Big NFL favorites are anything but a sure bet

Sep 17, 2013 |
Seattle is just the 10th team since 1985 to be set as a fave of 20 points or more.
Photo By - USA Today Sports
Seattle is just the 10th team since 1985 to be set as a fave of 20 points or more.
Photo By - USA Today Sports
The Seattle Seahawks opened as 20-point home favorites against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3, which is about as rare as a vampire's steak.

There have been only nine other NFL teams favored by 20 points or more since 1985, with those teams going just 1-8 ATS in that time frame. The most recent line of that magnitude was the New England Patriots, who were 20.5-point faves hosting the Indianapolis Colts in Week 13 of the 2011 season. The Manning-less Colts lost but covered in a 31-24 loss.

Some books have taken money on the Jaguars, dropping that monstrous line to Seattle -19.5, which is even more rare than 20-plus point spreads. There have been only three NFL games with a closing spread of 19.5 points since 1985, with those favorites posting a collective 2-1 ATS mark.

The biggest spread in the past 28 years is 24 points, which has actually shown up twice since 1985. The San Francisco 49ers were 24-point home favorites hosting the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14 of the 1993 season. They won but failed to cover in a 21-8 victory. New England was the other 24-point chalk, hosting the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 12 of the 2007 schedule. The Patriots won but fell way short of the spread, edging the Eagles 31-28.

The lone 20-plus point favorite to cover that thick line were the 1991 Buffalo Bills, who beat the Colts 42-6 as a 20-point chalk in Week 7.

The Seahawks aren’t the only NFL team giving a wheelbarrow of points in Week 3. The Denver Broncos host the Oakland Raiders as 14.5-point favorites on Monday Night Football and were as big as -16.5 earlier in the week. Since 1985, favorites between 14 and 15 points are just 38-53-3 ATS (42 percent).

Overall, favorites of two touchdowns (-14) or more are 87-111-6 ATS (187-17 SU) since 1985, covering those massive piles of chalk at just a 44 percent rate.

The biggest underdog to ever win outright during that span were the 1995 Washington Redskins, who stunned the Dallas Cowboys, 24-17, as 17.5-point underdogs in Week 14.

Note: The most profitable big favorites are teams set between -15 and -16, going 21-15 ATS over the last 28 seasons.
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