The NFL season has started. It ends five months from now, only 250 miles away from Reno. Super Bowl 50 (no more Roman numerals!) will be played Feb. 7, 2016, at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
Every football fan loves to speculate before the season starts. They love to predict the champions before they even play the first game.
In Nevada, we have the unique opportunity to back up that pick with an actual legal wager. There is immense satisfaction to be had at the end of January as you whip out that ticket from September and tell your friends, "See, I knew they would get there!"
Then you get to decide if you want to hedge or not.
The Super Bowl future bet is simple. You pick a single team and get odds that your choice will become the NFL champion at the end of the season. Right now the Green Bay Packers are the favorite at 15/2, along with defending champion New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. The Jacksonville Jaguars are the long shot at 350/1.
These odds can change at any time depending on how the bets come in, and the bet volume gets very active this time of year. However once you make your bet, the odds are locked in regardless of whether they change later.
When odds are expressed as a ratio like 3/1, that means the payoff is three times the bet plus the bet. In other words for every $1 bet you win $3. You also get your original bet returned. Therefore, you collect $4.
Sometimes odds are expressed as "3 for 1". That means the original bet is not returned. If the odds on the Packers were 3 for 1, then on a $1 bet you would collect $3.
The complaint I often hear about Super Bowl futures is that the odds are so low. People want to win a lot of money and think that 3/1 or 4/1 is "a bad bet".
Here is the thing in this business. Any bet you cash is a good bet. If you made it to the winners' window, then it was not a bad bet.
The longest shot any of us can remember was the St. Louis Rams in 1999. Their pre-season odds were 300/1 and rightly so. The prior season they finished in last place with a dismal 4-12 record. Then early in the exhibition season, quarterback Trent Green went down with a season-ending injury and unheralded Kurt Warner took over the signal calling. In an historical turnaround, the Rams went 13-3 in the regular season and won Super Bowl XXXIV on Jan. 30, 2000, as 7-point favorites over the Tennessee Titans.
Just think: a Rams fan could have plunked down $10 at 300/1 and cashed out $3010. Waving around a ticket like that could really taunt your friends!
In the last five years of pre-season odds, no big long shots have won the Super Bowl, but no favorites did either. The opening pre-season odds for the last five NFL champions, working backward from last year, were: Patriots 15/1; Seahawks 10/1; Ravens 12/1; Giants 15/1; Packers 12/1.
This year the Packers fit this profile because their pre-season odds were 10/1 when the betting started last February. A lot of bettors found 10/1 attractive enough to make some bets. Other bettors jumped on 8/1, 6/1, 5/1 and 4/1.
The other team that has attracted the most money so far is the Seattle Seahawks. They were the pre-season favorite at 5/1. Even at such low odds there has been a lot of money bet on Seattle to win the Super Bowl this year. And, not just a lot of bets, but some big bets as well. That is why they are now down to 15/2.
Some other teams have attracted some significant pre-season action. These teams have not necessarily had a lot of money bet on them, but they started at higher odds and got "steamed" down to lower odds. The Eagles opened at odds of 20/1 but you can still get 10/1. The Arizona Cardinals have gone from stand at 45/1 in the betting so far.
How about the perennial local favorites of Bay area and Reno fans? Northern Nevada sportsbooks always get a lot of bets on these teams. The Raiders opened at 100/1 and are currently at 90/1. The 49ers are currently at 85/1 after opening at 12/1.
If you want my guess, I have a realistic pick and a long shot pick for both the AFC and the NFC. In the AFC my choices are the Colts 9/1 or the Chiefs 18/1. In the NFC I am taking the Packers 15/2 or the Saints 45/1.
I am keeping this article so at the end of January I can whip it out and say, "See, I predicted it back in September."
Terry Cox is the race and sports book director at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino. For more information, visit www.peppermillreno.com.