Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos just can’t stop making history.
After setting records for most touchdown passes (20) and points scored (230) in the first five games of a season, the Broncos can add another impressive accolade: one of the biggest favorites of all-time.
The Broncos will be overwhelming -27 point favorites (and in some places as high as -28) for the visit of the winless Jacksonville Jaguars to Mile High. The only other spreads that high occurred in 1976, when the Steelers were -27 against the expansion Buccaneers, and in 1966, where the Baltimore Colts were -28 point favorites over the expansion Atlanta Falcons.
One glance at the teams’ records and Peyton Manning’s spectacular stats and the layman would probably be swayed toward betting on the Broncos to cover comfortably. But if football handicap betting were that easy, then Las Vegas would have a lot less money.
There are other factors to consider in determining whether or not the Broncos will cover that massive spread, factors which we will discuss in detail…
Why the Broncos Will Cover vs. the Jaguars
Based on the numbers and recent performances, all indications point to the Broncos covering. Thanks largely to Manning, the Broncos are No. 1 in total yards per game at 490 yards, 35 yards more than the second place Philadelphia Eagles. The Broncos average 46 points per game, also best in the league. Their lowest scoring output thus far has been 37 points and their high is 52 points.
By comparison, the Jaguars are ranked 29th in passing and 30th in rushing. As the Broncos Twitter account pointed out so kindly, the Broncos matched the Jags’ points output for the season (51) in just their game against Dallas. They have also been held to single-digit points in three of their five games.
The Jags have already lost by more than 28 points twice against Seattle and Indianapolis, offenses which average 20 points less than the Broncos; the Seahawks, which were favoured by 19.5 points, covered easily.
Although the Broncos pass defense is currently last in the NFL (347 yards allowed), they will face a Jags passing attack that has produced only 3 touchdowns (2 of which came in one game) all season. And arguably the Jaguars’ most explosive offensive weapon in Maurice Jones-Drew should be neutralized by the Broncos’ league-leading rush defense.
Why the Broncos Will Not Cover vs. the Jaguars
It is very difficult to envisage a scenario where the Jacksonville Jaguars win this game straight-up without the words “Peyton Manning” and “injury” being involved. But statistics do show that the Jaguars are 10th in NFL in pass defense and they could cause some problems for Manning and his receiving corps.
But if Manning still manages to solve the Jags secondary, there is still a plausible situation where the Broncos fail to cover, which could very likely happen.
Because the Broncos are such an explosive offense, Denver could easily build a comfortable enough lead that the game could be essentially over by halftime. This would give head coach John Fox the opportunity to sit Manning and some of the starters.
This plan to rest starters makes more sense when taking into consideration the Broncos’ next opponents: Andrew Luck and the Colts will host the Broncos for Peyton Manning’s homecoming back in Indianapolis.
Playing against mostly second or third stringers should give the Jaguars the opportunities to score and potentially get to within the 27 points needed to cover.
And of course, there is also the fact that favorites in historically large spreads have found it hard to cover. Since 1987, teams that have been favored by over 20 points have gone 0-6 ATS, including the juggernaut 2007 Patriots, who failed to cover 21, 22 and 24 point spreads.
Can Peyton Manning and the Broncos yet again pull off the improbable and cover the massive spread?
Or will the Jaguars salvage some semblance of pride in a disastrous season and pull off the “upset”?