Market WatchThis game might be the most watched blowout in NFL history and it has nothing to do with the players on the field. What should be the least interesting game on the card, suddenly becomes one of the most intriguing simply because of the point spread.
Last week in the LVH look-ahead line, the Broncos were -26.5 point favorites. When the line re-opened after the weekend, they had bumped it up to -28 or -27.5, depending on where you looked. Almost immediately, early money pushed the line back down to -26.5.
Chad Millman of ESPN did some research this week and found that the biggest point spread to date was in 1966, when the Baltimore Colts, led by Johnny Unitas, were -28 point favorites vs the Atlanta Falcons. The Colts did not cover as the final score was 19-7. However, Football Perspective had a nice article that looked at times when the "best" team has hosted the "worst" team since 1970. The average score in these games was 36-4. In games that had point spreads, the favorite covered in 12 out of 15 of them.
So what exactly is the "right side" to have in this game? Every sharp on the planet is going to tell you it's the Jaguars. Thus far, all the big money bets have come in on Jacksonville. Their reasoning is that this is simply too many points to give an NFL team, no matter who it is.
But to really answer this we need to provide some much needed context.
What the sharps aren't going to talk about is what has happened the last five weeks. Since the start of the season sharp money has been on the Jaguars, and they continue to lose week in and week out. Why you ask? Because every week the line is (apparently) inflated in Jacksonville's favor.
My question to them is just how much is enough points? When Jacksonville traveled to Seattle, they were -19.5 point underdogs. On twitter, Wunderdog Sports, a well known pick service, said the right side was Jacksonville, and I asked him why. He replied citing some stat that dogs historically covered large spreads.
This is part of the problem with old-school thinking. They will blindly bet these underdogs on principle, completely ignoring any X's and O's for the game in question. Even last week when the Jags were double-digit dogs against St Louis, they told everyone that was too many points.
Personally, I put much more importance on what I see on the field. When I handicap this particular game, I have the Broncos graded as -22 point favorites. On the surface that might seem like there is value on Jacksonville, but it actually suggests the right side is Denver. It is the largest point spread I've ever handicapped in all the years I've been doing this, and it's not even close.
What side is the public choosing so far? As of today, 55 percent of the bets are on the Broncos.
Jacksonville might very well cover this game, and you'll see all the touts waving their finger around saying "I told you so", but will it make up for their 0-5 ATS whiffs on the Jags to start the year?
In reality, I would advise to not even wager on this game. What we are really trying to predict is how much Denver will be up by the 4th quarter, and whether or not Jacksonville's starters can outscore Denver's backups.
With all that said, I'm going to go ahead and take the Broncos simply for the fun of it. All the X's and O's point to a significant blowout and I'm not even sure if 26 points is enough to finally get Jacksonville a cover.
NFL Pick: DEN -26.