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October 23, 2014

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Will the Jaguars stay put as the largest underdog in NFL history?

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Luke Joeckel is taken off on a cart after being injured during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, in St. Louis.

By now, it’s common knowledge that the Jacksonville Jaguars opened as the largest underdog in NFL history ahead of their game against the Denver Broncos.

Jacksonville at Denver point spread

What’s the bet in the game with the biggest spread in NFL history?
Broncos minus-27.5 — 52%
Jaguars plus-27.5 — 48%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

At plus-28 on the road, oddsmakers roughly equate Jacksonville’s chances of beating Denver at Sports Authority Field to a single roulette spin producing a specific number.

The question now is if the feeble felines can hold onto the dubious honor through the 1:05 p.m. kickoff time Sunday. It’s no sure-bet, as the spread is already down to Broncos minus-27.5 all around town with early action on the Jaguars.

“We’re all ‘dog money,” reported Jimmy Vaccaro, legendary Las Vegas bookmaker and current spokesman for South Point sports book. “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.”

Vaccaro quickly qualified that the $10,000 worth of exposure came in steady doses of $500 and $1,000 bets over a couple days. It wasn’t as if one highly respected sharp bettor sprinted to the window and asked to put a five-figure wager down.

Nonetheless, the money shows books won’t have as difficult of a time attracting Jacksonville backers as some would expect. But could there be enough to push the Jaguars below the record minus-27 spread the Pittsburgh Steelers commanded when playing at the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976?

Probably not. Like a Hall of Fame induction for Peyton Manning, Denver money is inevitably coming. And it’s going to arrive with the zip of a short pass from Manning later in the week.

Sports book directors are bracing themselves like a receiver going across the middle for the impact of parlay and teaser cards incorporating Denver. The public backing Denver and fading Jacksonville has served as one drawback in an otherwise stellar start to the NFL season for the house.

Before last weekend’s games — when the Broncos finally failed to cover a spread in a 51-48 victory at Dallas as 7.5-point favorites but the Jaguars were listless as usual with a 34-20 loss as 12-point underdogs at Saint Louis — Red Rock sports book director Jason McCormick was exasperated by the formula’s success.

He pointed out 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.

The scenario wasn’t all that implausible.

“They just can’t stop betting Broncos,” McCormick said, “and they won’t bet the Jaguars.”

Despite being an underdog in all five games this season by an average of 9.5 points, Jacksonville has failed to cover by 13 points per game. Needless to say, its backers this week aren’t finding reasons for hopefulness in the team’s performance.

They’re discovering value in history. In the 43 years since the NFL-AFL merger, only nine teams have ever gotten more than 20 points in a game.

The underdogs covered in every instance except one, when the aforementioned 1976 Buccaneers rolled over in a 42-0 loss to the Steelers.

Vaccaro likes that the trend is stimulating conversation and interest, but he doesn’t put any weight into it counting for much.

“I think you better find other things to do between looking for point spreads this high,” he cracked. “It happens once every four or five years. It’s not like you can quit your job and wait for these situations to come up, because there’s that one time when it’s not going to work out.”

Vaccaro referred to week 3 when Jacksonville received the same type of early sharp backing as 19.5-point underdogs — the 11th largest spread in NFL history — at Seattle. The Jaguars never stood much of a chance and wouldn’t have even covered at plus-27.5 in the 45-17 loss.

And now they’ve gotten worse, most notably on the offensive line. Jacksonville traded away left tackle Eugene Monroe to the Baltimore Ravens a week ago, justifying the move by saying it wanted to slide first-round draft pick Luke Joeckel into the unit’s most-important position.

In his debut there, Joeckel broke his ankle and is out for the season. So forgive the recreational bettors if they aren’t in a hurry to get behind a record number of points with the Jaguars.

Professional gamblers aren’t exactly unloading on them, either. This line will stay put with the Jaguars safely securing their place in infamy.

“It’s not going to go crazy either way,” Vaccaro predicted. “You’re not going to see it get to 24 or 41. It’s right where it should be right now, and I think you’ll see that with how it plays out the rest of the week.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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