Line moves for conference title games 

January, 18, 2013
01/18/13
11:09
AM ET

If not for one of the most popular and powerful athletes of the past decade (who also happens to have created an influential charity) admitting he was a fraud; if not for the best player on the world's favorite college football team (who also happens to have lived a too-good-to-be true inspirational tale) admitting his personal life was a fraud, I know what the biggest story in sports would have been this week:

The No. 1 seed Atlanta Falcons being historic underdogs at home against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game.

To some people, it still was. For a real sense of how people in Vegas view sports news compared to how sports fans view sports news, I will share a conversation I had with longtime bettor and handicapper Bryan Leonard (who, along with Orleans bookmaker Bob Scucci, gave me his conference title game line breakdowns below):

"Hey Bryan, how's it going?" I asked.

"Good, Chad," he answered.

"Man, that Manti story is crazy, huh?"

"I don't care about that. I don't care about Armstrong either. They are not sports stories. If they can't help me bet, I am not following it."

Cold-eyed business. I didn't dare tell him how excited I am about Marc Trestman coaching the Chicago Bears. Naturally, my first question was, "Man, that 49ers-Falcons line is crazy, huh?"

"Just about everyone I talked to can't believe the line has gone up so high. There were Niners-Falcons lines at halftime of the Packers-Niners game that were San Fran minus-1.5. I had the game power-rated as San Fran minus-2. The stats tell you San Fran should win this game. But for it to get all the way to five is crazy. I don't know of anyone who has a power rating that has San Francisco as even a four-point favorite."

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