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Friday, January 18, 2013

Kaepernick Fever: So Hot the Road Team Is Favored Over the Top-Seeded Home Team

Posted By on Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 1:40 PM

Colin Kaepernick has been straight ballin'.
  • Colin Kaepernick has been straight ballin'.

The Niners' NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons features a rarity in football gambling: The Falcons, the home team and the NFC's No. 1 seed, will play the game as the underdog.

When the line opened on Monday morning, San Francisco was a 3-point favorite. By Tuesday evening, the Niners were 5-point favorites.

Anyone remember the last time a No. 1-seeded home team entered kickoff as the underdog?

See Also: Kaepernick Fever: The 49ers QB Had Vegas' Attention

Colin Kaepernick: The Face of the New Breed of NFL QB

For Niners fans, there's good news and bad memories in the answer.

The last underdog No. 1-seed was the 1997-98 San Francisco 49ers, who finished the regular season with a 13-3 record. Brett Favre's Green Bay Packers -- also 13-3 that year -- came into 3Com Park as 1.5-point favorites.

That road favorite won the game 23-10, easily covering the spread.

This year's Niners, obviously, hope to do the same. But there are notable differences between the two teams. That Packers team was led by a veteran quarterback who had effectively owned the Niners (Owens's "The Catch II" would come the next year), and was no stranger road playoff games.

This Niners team is led by a first year QB who has started eight professional football games and exactly zero road playoff games.

But the betting public has faith in Kaepernick. So much so, that his team's spread more than doubles that of Favre's. There are various reasons for this.

In sports gambling, professional oddsmakers adjust point spreads in a way that gives bookies and casinos the best chance at profiting. When oddsmakers see or expect heavy money coming in for one team, they tilt the spread toward that team, in hopes of inducing more bets for the opponent, to hedge the house's risk.

As ESPN's Chad Millman explained, the oddsmakers moved the line so swiftly -- from 3 to 5 in less than two days -- because they anticipated that a wave of money will back the Niners: The Falcons looked terrible in the second half against the Seattle Seahawks while Kaep and Co. fired on all cylinders against the Green Bay Packers. Throw in that the Niners are a nationally popular team. And throw in all the ESPN hype for the Turlock Tornado.

It's just another example of Vegas' Kaepernick Fever. As we wrote last month, the Niners became bigger favorites in the hours after Harbaugh named Kaepernick the starter for Week 12 against the Saints, and then in Week 13 against the Rams.

So this is nothing new for Kap. Going to the Super Bowl, though, that would be new.


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Albert Samaha

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