Much has been made of the historic 28-point spread between the 0-5 Jacksonville Jaguars and the 5-0 Denver Broncos. However, the question really isn’t if the Jaguars can beat Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Sunday’s matchup; the question is whether the Jags can lose to Brock Osweiler, Manning’s backup, by less than four touchdowns.
A lot of people are betting on it.
Time reported today that “the majority of the early action [is] favoring Jacksonville this week” and that some bookmakers have lowered the opening line of the Broncos at 28 point favorites to 27.5 or 27 points in order to induce more bets on Denver's side.
“We’re all [underdog] money,” well-known Las Vegas bookmaker Jimmy Vaccaro told the Las Vegas Sun. “We took close to $10,000 on the plus-28, so we moved to plus-27.5. At the 27.5, we’ve had a couple bites on the minus but there’s a long way to go. It’s nothing to get crazy over.”
According to the Sun, Las Vegas sports books have been off to a “stellar start” to the NFL season, with the exception of two teams: the Denver Broncos and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Last week’s 51-48 win over the Dallas Cowboys was the first time all season the Broncos failed to cover the spread, while Jacksonville has done the opposite and failed to cover all five weeks, most recently losing by 14 when getting 12 points against the St. Louis Rams.
Red Rock sports book director Jason McCormick pointed out to the Sun that “if anyone had started with $100 parlaying Denver with whomever Jacksonville was playing and letting the winnings roll over each week, they’d be up to $5,000.”
“They just can’t stop betting Broncos,” McCormick said, “and they won’t bet the Jaguars.”
That obviously has to change this week, and so far, the money’s on Jacksonville, largely for the reasons mentioned above. Osweiler is almost certain to see playing time at some point in the contest because, unlike college, NFL teams typical pull their starting quarterback once the game is out of reach. But if Osweiler, a relatively untested second-year quarterback, can’t orchestrate scoring drives, the Jaguars could easily close the point gap against the Broncos -- who are ranked dead last in pass defense -- and pull within a relatively respectable 20 or so points.
In fact, points spreads of over 20 points are an extremely rare phenomena. The Las Vegas Sun story claims that in the nine instances since the AFL-NFL merger in which a team has been favored by more than 20 points, the underdog has covered all but once.
Still, it’s feels almost sadistic to pin any hope -- much less hard currency -- on the Jaguars this season. Lest we forget, just three weeks ago the Seattle Seahawks were favored by 19.5 points against Jacksonville.
With their backup quarterback, they still won by 28.