Around the NFC West: Fred Soft likes odds

Good teams tend to become popular. Popular teams tend to attract wagering.

Teams attracting significant wagering become heavier favorites as oddsmakers hedge against potential losses.

The San Francisco 49ers provide a case study for Vegas 101. Success last season helped them rank eighth in popularity among American fans in recent ESPN polling. So, when sports books set the 49ers' championship chances at a relatively modest 10-1, fans and/or wise guys apparently couldn't resist.

Mike Wilkening of Pro Football Weekly says heavy betting on the 49ers has moved their Super Bowl-winning odds to 4-1 recently, making San Francisco the heaviest favorite in the NFL. Jay Rood, vice president of race and sports at MGM: "Is this an accurate reflection of what I believe to be the case, that they’re the favorites for the Super Bowl? No. We’re trying to manage (the) liability at this point." Noted: The 49ers were 40-1 long shots to win the Super Bowl a year ago. That kind of relative skepticism sets up well for a motivational-minded head coach. When the 49ers enjoyed success last season, the 49ers' Jim Harbaugh would sometimes refer to Frederick P. Soft, a fictitious character representing accolades that can soften up a team. Mr. Soft would certainly welcome news that the 49ers are now Super Bowl favorites, at least according to Vegas.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com updates the 49ers' safety situation minus unsigned franchise player Dashon Goldson. He cites a source saying Goldson wants a deal averaging $8 million per season, and the 49ers probably would not go past a $7 million average. Noted: The franchise tag sets Goldson's value at $6.2 million per year, an average favorable to the team.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says stories about Alex Smith having an edgier attitude have become an annual rite of 49ers offseasons.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News sits down with 49ers receiver Mario Manningham to relive the former Giants receiver's pivotal catch against New England in the Super Bowl.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News passes along 49ers notes, including one about wireless data upgrades at Candlestick Park.

Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic says rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley has earned high praise for a player drafted in the sixth round. Quarterbacks coach John McNulty, on accuracy issues that affected Lindley late in the quarterback's career at San Diego State: "He was doing some things footwork-wise to get himself kind of overextended, which was taking a little off his accuracy. But I don't think that's a problem anymore. And you see at times when he just kind of presses and gets pressured and he's (thinking) he's going to complete the ball no matter what. That sometimes happens to a guy with that much experience and success, but sometimes you just have to throw it away and go on to the next play."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com, mindful that Cardinals first-round choice Michael Floyd had DUI troubles in college, says this following the DUI arrest of Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon: "There had to be a little feeling about 'there-but-by-the-grace-of-God-go-I' vibe. ... There are no real parallels between Blackmon and Floyd, other than they play the same position. But obviously, the Cards are counting on their guy to work out well and make all the right choices."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com looks at ways fullback Michael Robinson is preparing for life after football. Farnsworth: "Robinson’s first on-camera reporting gig was covering Penn State basketball games. From that acorn of an assignment, the tree that is 'The Real Rob Report' has blossomed. In 2006, his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers, Robinson started doing 'The Rookie Report.' That morphed into 'The Real Robinson Report,' which became 'The Real Rob Report' last offseason. As anyone who has seen Robinson’s video reports knows, they are long on personality and short on strategy."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times appreciates the way Justin Forsett approached his job during the running back's time with the Seahawks. O'Neil: "He was a great teammate and a more productive player than anyone had a right to expect from a seventh-round pick. Remember all the time and money Seattle spent on free agents? Guys like Julius Jones, T.J. Duckett and Edgerrin James. Well, Forsett averaged more yards per carry than all of them. Forsett was great pro who wanted the best not necessarily for himself, but for the team."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune offers thoughts on the Seahawks' linebacker situation as part of his latest chat. Williams: "At linebacker, I think the middle linebacker job is Bobby Wagner’s to lose, but he should get some stiff competition in Barrett Ruud and Matt McCoy. Look for K.J. Wright to play middle linebacker in obvious passing situations because of his length and familiarity with the scheme."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says on-field success could be a big key for the Rams as the team seeks stadium upgrades. Burwell: "Sometimes, public sentiment can be a bit impulsive and swayed by the whims of playoff fever. A bad team doesn't render much passion for public support. But what could happen if the Dome is filled every weekend with delirious supporters caught up in NFL fever? What if new coach Jeff Fisher and his tag-team partner general manager Les Snead put together a squad in their first year that is in playoff contention all season long? What if they perform some sort of major miracle and really do find a way to do one of those worst-to-first overhauls that the NFL is known for? Could that be the sugar that makes the price tag for the Dome a bit easier to swallow?"

Howard Balzer takes a closer look at contracts for the Rams' rookie draft choices. Balzer: "In the last four days, the Rams have signed wide receiver Chris Givens (fourth round), guard Rokevious Watkins (fifth), linebacker Aaron Brown (seventh) and running back Daryl Richardson (seventh). All players signed four-year contracts with Givens receiving $2,597,028 including a signing bonus of $490,028, while the total value of Watkins’ deal is $2,291,300 including a signing bonus of $191,300."