Bookies on edge as they wait for Big Ben's decision
LAS VEGAS >> Ben Roethlisberger's pain is being felt all the way to this city's gambling houses.
With a matchup between two big-name quarterbacks and two marquee teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos could still be the biggest betting game of the playoff weekend.
But for now it remains off the board in most sports books as oddsmakers await word on Roethlisberger's playing status.
The quarterback is so vital to Pittsburgh's chances that even bookies used to taking chances aren't going to take one without knowing if he is going to play.
"Obviously at some point if you get no information you have to throw something out there and go for it," said Nick Bogdanovich of the William Hill betting chain. "But right now it's still too early in the week for that."
The betting matchups are set on all the other playoff games, and the oddsmakers seem to have gotten it right. For the most part there's been little movement either way since lines went up on the other three games late Sunday.
But no one seems to know what to make of Roethlisberger and the Steelers.
"I'm hoping we have it up by Wednesday or Thursday at the latest," said Johnny Avello, who runs the sports book at the posh Wynn resort. "I never like to have a big game like this be down with all the guests who come in here every day."
One thing that is known is that Denver will be favored against the Steelers. Some online books that operate outside the U.S. have the Broncos a 6-7 point pick, based on the assumption that Roethlisberger will be playing.
If the quarterback doesn't play, though, the Broncos would be favored by double digits, a whopping number in the NFL playoffs.
"The difference between him and (backup) Landry Jones is huge," Bogdanovich said. "I think that was evident against the Bengals."
At the South Point hotel, Jimmy Vaccaro said he was leaning toward putting up a number with small limits just to give bettors some options. Vaccaro said the Broncos would likely be 6-point favorites with Roethlisberger, and 11-point favorites if he doesn't play.
"He did his best Willis Reed impression, but it's evident that with Ben not in the game things are quite different," Vaccaro said. "It's fairly obvious he's hurting the way he was throwing when he came back in."
Roethlisberger was the only quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards against the Broncos this season when he led the Steelers to a 34-27 comeback win over Denver on Dec. 20. The Steelers were the only team to score more than 30 points on Denver this season.
But now both Roethlisberger and star receiver Antonio Brown are questionable for a rematch where a trip to the conference championship game is at stake.
"There's too many questions between Roethlisberger and Brown," Bogdanovich said. "But it's mainly Roethlisberger. The difference between him and Landry Jones is huge."
Oddsmakers had little problem setting lines on the other games with Arizona a 7-point pick over Green Bay, Carolina minus-3 against Seattle and New England a 51/2-point choice over Kansas City.
Another thing they're certain about is fans will be lining up at the betting windows to put their money on the games.
"People just love the NFL and they love the NFL playoffs," Bogdanovich said. "If we had a team as a 27-point favorite people would still be betting on it."
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