Geography Is DestinyDenver, Colorado is several thousand miles closer to Las Vegas, Nevada than is Boston, Massachusetts. That's the most plausible explanation which comes to mind as to why the Broncos have been made three-point favorites in a game to be played in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
The Patriots should NEVER be home underdogs as long as Tom Brady is ambulatory. The team's last home loss was in December of 2012. New England's regular record at Gillette Stadium in the last three and a half seasons is 25-3. including two wins over Denver since Peyton Manning decided orange would be the new Super Bowl title.
Move from history to the present. There is nothing at all to choose between the performance of these two teams over the past month. They're each undefeated since a September loss. Brady and Manning have been equally spectacular. Denver's played a tougher schedule, but the Pats have had more road games. Check down the line to the water boy level and this tile comes out as pick 'em personified.
So how come it's not? Well, NFL betting lines are not academic exercises in pure handicapping anymore than the Federal Reserve interest rates are academic economics. Real money is involved. And while people gamble on pro football everywhere in America, almost all oddsmakers are based in Vegas, where such gambling is legal. Hence, they are either employed by casinos or such casinos are their best customers.
People visit Las Vegas casinos from all over the world. But the closer they live to the remote place, the more of them come and they come more often. On any given day, the largest number of visitors in the city hail from Los Angeles, California, a city without an NFL team to call its own.
Minus a home team, Angelenos are exposed to the NFL through national hype. Nobody beats Manning there, not even Brady. And in Los Angeles, gamblers may have been deceived by the most dangerous factor in handicapping, the evidence from their own two eyes.
The Pats have been on three national TV broadcasts so far this season, in which they have one rousing victory over the Bengals, one horrible loss to the Chiefs, and one narrow escape against the dismal Jets. The Broncos have two national TV wins over the Colts and Chargers. In LA, they have looked to be the better team.
So if more money was expected to be plunked down on Denver this week, the spread will correspondingly be in New England's favor to narrow that imbalance. It has, too. The opening line was 3 1/2, which was just silly. The chances of this game being decided by a field goal strike me as very high.
Oddsmakers are right far more often than they're wrong, one reason why Las Vegas is a big city in the first place. But economics is a chancy science. In their effort to balance supply and demand, the books would appear to have created an overlay because they are located too close to the sources of Broncos money. If Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun were allowed to have sports books, I'd bet the Pats might be two or three-point favorites there.
The oddsmakers might be right and the Broncos way better than I make them. I still think geography best explains this anomaly though. The only other reason I can conceive for its existence is that Americans are really, really fond of Papa John's pizza.
I'd hate to think that of my fellow citizens.