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Vegas bookies favor 49ers by 4.5 points

Vegas bookies favor 49ers by 4.5 points

LAS VEGAS (AP) If the Baltimore Ravens are to become Super Bowl champions, they'll have to beat the odds again to do it.

Bookmakers in this gambling city mostly have the San Francisco 49ers 4.5-point favorites over the Ravens in the Super Bowl, amid expectations this could be the heaviest bet title game ever.

``It's a monster matchup, brother versus brother,'' William Hill oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro said. ``I believe it will top last year's Super Bowl handle and could go higher.''

Some sports books didn't even wait until the clock ran out in the Ravens win over the New England Patriots to set the line. At the LVH sports book, a line favoring the 49ers by 4.5 points was put up just before the 2-minute warning, and bettors didn't waste any time to get money down on the game.

``We've got money coming in as we speak, it looks like it will be good on both sides,'' said LVH book director Jay Kornegay. ``These teams mirror each other, but the 49ers are a bit more sexy now than the Ravens.''

At William Hill, which operates 75 betting parlors in Nevada, oddsmakers opened the game with the 49ers a 5-point favorite, as did some other books. But it was quickly bet down to 4.5 points, a line that seemed to be holding in the early betting.

``We had what I consider a large bet come in at 5 points and moved down from there,'' said Vaccaro, who said he believes the line will hold between 4 and 4 1/2 points until close to the day of the game.

Baltimore already is the first underdog of more than a touchdown to win both the division and championship playoff rounds. The Ravens were 7.5-point underdogs to the Patriots before beating them 28-13 to win the AFC title game.

``The Ravens are the hot team now but they're not getting a lot of support from the public,'' Kornegay said. ``These are very similar teams, both can run the ball well, play smash mouth football and have two quarterbacks playing very good football.''

Last year's game between the New York Giants and the Patriots drew $93.9 million in wagers in Nevada, just under the record $94.5 million bet in 2006 when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10. Those who follow the betting industry closely say hundreds of millions of dollars - possibly even billions - will be bet on the game by the time the offshore sports books and illegal bookmakers take in their share.

Like the LVH, some books in Las Vegas opened the game at 4.5 points, while others put their number up at 5. Most of the major Las Vegas sports books were at 4.5 points, with a few listing the 49ers at 4 points Sunday night.

The over/under, where bettors can wager on whether the two teams will combine for more or less points than the posted number, was at 49 points at most books.

Point spreads fluctuate on games, especially the most heavily bet ones, according to how much oddsmakers take on each team. A big bet on one team can sometimes send a line moving a half point one way or another, though most movement normally takes place in the days just before the game.

Nevada oddsmakers also post hundreds of proposition bets on the game, everything from who will win the coin flip to which quarterback will have more passing yards. Those bets aren't expected to be posted fully until later in the week.

Vaccaro said the proximity of the 49ers to Nevada should boost betting on the game.

Casinos have lost once only once on the Super Bowl the last 10 years, in 2008 when bettors gambled $92 million and casinos lost $2.57 million as the Giants beat New England, 17-14.

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Ravens hope to force Brady into kind of mistakes he rarely makes

Ravens hope to force Brady into kind of mistakes he rarely makes

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has thrown just one interception this season.

That’s one of the many challenges facing the Ravens (7-5) as they prepare for Monday night’s game at New England (10-2). The Ravens’ defense is tied for fifth in the NFL with 22 takeaways – 14 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries. But Brady is a quarterback that rarely turns it over, with 19 touchdown passes and just one interception in 302 passing attempts.

Can the Ravens force Brady into uncharacteristic mistakes? It won’t be easy. Watching Brady on film, coach John Harbaugh sees a quarterback who looks as good as he ever has.

“If he’s lost anything physically, he definitely makes up for it with his mind and his experience,” Harbaugh said. “He’s moving very well. He’s moving around the pocket very well and creating throws for himself in the pocket. I don’t really see any diminished skill set whatsoever.”

Even if the Ravens can’t force Brady into interceptions, their pass rush could make his job a lot more difficult. The more pressure the Ravens can get on Brady, the less time he will have to pick them apart.

When the Seahawks won at New England last month, they sacked Brady twice, intercepted him, and held him without a touchdown pass. That’s the blueprint the Ravens hope to follow. However, the two starting quarterbacks with the best TD-interception ration are Brady (19-1) and Dak Prescott (19-2) of the Cowboys. Prescott threw three TD passes and no interceptions against the Ravens last month and beat them. The Ravens hope for better success against Brady.

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Ravens safety Eric Weddle was nearly a Patriot this season

Ravens safety Eric Weddle was nearly a Patriot this season

When Eric Weddle was released by the San Diego Chargers after last season he had plenty of offers to sign with other NFL teams.

One of those teams was the New England Patriots, the team Weddle will play against on Monday Night Football this week. 

When the two-time All-Pro safety hit the open market, he said he was looking to play for a winning organization. He ended up choosing the Ravens over the Patriots because there was a more clear-cut opportunity for playing time. 

“I’m good buddies with Patrick Chung,” he said. “I grew up playing with him and Devin McCourty is one of the best to play, so I don’t know if it would have worked out personnel-wise. But obviously, I could have seen myself fitting in there seamlessly.”

Although the Ravens don't have quite as many wins as the Patriots this season, Weddle clearly made a good choice. The Ravens are tied for first place in the AFC North with the Steelers and Weddle is currently the highest graded safety in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. 

The Ravens defense is playing dominant football as a whole as well. Through week 13 Baltimore ranks first in the NFL in total defense surrenduring just 296.1 yards per game. 

RELATED: Weddle consumes a gallon of ice cream after Ravens wins