- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2000

The Washington Redskins have become the Super Bowl XXXV favorite among Las Vegas linesmakers.

Offseason free agent signings largely moved the Redskins from 15-1 in February to 2-1 entering training camp on Monday. Many Las Vegas sports books, including the Imperial Palace, Leroy's and the Regent, favor Washington over Jacksonville (5-1), St. Louis (6-1) and Tampa Bay (6-1), with Baltimore (30-1) in midpack. San Francisco (300-1), San Diego (200-1) and Cleveland (200-1) are the three longest shots.

Although the Redskins won their first NFC East title in eight years last season, bettors were lukewarm over Washington's chances until free agency. After signing marquee players like Buffalo defensive end Bruce Smith and Minnesota quarterback Jeff George, the team moved to 7-2 by April behind only St. Louis 3-1. Several linesmakers began favoring Washington after Dallas cornerback Deion Sanders signed June 5.

"They plugged a lot of holes," said Las Vegas handicapper Kelso Sturgeon. "At quarterback and running back, they have backups if something happens. Everybody likes the addition of Jeff George. [Running back] Adrian Murrell is a better than adequate backup for [Stephen] Davis."

The Redskins are even-money favorites to win the NFC Championship over St. Louis (3-1) and Tampa Bay (3-1). Dallas (20-1) is the leading NFC East competitor. Jacksonville (3-1) is the AFC Championship leader over Indianapolis (5-1), Denver (5-1) and defending titlist Tennessee (6-1).

Washington is a 10-point favorite over Carolina in its Sept. 3 regular-season opener, according to the Imperial Palace. The Redskins are favored in two of three Monday night games. Washington is an eight-point choice over Dallas on Sept. 18 and a six-point favorite over Tennessee on Oct. 30 but a 3 1/2-point underdog to St. Louis on Nov. 20.

In other nationally televised games, Washington is a five-point choice over Detroit on Sept. 10, 4 1/2-point favorite over the New York Giants on Sept. 24 and a 5 1/2-point choice over Tampa Bay on Oct. 1. But the Redskins are three-point underdogs to Jacksonville on Oct. 22.

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