Last night, some teams played football on TV. As far as the state of Wisconsin is concerned, though, the real season starts Sunday, when the Green Bay Packers visit the Jacksonville Jaguars. The NFL’s regular season is nice and all that, but without the Packers playing, it’s kind of just a bunch of giants trying to give each other brain injuries.
The Packers are the reason Wisconsin puts up with the winter and they’re responsible for the joy, sadness, and ever-expanding waistlines of an entire state. Love them or hate them, the Packers are more a part of our everyday lives than any baseball team, basketball team, or general election could ever be.
A lot of people like to point to the tradition (My dad took me to Packer games and his dad took him to Packer games and no one talked about feelings ever!) or the ritual of watching games every week while singlehandedly keeping MillerCoors and the buffalo wing industry afloat. However, those factors don’t begin to touch the true reason for the Packers’ and the NFL’s massive popularity: GAMBLING!
Football is ridiculously violent and rife with long periods of inaction, but it is crazy fun to bet on. The weird scoring, the last minute heroics, and the relatively small amount of contests make football the perfect game for betting. That’s why, with just two days until Green Bay’s season starts, we aren’t going to talk X’s and O’s, The Bachelor, or backup weak side linebackers. Instead, we’ll be talking about the true national pastime in this, the land of opportunity.
Week 1: Packers -5 at Jacksonville
Is this a gift from the gambling gods? It certainly feels like it. The Jaguars are 8-24 over the past three years, making them one of the worst teams in football. Plus, they’re notorious for their perennial slow starts. Jacksonville is 1-6 against the spread in September games over that same stretch, and they simply seem over-matched in the opener in every way. Can you even name a Jaguar? Don’t lie! Expect the Packers to cover this one easily and inspire far too many people on sports talk radio and in your circle of friends to start talking Super Bowl just one Sunday in.
Odds to win NFC North: Green Bay -250
Once again, the Pack benefits from weak competition, and seem to be almost a shoe-in for another divisional title. Green Bay’s biggest perceived competition, the Vikings at +300, just lost their quarterback for the season…and are also the Vikings. Meanwhile, betting on either the Bears or Lions would pay you 120-1 on your money should they take the division. In other words, it’s not happening. Look forward to another playoff home game and announcers inevitably reheating gripping commentary about it being cold or some shit.
Odds to win the NFC Championship: Packers +375
Odds to win Super Bowl 51: Green Bay Packers +600
Bovada Sportsbook has the Packers as their favorite to win both the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl this year. Does that mean they’re the best team in football? Not necessarily. Bookmakers often set lines different for “public teams,” as in teams that the public likes to bet on regardless of how good or bad they are. The Packers are one of the most public teams out there. Every year, people will put money on teams like the Packers to win the Super Bowl, regardless of the team’s outlook because, well, people want to see the Packers win the Super Bowl. Let’s just say they built a lot of casinos using Packer fan money in the Brett Favre era.
That said, bookies don’t just set lines like this for any public team. Dallas is another very public team that has a very unrealistic fanbase, and you can get them at 250-1. These lines indicate that bookmakers expect the Packers to be very good this season, playing deep into the playoffs, and maybe even winning it all. Casinos are looking to mitigate any potential losses by keeping this line low because it’s going to get a lot more action than the Arizona Cardinals or Indianapolis Colts are going to get. But who cares about all that? The Packers are the favorite to win the Super Bowl! Book your trips to Houston now!
Oh, and in case you were wondering, the team with the second best odds to win the NFC? It’s the Seattle Seahawks at +425. The Packers and the team with the quarterback who totally isn’t a virgin anymore—just ask him—are once again on a collision course, and we can finally figure out once and for all who God is rooting for this season. Happy betting.