A pair of sensational NFL conference championship games have vaulted the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks into Super Bowl XLVIII, and once the participants were set, the sports books promptly began spitting out numbers.
With two weeks between games, that means two weeks of shifting odds, spreads and over-unders, but here are the early returns.
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
When: Sunday, Feb. 2, at 6:25 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Spread: Broncos -2.5, per Vegas Insider
Over/Under: 48, per CBS Sports
According to Will Brinson of CBS Sports, the line started as a pick 'em on Sportsbook.ag. As tweeted by R.J. Bell, Grantland columnist and founder of Pregame.com, that would have been the line whether the Seahawks had beaten the San Francisco 49ers or not.
Sportsbook.ag says they will open their Super Bowl line "pick'em" no matter who wins the NFC Title game.— RJ Bell (@RJinVegas) January 20, 2014
One major sports book even went so far as to have the Seahawks as favorites, by two points no less.
Money quickly started pouring in on the Broncos, which nudged the game from a pick 'em to minus-two. Early money so heavily favored Denver the line was at minus-three before Seahawks fans could blink.
Sportsbook.ag says over 90% of early betting on #Broncos - driving the move to Denver -3 over Seattle— RJ Bell (@RJinVegas) January 20, 2014
20 sportsbooks on my odds screen, #Broncos now favored at EVERY ONE (average: Denver -2 over Seattle)— RJ Bell (@RJinVegas) January 20, 2014
The spread is hovering between two and three less than 24 hours after the teams were determined, and since the teams are closely matched, it won't balloon much past a field goal for Denver.
The hardest number to gauge is the over-under since the matchup pits a Broncos offense that scored more points than any team in history against Seattle's top-ranked pass defense.
Peyton Manning may have set the record for passing touchdowns and yards in a single season, but he will be facing a Seattle secondary boasting a trio of Pro Bowl defensive backs in Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas.
Despite Seattle's fearsome defense, the Broncos have a litany of offensive weapons each adept at finding the end zone. Prior to this season, no NFL team had produced four players with 10 touchdowns apiece. The 2013 Broncos had five: receivers Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker, tight end Julius Thomas and running back Knowshon Moreno.
According to CBS Sports, the over-under started at 47 and edged up to 48.
Only once did the Seahawks allow more than 24 points this season, coming in their 34-28 Week 5 loss at Indianapolis. Seattle limited a potent New Orleans Saints offense to just 15 points in the divisional round of the playoffs, and then San Fran managed just 17 points.
The Broncos scored at least 20 points in every game they played this season, but they never faced a defense as good as the Seahawks'. They're also averaging 25 points per game through two playoff contests, down from nearly 38 per game during the regular season.
Will the Broncos cover a 2.5-point spread?
Because Seattle's offense is not known for piling up points and Denver's pass defense is suspect, a final score in the region of 28-20 seems a reasonable estimation.
Regardless, the intervening period between nervous anticipation and the actual kickoff will be very lucrative for those taking wagers and the lucky winners.
As Jimmy Vaccaro of South Point sports book told the Associated Press (h/t ESPN), "It's incredible already, they're lined up betting this game like it started a half hour from now. If we don't do $100 million on this game I'd be really puzzled."
While the pairing of Denver and Seattle does not offer a sexy rivalry or the clout of huge media markets, the public seems to be expecting a Broncos victory. Surely Richard Sherman has something else in mind.