Panthers open as Super Bowl favorites, but lines in Vegas already wild

The early line for Super Bowl 50 emerged shortly after the two conference champions were decided on Sunday.

Well before the Carolina Panthers were done dismantling the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game, the NFC champs opened up as 5.5-point favorites over the AFC champion Denver Broncos, with the total at 44.5.

But, as the Panthers continued to pour on the points in their eventual 49-15 stomping of Arizona, the over/under did not stay at 44.5 … though the public also found the 5.5 points too many to give to the Broncos.

But that full-point swing was apparently enough to sway some people to the under, because the line settled into place at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook after midnight ET.

"We had 10 windows open [when the lines first went up near the end of the third quarter of the Panthers-Cardinals game] and there was a flurry of activity at those betting windows," the LV SuperBook’s Jay Kornegay told The Associated Press. "All the early money was on Denver."

Cam Newton and the Panthers have run wild this season, stringing together a 15-1 regular-season record and piecing together two sparkling postseason victories.

The Broncos owned the No. 1 seed in the AFC and took care of business in consecutive weeks, beating the Steelers and Patriots.

The fact that the line moved up, combined with the Panthers being favorites, is a clear sign the bettors respect Newton and the Panhers’ multi-pronged offense more than the Broncos’ elite pass rush. Plus …

"The public normally bets what they saw last and they liked what they saw in the Panthers," Kornegay said. "I think the line will settle in at 4 and stay there until Super Bowl weekend."

At the South Point sports book, bettors stood 10 deep in front of nine betting windows as the NFC title game ended. Many cashed tickets on the Panthers, then immediately reinvested their winnings with Carolina in the Super Bowl as a 4-point pick.

"They’re cashing with one hand and betting with the other," said the South Point’s Jimmy Vaccaro. "It’s incredible, they’re just betting non-stop."

Based on the action at the South Point, Vaccaro said he expects the record of $119.4 million bet in Nevada’s legal sports books to fall. That record was set two years ago when the Broncos and Seattle Seahawks met in the Meadowlands.

"I know today was the highest handle for a Sunday leading into the Super Bowl I’ve ever seen in my life," said Vaccaro, who has run sports books in Las Vegas since the 1970s.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report