranger to December rallies to reach the playoffs.
Kenny White, a veteran Las Vegas oddsmaker and VSiN analyst, power rated the Packers as the NFL’s 19th-best team — nine points worse than the No. 1-ranked Rams on a neutral field — entering last weekend. White’s ratings showed the No. 4-ranked Patriots as five points better than the Packers on a neutral field. The home-field edge is typically worth three points.
The Westgate lookahead line in August on Green Bay-New England was Patriots -5. That number seemed headed north of 7 before the Packers had a surprising 6.9 to 5.5 advantage in yards per play against the Rams and nearly pulled off the upset.
The betting public, often ridiculed as naive and unsophisticated by those who supposedly know better, ignored power ratings and took the points with Rodgers.
Murray credited the Green Bay defense for pitching a “perfect game” against the Rams, and there will be doubts about the Packers’ ability to do something similar against Brady.
“If the Packers had been blown out by the Rams, this line against the Patriots would have started at 7,” Magliulo said. “Rodgers and Brady have the biggest impact on the number from the quarterback position. It will be a great betting game.”