The line on the Jacksonville at Denver game this weekend is Jags +26 right now, and has been as high as +28 elsewhere. This is the biggest spread anyone can remember, going back to the days when sports books were slightly less legal than they are now. People forget that Tim Mara, founder of the New York Giants and patriarch of the Mara clan which still owns a share of the team and has a share in running it (as well as producing Rooney Mara for us to watch in movies) was a bookie, and Dan Rooney won the money to buy the Pittsburgh Steelers into the NFL betting the ponies at Saratoga (not with Tim Mara).
We have already established that I have a fairly conservative attitude toward big spreads, but here's something to consider. The Broncos are averaging 46 points per game on their own, showing few signs of taking the Peyton pedal off the medal even against the Giants or Eagles. But their average margin of victory is 'only' 18.2 points: dropping significantly after they beat the Cowboys in Dallas last week by only 3. The Jags are easily the worst team in the NFL—which may make some take the NFL's decision to increase the London games to three, including the Jags, with a grain of salt—so upping that margin back may not be unreasonable. They beat the Eagles by 32, and the Eagles can score, if not defend.
The previous biggest spread came from the Steel Curtain Steelers played the expansion Bucs, giving 24 points and winning by 42-0. We live in a higher-scoring era, which means 26 today is probably less than 24 was for Pittsburgh in 1976. But what you never know is whether the Broncos may score a lot early and give serious playing time to Brock Osweiler and the other Princes of the Pine on their roster. I like the over of 53 points a lot better than the spread, but if Denver score 53 themselves, they probably do cover.
Sure Thing: Seattle (-13.5) vs Tennessee
The Seahawks have not looked good on the road, but they are a different team at home, and with Ryan Fitzpatrick, a sort of Jake Locker-lite, at QB, the Titans are going to find it hard to mount a lot of offense against what is probably the league's best defense. I suspect Russell Wilson will be able to create a couple of big plays out of nothing, but more importantly, the Seahawks' D ought to make some points itself, so this is one time that large spread doesn't frighten me off.
Outside Bet: New Orleans (+1) at New England at 2.15
I find it odd that the Pats are favoured against the unbeaten Saints, but a lot of that is because the bookies have faith in Bill Belichick's schemes to be able to hold down the Saints' scoring. The problem is, how are the Pats going to score themselves? Rob Ryan will look to confuse Tom Brady, but so far this season Brady's group of young, unknown and injured receivers has not looked good, and he himself has seemed out of sorts with his passing. I actually picked the Saints straight up, so getting a point is a bonus.
Value Bet: Arizona (+11) at San Francisco at 5.00
The Crads (half Card, half Crap) haven't done much offensively, and I wouldn't expect them to, but they play tough defense, and the Niners aren't included to take a lot of crazy chances with their passing game, which in this case means doing things like passing. I can easily see the Cardinals keeping the game within two scores.
One To Avoid: Pittsburgh (+1) at New York at 2.00
You did read the first three paragraphs above, didn't you? But in the end, I guess I wasn't avoiding this game completely. So how about Pittsburgh (+1) at the Jets? In both games I've seen the Steelers play, they've had moments of inspiration killed by turnovers and a failure to create turnovers. The Jets' defense is a good one at prompting the former, so the big question is whether or not you think Dick LeBeau's defense can finally force a fumble or pick from rookie QB Geno Smith. If you do, then the Steelers are a good bet. If you don't....
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