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Oddsmakers Favor Pack To Win It All

From Wire Reports

The Green Bay Packers have been installed by many Las Vegas casinos from 2-1 to 5-2 favorites to repeat as Super Bowl Champions this season, ahead of the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers.

The Packers, who dominated the National Football League in the late 1960s with wins in Super Bowls I and II, have always been popular, even in their lean years, one oddsmaker said.

While their victory in Super Bowl XXXI has lowered the long odds that were common in years past, plenty of money has been pouring into Las Vegas sports books on Green Bay.

“The Packers have been a favorite among bettors even when they had a poor team. They have a very loyal following,” said Joe Lupo, sports book manager at the Stardust Casino in Las Vegas. “Whether they won the Super Bowl or not last year, we would have gotten a lot of money on them.”

Now the Packers, led by two-time Most Valuable Player Brett Favre, are drawing interest from all over, making a potential payout for bettors on another Super Bowl victory small.

“They’re the favorite and the odds are low, but people want that souvenir ticket and will bet them no matter what,” Lupo said.

While the Packers are the clear favorites, Dallas and San Francisco are also popular. Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which advises casino sports books, lists the Cowboys at 5-1 and 49ers 9-2 to win the Super Bowl.

The Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers are also gaining popularity.

“Besides the Packers, people have that AFC contingent of teams in their mind to win the Super Bowl as much as the 49ers and Cowboys right now,” Lupo said.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants lists the Broncos at 10-1, the Patriots at 12-1, and the Raiders and Steelers at 15-1.

The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints, who are listed at 100-1, have the longest odds to win the Super Bowl this season.

The Seattle Seahawks’ odds of winning it all are listed at 20-1.

Sapolu ready after open-heart surgery

The only sign left from Jesse Sapolu’s open-heart surgery is a dramatic one - a deep, purplish scar running from the base of his neck to the tip of his rib cage.

“It’s a little different from a knee ‘scope,” said a laughing Sapolu, who at 36 and a few months removed from the operation has made an unlikely return to the San Francisco 49ers. He’ll start at center Sunday when the 49ers open the season at Tampa Bay.

“There was no doubt in my mind I could still play because the doctors assured me I would be better off than I was before,” said Sapolu, who has won Pro Bowl recognition at both guard and center during a 15-year career, all with San Francisco.

Sapolu, who rejoined the team a week ago in time to play in the 49ers’ preseason finale at Denver, is thankful he has a chance to put the finishing touch on his career.

“I look at things differently,” he said. “I’m just appreciative of the moment. When you’re younger and you win all those Super Bowls, you always think, ‘Well, I’ve got this many years to go.’ You know, I’ve played a long time and with a heart like new, I feel great.

“But there’s a time when you have to move on with your life… . As far as I’m concerned, this is it.”

Around the league

Carolina’s Tshimanga Biakabutuka, recovering from knee surgery, will not start Sunday against Washington, the Panthers announced. Anthony Johnson will start at halfback in their opener. Biakabutuka is expected to play… . San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau didn’t make the trip Friday for the season opener at New England on Sunday. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on Aug. 4 to repair torn cartilage in his left knee and has been deactivated. He is expected to play in the team’s second game. … The Indianapolis Colts signed free safety Jason Belser to a three-year contract extension, the team said Friday… . The Kansas City Chiefs signed free-agent offensive lineman Glenn Parker to a three-year contract.

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