The NFL is supposed to be a league built for parity where any team can win any game on any given Sunday.
But oddsmakers know the reality is that some teams are naturally more talented than others. Some teams are headed in different directions when they meet up on the gridiron.
That’s why most legal sports betting operators made the New England Patriots 18.5-point favorites over the Miami Dolphins in Week 2 this season. And, when the Patriots covered that, beating the Dolphins 43-0, the very next week they made Miami 23-point underdogs against the Dallas Cowboys and the Patriots 21.5-point favorites over the lowly New York Jets.
Oddsmakers almost nailed it.
The Patriots actually opened at around -17.5. That shot up to more than 21 points when the public bet heavy on the Pats early in the week. In the end, the Patriots won by 16, just barely failing to cover the original spread.
Oddsmakers predicted Miami would be blown out again and they were. In fact, Dallas covered that big spread, winning 31-6 on Sunday.
All signs point to oddsmakers continuing to give Miami boatloads of points every week until the Dolphins manage to cover. The record spread of 26.5 points set in 2013 when the 5-0 Denver Broncos (-26.5) met the 0-5 Jacksonville Jaguars may even be in jeopardy when the Pats and Fins meet again in Week 17.
The biggest blowout in Super Bowl history
Of course, the Broncos beat the Jags in that 2013 game 35-19. However, just like the Patriots this week, the Broncos failed to cover that big spread.
The Broncos themselves were on the wrong end of the biggest blowout in Super Bowl history when the San Francisco 49ers beat them 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV.
The 49ers opened as 10-point Super Bowl betting favorites and closed two points higher at -12. So, oddsmakers weren’t completely wrong, even though they didn’t exactly predict a 45-point blowout.
Twenty-plus point spreads like the ones found this week are rare. Even when oddsmakers think a blowout could be in the offing, they’ll usually post a two-score, 9 to 14-point line.
The biggest blowout in NFL history
There’s no telling what oddsmakers were thinking ahead of the in the 1940 NFL championship game. But they probably didn’t predict the Chicago Bears would beat the Washington Redskins 73-0 in what still stands as the NFL’s biggest blowout ever.
Despite all the talk of parity in the league, blowouts, big spreads and teams capable of covering have become a part of the modern NFL.
Below is a look at a trio of games where oddsmakers pretty much predicted blowouts and were more than right. Here are the three biggest regular-season covers and blowouts oddsmakers almost predicted in the NFL over the past decade:
2009 New England Patriots 59 vs. Tennessee Titans 0
Las Vegas oddsmakers had the 3-2 Patriots as 9-point favorites over the 0-4 Titans in this Week 5 matchup.
Legendary Pats quarterback Tom Brady exploded offensively going 29 for 34 and throwing for 380 yards and six touchdowns. Randy Moss caught three touchdown passes and Wes Welker caught two.
Tennessee running back Chris Johnson managed to post a respectable 128 rushing yards, but the Patriots defense completely shut down the Titans passing game. In fact, Titans quarterback Kerry Collins went just 2 for 12 for -7 yards.
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2011 New Orleans Saints 62 vs. Indianapolis Colts 7
Vegas oddsmakers were predicting a blowout as the 4-2 Saints were 14-point favorites over the winless Colts in this Week 7 matchup.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees had an offensive performance for the ages going 31 for 35 and passing for 325 yards and five touchdowns.
The story for the Colts was that legendary quarterback Peyton Manning was sitting out the entire season after neck surgery.
Filling in this week was the combination of Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky, who combined to go 12 for 22 and throw for less than 100 yards.
2012 Seattle Seahawks 58 vs. Arizona Cardinals 0
The 7-5 Seahawks were 10-point favorites over the hapless 4-8 Cardinals in this late-season matchup in Seattle.
Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch ran all over the Cardinals, scoring three touchdowns and posting 128 yards on just 11 carries. The Seattle offensive line was so dominant even back-up running back Robert Turbin managed 108 yards on 20 carries.
The lowly Cardinals couldn’t manage much more than 250 yards in total offense and starting quarterback John Skelton threw four interceptions.