USA Today Sports

Big NFL favorites are anything but a sure bet

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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Posted by DavidGurney
10 months ago

On a 1967 football ticket,I took the Packers minus 27 vs the first season Falcons.The Pack covered,56-3.
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Posted by sunster19
10 months ago

I think it would be insane to bet a line like -19.5 in any other circumstance. especially prime time games when teams don't want to be embarrassed on national tv, as the ne phil game and the ne indy games were. But this is the one time, im all over the fav. The jaguars are just horrendous. there offense has been shutout already once, and only scored 9 against the second worst team in the league. They are coming in to play the best team, in the best homefield advantage. I think in someways seattle's offense hasn't looked great, so they will actually be looking to score a lot of points to get the engine going and won't let up
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Posted by hoosline
10 months ago

I agree with you Jay..but a couple things to factor in: Jax stayed on the west coast after the Oakland game. Gus Bradley (head coach for Jax) was the D cord last year for the Hawks. I don't see how Jax scores any points though. They will need TO's and kickoff/punt returns to score points. I think Seattle will run all over them and this will be a great game for the rookie RB Michael. The Defense wants to be known as the best so they will make sure Jax doesn't score a td. So give Jax 9 points at the most will Seattle score at least 4 td's? yeah, they probably will. They should have great field position all day. Statistically you should stay away from this game or take the dog, but I can't see Jax scoring enough (if any) points. Hawks -20
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Posted by whatsupjay
10 months ago

Seattle is aware of this, and they are the type of team who will go out of their way to cover this spread just because it's getting so much attention. Meanwhile the Jags stink. Those 15 Jags fans who showed up at the pro-Tebow rally have a better chance of beating the Seahawks than the actual Jags players do. Prediction: Seattle 34 Jax 6.
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Top Response

Posted by hoosline
10 months ago

"I agree with you Jay..but a couple things to factor in: Jax stayed on the west coast after the Oakland game. Gus Bradley (head coach for Jax) was the D cord last year for the Hawks. I don't see how Jax scores any points though. They will need TO's an..."