The New York Giants aren’t only hot, they’ve got good timing: avoiding a player this week some Las Vegas oddsmakers consider the most valuable in the National Football League when it comes to setting point spreads.
With quarterback Aaron Rodgers sidelined by a fractured collarbone, the Green Bay Packers are listed at Nevada and online sportsbooks as five- to 5 1/2-point underdogs against the Giants in East Rutherford, New Jersey, for the Nov. 17 game.
Fellow All-Pro quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees are worth at least seven points when setting a spread, oddsmaker Johnny Avello at the Wynn Las Vegas said, and Manning’s presence has his Denver Broncos eight-point picks at home over the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs this week. Rodgers’s injury probably is worth more than 10 points, Avello said, with the Packers using third-stringer Scott Tolzien against the Giants, who have won three straight after an 0-6 start.
“If there’s someone coming in to at least sustain some kind of movement with the offense, then the top quarterbacks might be worth seven or eight,” Avello said in a telephone interview. “With the Packers, it’s worse for them now because they’re going into third-string territory. And second string wasn’t good to begin with.”
Had Rodgers been playing a week ago, the Packers would have been about a 10-point favorite against the Philadelphia Eagles, said Jimmy Vaccaro, oddsmaker for the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Following Rodgers’s injury during a Nov. 4 loss to Chicago, the Packers initially were listed as a two-point favorite against the Eagles. By kickoff, Philadelphia was a 1 1/2-point favorite.
“You saw an 11 1/2-point switch from what the number should have been,” Vaccaro said.
The Eagles scored a 27-13 victory and the Packers lost backup quarterback Seneca Wallace to a groin injury after one offensive series. Following a 5-2 start behind Rodgers, the NFL’s 2011 MVP, Green Bay is now 5-4 and their starting quarterback was a member of the practice squad two weeks ago.
“It’s all based on the replacement,” said Jay Kornegay, executive director of the Las Vegas Hotel’s Super Book. “If you go from Rodgers to Wallace, we thought that was about an 8 1/2-point difference in the line.”
The dropoff from Rodgers to Tolzien, who went undrafted in 2011 after preceding Russell Wilson at the University of Wisconsin, changes the point spread by at least 10 points.
“We’re not taking anyone lightly,” said Giants safety Antrel Rolle, adding that he hadn’t heard of Tolzien before last week. “I think he runs their system pretty effectively.”
If the Broncos were forced to replace Manning -- a four-time NFL MVP -- with Brock Osweiler, it would result in about a nine-point swing in the spread, Kornegay said.
The Broncos (8-1) are favored against the 9-0 Chiefs even after Manning injured an ankle in a Week 10 win against the San Diego Chargers that forced him to miss some practice time this week. Manning said he’ll start against the Chiefs, though he may not be fully healthy.
“I don’t know if it’s an age-bracket thing or what, but I’ve made a lot of adjustments in these past two years,” the 37-year-old Manning told reporters this week. “It’s just a point and time in my career.”
While the Broncos have the chance to take first place in the American Football Conference West division, the Giants can take another step toward the top of the National Football Conference East, the only division lacking a team with a winning record.
Since the current playoff format was instituted in 1990, four teams have recovered to make the playoffs after 3-6 starts, most recently the Washington Redskins in the NFC East a year ago.
Without Rodgers at quarterback, the Giants’ odds -- for both this week and the playoffs -- have gotten better.
“You’re getting the Green Bay Packers in name, but not in substance without Rodgers,” Vaccaro said. “Coming from 0-6 to now -- as crazy as it sounds -- having a chance to win the division, there’s a little more kick in the pants for the Giants.”
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