Just how dominant are the Patriots? Just ask the Vegas bookies Print
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Tuesday, 13 November 2007 00:05
NFL Headline News

 No doubt more than one coach has wanted to send Bill Belichick the same one-fingered message that Wyoming's Joe Glenn relayed across the field when Utah went for an onside kick Saturday with a 43-0 lead in the third quarter of their college game.
Glenn got his wrist slapped for the gesture but at least he tried to stand up to a bully, unlike the passive public reaction displayed by Joe Gibbs and his fellow coaches after the New England Patriots kicked sand in their faces.
Tough to blame them. Unlike Glenn, the NFL coaches may have to play their tormentors another time this season.
Buffalo's Dick Jauron does, and the thought can't be too appealing for a coach who has already seen what a team loaded with talent and led by a brilliant if unsympathetic coach can do when it also has a bit of a vendetta going.
It was ugly enough in September when the Patriots whipped the Bills at home, 38-7. No one outside of Buffalo has any reason to believe it will be any prettier when the two teams meet in a rematch Sunday in upstate New York.
Just how good these Patriots are is no longer a real question.
If anything, coming back in the fourth quarter against Indianapolis just added more ink to the stamp of greatness already bestowed on this team by everyone, it seems, except Don Shula.
They've still got seven games left in the regular season but, unless Tom Brady gets run over by a bus, it's hard to make an argument for the chances of anybody left on the Patriots schedule stealing a cheap win and keeping the champagne usually shared by the 1972 Miami Dolphins on ice.
Sports historians can then begin the debate of where this team takes its place among the best of all time. Talking heads on TV can talk themselves silly about whether it can ever be done again in an era of parity in the NFL.
Right now, however, the best judges of this team can be found in the oddest of places - behind the counter in the sports books of the glittering casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.
These guys have seen everything over the years, but they've never seen anything like this.
``You just don't see these kind of numbers in the NFL,'' said John Avello, who runs the sports book at the Wynn Las Vegas, where the Patriots are 16-point favorites over a team playing at home that has won four straight games.
It's pretty much the same story all around town, where oddsmakers scramble each week to put out a number that will somehow entice people to bet on whoever the Patriots are playing.
So far they haven't been very successful, and the books have taken a beating as money keeps rolling in on New England and the Patriots keep covering the ever-growing spreads.
``Who knows what we're going to see when they host the Jets,'' said the Las Vegas Hilton's Jay Kornegay. ``It might be the highest point spread in the history of the NFL.''
It might be, if records were kept on point spreads like they are everything else in the NFL. The league wants nothing to do with betting on its games, of course, and lines vary from casino to casino by a point or two on most games.
Still, those who risk their bankrolls - or their careers - on figuring out how good a team is are pretty much in agreement that the Patriots are the most dominant team in modern times in the NFL.
``Normally the wise guys (big bettors) realize how difficult it is for a team to go undefeated and compete at that kind of level week in and week out with everybody gunning for them,'' Kornegay said. ``But the pros realize how good this team is. The perception is they're out to prove a point and they're not going to let up.''
Sports bettor RJ Bell, who runs a betting Web site, said his research shows that the biggest point spread since 1980 came in 1993 when San Francisco was a 23-point favorite over Cincinnati, a game the 49ers won just 21-8. During that time, there have been only five games with a point spread of more than 20 points.
The Patriots could break that against both the Jets and Dolphins next month, and Vegas bookies believe they will be at least a 10-point favorite on the road in what figures to be the toughest test they have left, the last game of the season against the New York Giants.
That makes some oddsmakers nervous because there has been so much money bet on the Patriots to go undefeated and to win the Super Bowl despite the best efforts of bookies to entice money elsewhere.
Sports books around town stand to lose a bundle should the Patriots run the table.
No one is going to feel too sorry for the bookies, who win far more than their share of the money. Indeed, most oddsmakers are about as popular with the average bettor as Belichick is with his fellow coaches.
They do understand numbers, though, and they do know something about dominance.
They also know that with 10 possible games left for the Patriots, they won't be the only ones taking a whipping.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org.

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