Line moves for conference title games 

January, 18, 2013

If not for one of the most popular and powerful athletes of the past decade (who also happens to have created an influential charity) admitting he was a fraud; if not for the best player on the world's favorite college football team (who also happens to have lived a too-good-to-be true inspirational tale) admitting his personal life was a fraud, I know what the biggest story in sports would have been this week:

The No. 1 seed Atlanta Falcons being historic underdogs at home against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game.

To some people, it still was. For a real sense of how people in Vegas view sports news compared to how sports fans view sports news, I will share a conversation I had with longtime bettor and handicapper Bryan Leonard (who, along with Orleans bookmaker Bob Scucci, gave me his conference title game line breakdowns below):

"Hey Bryan, how's it going?" I asked.

"Good, Chad," he answered.

"Man, that Manti story is crazy, huh?"

"I don't care about that. I don't care about Armstrong either. They are not sports stories. If they can't help me bet, I am not following it."

Cold-eyed business. I didn't dare tell him how excited I am about Marc Trestman coaching the Chicago Bears. Naturally, my first question was, "Man, that 49ers-Falcons line is crazy, huh?"

"Just about everyone I talked to can't believe the line has gone up so high. There were Niners-Falcons lines at halftime of the Packers-Niners game that were San Fran minus-1.5. I had the game power-rated as San Fran minus-2. The stats tell you San Fran should win this game. But for it to get all the way to five is crazy. I don't know of anyone who has a power rating that has San Francisco as even a four-point favorite."