09/11/2008 12:00AM

Brady injury gives odds a big tweak


There will probably be a lot of twists and turns in this NFL season, but the first major twist - literally - happened when New England star quarterback Tom Brady had his knee twisted and went down in a heap.

I was watching the early games - we call them "morning games" here in Vegas since they kick off at 10 a.m. - at the Las Vegas Hilton, following all nine games with about 1,500 other fans. I didn't see the play live, but instead heard a very strange mix of cheers and moans. I knew it wasn't a touchdown (which has its own distinct sound from the crowd) and scanned the big screens for what was happening. The close-up of Brady on the turf was clearly the answer, and the images continued to elicit responses. Some were very upset, among them Patriot fans, those who backed the Pats at -16 vs. the Chiefs, and those with Brady on their fantasy football teams. Others cheered: masochists, New York fans for sure, and those who didn't draft Brady (there were several hundred fantasy football owners in the room, most of which weren't "lucky" enough to get the Patriots' star QB).

Injuries happen all the time in the NFL, and even to star players, but I can't recall an injury that had such a widespread impact on not only the player's team but the entire league. To wit:

* We'll start with the Patriots. Before the day's games, the Hilton had them as the 3-1 favorite to win the Super Bowl. When the odds were adjusted at the end of the day's game, the Hilton put the Pats back up at 20-1. That didn't last long (and I heard of even higher odds available offshore), and it was bet back down to 12-1, but that's still quite an adjustment. The Cowboys are now the Hilton's favorite at 5-1, followed by the Chargers and Colts - both of which lost Sunday at 6-1 and 7-1, respectively.

* The Patriots were a prohibitive 17-10 favorite to win the AFC at the start of the day and were adjusted to 6-1 by day's end, behind the Chargers and Colts at 3-1 and even the Steelers at 5-1.

* For this Sunday's Patriots-Jets game, the Hilton didn't have a line up last week in its advance odds (what did they know?), but the Lucky's sports books, which have a line for every game the rest of the season, had it at Patriots -5 1/2. When the regular opening lines came out Sunday afternoon, the Hilton opened the Jets as a 2 1/2-point favorite. That's a pretty big swing for one player, even a quarterback. During the course of the week, the line has come down a little bit to a consensus of Jets -1 1/2.

* I've heard several times this week on media outlets (and not all coming out of New York) that this now makes the Brett Favre-led Jets the favorite to win the AFC East, but that's just not true. The Hilton still has the Pats at 4-7 to win the division (adjusted from 1-9 with Brady), with the Jets a distant second choice at 5-2.

* But all of the above pales in comparison to the impact Brady's injury has had on the generic AFC vs. NFC Super Bowl props. That shows the relative strength of the two leagues and lets bettors wager on the big game well before we know who the actual participants are going to be. Prior to Sunday, the AFC was a 6-point favorite over the NFC, with a total of 50 1/2 points. That night, the line was reposted at pick-em, so the line for the whole conference moved 6 full points, and the total was lowered to 48 1/2. The money line to win the Super Bowl straight up has been -240 (risk $2.40 for every $1 you wanted to profit) and had been cut in half to -120 (risk just $1.20 for every $1 you want to win).

However, maybe that AFC/NFC adjustment was overdue anyway. During the regular season last year, interconference games were split 32-32 (sounds like pick-em to me), with the NFC going 31-30-3. Oh, and then the NFC's Giants won the Super Bowl.

In Week 1, the NFC won and covered three of the four interleague games. The Cowboys whipped the Browns as expected, but then when it appeared that the Chargers or Colts could grab the reins as the AFC's front-runner with Brady sidelined, they went out and lost to the NFC's Panthers and Bears.

In other betting trends from the opening week:

* Even though a lot of the focus Sunday was on the Chargers and Colts getting upset and the Patriots barely getting by and not covering the 16-point spread vs. the Chiefs, the favorites actually ruled by going 12-4 straight up and 11-5 against the spread over the opening weekend, from Thursday's win by the Giants over the Redskins to the two favorites covering on Monday night.

* Home teams won 10 of the 16 games and went 9-7 against the spread. With favorites doing so well overall, it's no surprise that home dogs were a losing 2-4 against the spread but they're sure to bounce back. Sunday's home underdogs are the Vikings +1 1/2 vs. the Colts, Lions +3 vs. the Packers, Rams +8 1/2 vs. the Giants, Broncos +1 1/2 vs. the Chargers, and Browns +6 vs. the Steelers.

* Double-digit dogs were 2-0, with the Chiefs and Bears coming through. No games are in double digits this week, and keeping with the theme of Brady being out for the season and its impact on so many wagering aspects of the sport, we won't be seeing as many big spreads this year.