Four games are plenty of evidence to make these sweeping statements: the Broncos are very, very good, and the Jaguars are very, very bad. In Week 6, Jacksonville travels to Denver, and oddsmakers are expecting the matchup to challenge the all-time record for largest point spread.
The Broncos, paced by Peyton Manning's video game offense, are far and away the league's leaders in points scored and yards gained. The Jags are dead last in both. Jacksonville also sports the NFL's third-worst scoring defense. The Broncos have outscored opponents by an average of 22 points; the Jaguars have been outscored by 24.5 points per game. This is where parity goes to die.
According to Jay Kornegay, director of the sportsbook at the Las Vegas Hilton, the Broncos could be favored by 28 points. Kevin Bradley, the sportsbook manager at Bovada, tells me it's getting there. "Before yesterday I would have said that the spread would have been around 21," Bradley says. "But after the Jags getting blown out and the Broncos rolling the Eagles it is looking like this may hit a closer to four-TD spread."
This would be historic. There's no hard data on the largest spreads, since each book sets its own, but everyone agrees that the modern record-holder is Dec. 5, 1976, when the 0-12 expansion Buccaneers traveled to Pittsburgh to face the 8-4 Steelers, and the Steelers were favored by 24. Pittsburgh curb-stomped Tampa 42-0.
Still, dogs have a history over covering these ludicrous spreads, at least within a small sample size. Of the 10 games on one site's list of the largest point spreads in NFL history, the underdog covered seven of them.
But even with outsized spreads, sportsbooks "normally still see the majority of the money on the favorite," Bradley says. Bovada had the Seahawks 19.5-point favorites when they hosted the Jaguars in Week 3, and Bradley says that wasn't nearly high enough. Even with Seattle taking out many of its starters midway through the third, the Seahawks covered by more than a touchdown.
"Denver has the potential to score a lot more points than Seattle," Bradley says, adding that "there is no doubt" the Jaguars-Broncos line will be significantly higher. "The tricky thing is knowing how high you can go before sharp bettors take the underdog."
There are still two weeks to go. Next Sunday, Jacksonville has a road game against the inconsistent Rams, while Denver travels to Dallas. Another disheartening loss for the Jags and another convincing win for the Broncos, and we're likely in for some NFL history.