Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) -- The Green Bay Packers are 2 1/2-point favorites over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers, the narrowest spread for the championship game in 27 years.
The Packers will be seeking a record 13th National Football League championship when the teams meet Feb. 6 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Steelers are gunning for a record-extending seventh Super Bowl title, including their third in six years.
Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which advises Nevada’s sports books on gambling lines, listed Green Bay as the 1 1/2-point Super Bowl favorite. Las Vegas sports books at Caesars Palace, the Hilton and MGM Mirage have the Packers as 2 1/2-point favorites even though they were seeded sixth in their conference and the Steelers were a No. 2 seed for the playoffs.
“Most of it is public opinion,” Andrew Patterson, an oddsmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, said in a telephone interview. “The Packers have been the hot team in Vegas for several weeks and this is the continuation of it.”
The last Super Bowl to have a point spread of less than three points was played after the 1983 season, when the Washington Redskins were 2 1/2-point favorites over Oakland and lost to the Raiders 38-9.
In the Super Bowl’s 44-year history, only two other games had point spreads of less than a field goal.
The 1981 San Francisco 49ers were favored by one point over Cincinnati and beat the Bengals 26-21. Nine years earlier, the Miami Dolphins were one-point favorites and completed an undefeated season with a 14-7 win over Washington.
The favorite of Las Vegas oddsmakers has won 32 of 44 Super Bowls -- a 73 percent success rate.
“Historically, the point spread is an unmatched predictor of NFL games,” said RJ Bell, president of Las Vegas-based handicapping information website Pregame.com.
Nevada’s 176 sports books last year handled $82.7 million in bets on the Super Bowl, which is annually the most-wagered-upon single game in the U.S.
Hundreds of millions more dollars are bet at online sports books located outside the U.S. and Pregame’s Bell estimates that more than $10 billion will be wagered on this year’s Super Bowl worldwide.
The Steelers reached their record-tying eighth Super Bowl with yesterday’s 24-19 win over the New York Jets in the American Football Conference championship game. The Packers returned to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1997 season by beating the rival Chicago Bears 21-14 in yesterday’s National Football Conference title game.
The Packers won three straight postseason games on the road after making the playoffs as the lowest seed in the NFC. They’re the first team never to trail by more than a touchdown at any point in a season since the 1969 Minnesota Vikings.
The Steelers earned a first-round playoff bye as the AFC’s No. 2 team and beat the Jets and Baltimore Ravens to tie the Dallas Cowboys with an eighth Super Bowl appearance.
“Green Bay has had a roller-coaster season, a lot of injuries early in the year,” Patterson said. “But since (quarterback Aaron) Rodgers came back from his concussion and he’s been healthy, this team has been on a roll. The public has realized that.”
Green Bay (13-6) entered this season as the sixth favorite to win the Super Bowl behind Indianapolis, New Orleans, Dallas, San Diego and New England, with odds of 10-1.
Pittsburgh (14-4) was 11th among the NFL’s 32 teams at the start of the season, with 20-1 odds to win the Super Bowl.
“These are probably the two biggest public teams in Las Vegas,” Patterson said. “The amount (of money) the public has been putting on these two teams is astonishing.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at email@example.com