LAS VEGAS — The plot of “As Aaron’s World Turns,” in which the petulant protagonist dreams of game-show-host glory, thickened July 22 when someone slapped four grand on the Packers at the Westgate SuperBook.
Two thousand to win the NFC, at 20-to-1 odds. Another two grand, at 40-1, to win Super Bowl LVI — a return of $124,000 if the Packers win it all.
The next day, a long-respected source informed SuperBook executive vice president Jay Kornegay and staff of a looming bombshell in Green Bay. They removed the Packers’ divisional odds and season-win total.
“Whether that would be retirement or a trade, we didn’t know,” Kornegay says. “Obviously, neither happened. A couple of days later, Aaron Rodgers announces he’s come to an agreement with the Packers.”
Tension, twists and turns vital to any hit soap opera riddle this one, which features team president Mark Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst as recurring antagonists.
By the time training camp started, with Rodgers wearing a red No. 12 jersey, the Packers’ NFC odds at the Westgate had been sliced to 6-1 and their Super Bowl odds to 12-1 — their opening numbers on Jan. 18. Says Kornegay: “Full circle.”
However, because he is a diehard Broncos fan who calls Colorado home, the theatrics became personal for Kornegay. Trusting early Rodgers-to-Denver reports, he had bet on his Broncos to win more than 7½ games and the AFC West.
“A lot of rumors broke out the day before the draft,” he says. “I have to admit, I was one of those who kind of bit hard and emptied some of my accounts. We really thought it was going to happen at that time. It was running hot.
“Then, as every day passed, it got colder and colder.”
Kornegay had envisioned donning an orange No. 12 jersey.
“Probably,” he says with a laugh, “some of my emotions got involved.”
Emotions must have red-lined in the rest of the NFC North when “insiders” Adam Schefter and Mark Schlereth spun late-April tales of Rodgers’ imminent exit. The odds of the Packers retaining him had been whittled to -125 (risk $125 to win $100) at DraftKings on May 3. The Broncos were +200 to land him, the Raiders +500, the Saints +900. The Broncos were down to +140 by May 14.
Tim Murray, host of “The Night Cap” on the Vegas Stats & Information Network (VSiN), had seen the Packers as high as +190 to win the NFC North.
He says, “My God, can I get in Doc Brown’s DeLorean, go back and get those odds?”
Days after Rodgers reported to camp, Murray scans his computer to see the Packers’ divisional odds at -240 at the Westgate, -200 at the South Point, -160 at Circa.
“Things like that, especially in the futures market and especially in football, don’t happen that drastically that fast,” he says. “Fascinating.”
William Hill has the Packers -140, the Vikings +200, the Bears +450. At the SuperBook, the Bears opened +745 (bet $100 to win $745) to win the NFC North, dropping to +450 by late May and +400 in late June.
Matt Youmans, Murray’s VSiN colleague, bet the Vikings at +350 at the South Point on May 10, when he had estimated Rodgers’ chances of staying put at less than 50%.
He still likes that ticket today, due to the Packers’ difficult schedule and improvements he has gauged elsewhere in the division.
Murray has not made an NFL wager yet. When pressed, he favors the Giants, plus a point, at home against the Broncos in Week 1.
In the NFC North, he views too much uncertainty in how Bears coach Matt Nagy might handle veteran quarterback Andy Dalton and Justin Fields, the hot-shot first-round pick from Ohio State.
DON’T ROLL DICE
The Bears’ quarterback curiosity keeps Long Island handicapper Tom Barton from partaking in NFC North wagers, too. Sports betting is enough of a challenge dealing with known quantities, he implores. Unknowns mean you’re just guessing, rolling dice.
The SuperBook has the Bears’ win total for 17 games at 7½, over -100, under -120.
“Over makes sense, but there are too many variables,” says Barton, who loathes Nagy’s play-calling tendencies and recites more questions about the Bears, such as linebacker Khalil Mack staying healthy.
Barton favors the Jaguars, with a SuperBook total of 6½, -110 both ways. He nabbed over 6 elsewhere at -125 before the draft.
He likes the Jaguars’ offense, with new quarterback Trevor Lawrence. He doesn’t like the Jaguars’ defense, but he discounts the AFC South and says the Jags’ schedule is advantageous.
Will they lose 12 games? Barton’s “no” conclusion fueled that wager, since a 6-11 campaign pushes his bet.
He is a lifetime Bears supporter who always wagers on Rodgers at home in December. Another lesson, as Barton fiercely separates his disdain for Rodgers from professional money-making tactics. According to Playbook Football magazine publisher Marc Lawrence, Rodgers is 22-3, including 18-7 against the spread, at Lambeau Field in December. His career home ATS record is 62-36-4.
“Come December, I know his record, I know what they do, I know who they are,” Barton says. “If he’s in Lambeau [that month], I’m taking the Packers.”
Barton the Bears fan, though, savors every episode of the green-and-yellow melodrama.
“Green Bay is broken and dysfunctional,” he says. “The unraveling is happening. The Bears might not win the division this season, but they are set up better than the Packers for the ensuing five years.”