Early odds favor Steelers

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LAS VEGAS (AP) " Las Vegas oddsmakers aren't buying into the Arizona Cardinals, no matter how many times they win as underdogs this postseason.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were favored by 6 1/2 points in most sports books to win the Feb. 1 Super Bowl after beating the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday to set up the showdown for the NFL title, according to Las Vegas Sports Consultants.

"Beating Baltimore is a little more impressive," oddsmaker Jason Been said.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants provides betting lines for roughly 90 percent of sports books in Nevada.

The Cardinals " 45-1 longshots to start the season and 40-1 to win it all when the playoffs started " aren't getting much respect from oddsmakers but seem to be building a last-minute fan base among bettors, said Jay Kornegay, executive director of the race and sports book at the Las Vegas Hilton.

"I'm not sure how big this bandwagon can get, but it's growing by the minute," Kornegay told The Associated Press. "The history of losing can really appeal to a lot of fans."

Kornegay set the Hilton's line at 7 points, meaning Steelers bettors would need their team to win by more than one touchdown in order to collect.

The Cards " a No. 4-seeded NFC team playing in its first Super Bowl " are the first nine-win team to reach the big game since 1979, when the Rams lost to the Steelers. Arizona beat Philadelphia 32-25.

But even though the Cardinals have scored at least 30 points in each of three playoff wins against the Eagles, Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons, oddsmakers largely feel they have yet to beat a defense as good as the one they face in two weeks.

"The AFC has a little more respect as far as the way they play power football," said MGM Mirage Inc. Race and Sports Books Director Jay Rood, who set lines in his books at 7. "They just seem to be the better league at this point."

Pittsburgh, which started the playoffs as the No. 2 AFC team behind the Tennessee Titans, had a first-round bye before beating the San Diego Chargers and Ravens.

"You got one of the more popular teams in the NFL versus a true Cinderella team, and that makes for a very intriguing Super Bowl this year," Kornegay said.


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