The biggest point spread in National Football League history proved too much for Peyton Manning and the record-setting Denver Broncos to cover.
The Broncos, favored between 26 1/2 and 27 1/2 points at most Las Vegas sportsbooks at kickoff yesterday against the winless Jacksonville Jaguars, led just 14-12 at halftime before pulling away for a 35-19 victory in Denver.
The spread had been as high as 28 points, a margin so big it attracted widespread notice, yet kept many bettors from wagering on the game, according to oddmakers.
“It drew a lot of attention, but it didn’t draw a lot of money at the end,” Jimmy Vaccaro, oddsmaker of the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, said in a telephone interview, declining to give specific details of the handle.
The biggest previous NFL point spread dating back to 1972 was the Pittsburgh Steelers at -26 for a Dec. 5, 1976, game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to Las Vegas-based handicapping information website Pregame.com.
The Broncos entered Week 6 with an NFL-record 230 points in their 5-0 start -- an average of 46 points a game -- while the Jaguars were averaging a league-low 10.2 points in going 0-5. Manning threw two first-quarter touchdown passes against the Jaguars yesterday, yet also lost two fumbles, was twice sacked and had an interception returned 59 yards for a touchdown by Jacksonville linebacker Paul Posluszny.
“It’s just noise on the outside, to be honest with you,” Broncos coach John Fox said about his team being so heavily favored. “All these games are hard. There is resistance out there. It’s called the other team. At the end of the day, we’re very, very pleased with the victory.”
With the Broncos being one of the most popular teams among bettors this season, oddsmakers said they offered various proposition wagers in addition to the record-setting line to try to draw money on the Jaguars.
The Las Vegas Hotel’s SuperBook took bets on whether the Jaguars would ever hold a lead in the game, which they didn’t, and offered 30-1 odds that Jacksonville would win the game outright. Online sportsbook Bovada.lv took bets on whether Manning would be taken out of the game before the fourth quarter. He ended up taking every snap for the Broncos, who improved to 6-0.
“We finally found a line that slowed down Broncos’ bets and attracted Jaguars’ bets at the same time,” said Jeff Sherman, assistant manager at the LVH SuperBook, which had the Broncos at 26 1/2-point favorites at kickoff.
The Broncos got three second-half touchdowns from running back Knowshon Moreno to pull away for the victory, yet finished with their lowest point-total of the season and failed to top 50 points for the first time in three weeks.
Even with the attention paid to the Denver-Jacksonville matchup -- and the size of the Broncos’ potential winning margin -- the finish to yesterday’s game between the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints had a bigger impact at sportsbooks, Vaccaro said.
The Patriots were favored by 2 or 2 1/2 points by most oddsmakers and pulled out a 30-27 win on Tom Brady’s 17-yard touchdown pass to rookie Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds left. The last-minute score not only helped the Patriots send the Saints to their first loss of the season, it covered the point spread for bettors who wagered on New England.
“It just goes to show you, you can’t script these endings,” Vaccaro said of the Denver-Jacksonville and New England-New Orleans matchups. “It’s great for the industry.”