Peyton Manning’s record-setting start to the season -- 16 touchdown passes as the Denver Broncos have marched to 4-0 -- has oddsmakers eyeing what may be the highest point spread in National Football League history.
The Broncos, after visiting the Dallas Cowboys this week, could be favored by almost 28 points when they host the now-winless Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 13.
Denver is averaging 44.8 points a game behind Manning and has covered the point spread in all four of its wins so far, earning heavy support from bettors. The Jaguars, who play at the St. Louis Rams on Oct. 6, have scored a league-low 31 points in their 0-4 start while surrendering the third-most points in the NFL.
“My initial reaction says as high as possible,” Jay Rood, the sports book director at the MGM Mirage in Las Vegas, said of the Broncos-Jaguars point spread. “If I had to hang that number right now and let it sit for two weeks, I’d probably put it somewhere around 27 or 27 1/2.”
There have been 11 NFL teams favored by 20 or more points since 1978, according to Las Vegas-based handicapping information website Pregame.com. The New England Patriots were favored by more than 20 points four times when they went 16-0 during the 2007 regular season, with a 24 1/2-point spread in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Rood said.
The Seattle Seahawks were favored by as many as 20 points in their Week 3 game this season against the Jaguars, tying the record for the earliest the NFL has had such an overwhelming pick. Seattle won 45-17.
The Broncos have won their first four games by an average of 22 points and last week had their highest point total of the season in a 52-20 rout of the Eagles. The Jaguars have been outscored by an average of 24.5 points a game and are coming off a 37-3 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Kevin Bradley, the sports book manager for Bovada.lv, said he would have considered a Broncos-Jaguars point spread of about 21 points before this past weekend’s results.
“With how our bettors have been pounding Denver every week and betting against the Jags like it’s free money, this spread is looking closer to four touchdowns,” Bradley said by e-mail. “Barring any injuries or something very dramatic occurring, I would expect this to be the biggest spread we have ever posted.”
Bradley said Bovada also had the Patriots favored by 24 1/2 points in a Nov. 25, 2007, game against the Eagles, a game that New England won 31-28 and failed to cover the spread.
Rood said he can’t envision any way the point spread for the Broncos’ home game against Jacksonville is less than the previous record. The MGM Mirage will put out its opening betting line for that game on Oct. 7.
“If you hang anything short of 24, it’s going to be an avalanche of money on the Broncos,” Rood said.
“If you hang anything above 28, you’re going to get an avalanche of sharp money,” he added, referring to big wagers made by professional gamblers. “The answer falls somewhere in the middle there. Probably closer to the 28 than the 24.”
The Broncos and Seahawks have been the most popular NFL teams with the betting public this season, according to oddsmakers. There’s also been significant money bet on Jaguars games, Rood said, though it’s mostly been wagered on their opponents to win.
“Money going against the Jags is where things are,” Rood said. “It’s not necessarily who they’re playing against, it’s just a play against the Jags at this point.”