Betting on the NFL usually involves tight point spreads and games that come down to the final minute.
But every once in a while, a spread comes up that looks like it belongs on an Alabama game on a Saturday instead of an NFL game on a Sunday.
Such is the case this week, with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs (6-1) favored by 20 points at home against the hapless New York Jets (0-7).
Professional sports bettor Jeff Whitelaw said that as hard as it is to back a team like the Jets, “anytime you’re getting a number that big, you have to bet ’dog or nothing.”
That philosophy has worked in the past decade. In four other games since 2011 with a line of 20 or higher, the underdog went 3-1 against the spread.
Two occurred on the same day last season. The Dallas Cowboys scored a late touchdown to cover as 22½-point favorites in a 31-6 win over the Miami Dolphins, and the New England Patriots failed to cover -21 in a 30-14 victory over the Jets.
The largest point spread in modern NFL history came in 2013, when the Denver Broncos failed to cover -26 in a 35-19 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The line came down after the Broncos opened -28.
Circa sportsbook manager Chris Bennett said large spreads tend to scare off NFL bettors.
“Once the point spread gets past a certain threshold — 14 or so — they lose interest,” he said.
The public wants to bet favorites, Bennett said, but they want to bet short favorites (-3 or less) or ones they can tease under a field goal.
This week, the Chiefs won’t even be useful to bettors who like to put a bunch of favorites together on a money-line parlay. At odds of -2,700, Kansas City won’t add much value to the bet.
“It’s not the greatest for handle,” Bennett said.
The game has seen some play, however. Circa opened Chiefs -20½ and took sharp action on the Jets that pushed the line to 19, Bennett said.
Another respected bettor then came in and bet Chiefs -19, pushing the line back to 20, he said.
The line was sitting at -19½ or -20 at sportsbooks across Las Vegas on Thursday.
Sunset Station sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said his book followed the same betting pattern, with early bets on the Jets balanced by recent bets on the Chiefs. The line went from 20 to 19 back to 20 at Station, he said.
Esposito said it was hard to bet against the Chiefs, who can be so devastating offensively.
“Do the Jets have enough offensive firepower to stay close?” he said.
The Jets have scored more than 17 only once all season and have been held to 10 or fewer points four times.
Esposito said he did think bettors would still use the Chiefs in teasers, especially at under -13.
Whitelaw said bettors could also consider betting the Jets in the second half or betting the second half under if the Chiefs build a big first-half lead and seem poised to pull their starters.
“It’s hard to beat somebody that bad, but the Jets are that bad,” Whitelaw said. “But I would probably take 21 if it got there.”
The NFL games with the biggest point spreads in the past 10 years. Only one favorite covered.
— Broncos -26 vs. Jaguars (Oct. 13, 2013): Denver didn’t cover in a 35-19 victory.
— Cowboys -22½ vs. Dolphins (Sept. 22, 2019): Dallas covered late in a 31-6 victory.
— Patriots -21 vs. Jets (Sept. 22, 2019): On the same day as the above game, New England didn’t cover in a 30-14 victory.
— Patriots -20½ vs. Colts (Dec. 4, 2011): New England didn’t cover in a 31-24 victory.