Houston, we have a historic underdog
Oddsmakers list Patriots among most lopsided favorites in NFL history
As soon as time expired on the Texans’ wild-card-round victory over the Oakland Raiders last week, a humbling slap of reality smacked them in the face.
Not only do the Texans find themselves in the freezing environs of Foxborough, Mass., where the New England Patriots and four-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady await them Saturday night, but Las Vegas oddsmakers have pegged the Texans as a more than two-touchdown underdog.
Though the spread opened at some sports books with the Patriots favored by 14 points, MGM Resorts listed New England as a staggering 17-point favorite Friday — the third-biggest spread for a playoff game in the NFL’s Super Bowl era.
“When you look at any matchup, you’re going to look at the quarterbacks, and there’s certainly a disparity there when you look at Tom Brady and Brock Osweiler,” said Westgate Superbook Race and Sports Book director Jay Kornegay, who has had New England posted as high as a 16-point favorite.
While Brady has garnered MVP consideration after missing the first four games of the season due to “Deflategate,” Osweiler (16 touchdowns, 16 interceptions) lost his job to backup Tom Savage three weeks ago only to regain it because Savage suffered a concussion.
The Texans’ top-ranked defense, led by defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, aided the team’s playoff qualification and their victory over the Raiders, but it’s provided little comfort for bookmakers in this game. In Week 3 of the regular season, the Patriots’ third-string quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, led them in a 27-0 triumph over the Texans in Foxborough.
Bettors doubling down on Patriots
MGM Resorts Race and Sports Book director Jay Rood thought he was going high when he set the point spread for Saturday’s game at 16. He then immediately took a large wager on the Patriots from a wise-guy bettor known as a “sharp,” and said the ensuing public action on the Patriots has more than doubled those betting on the Texans.
The only other occasions a playoff spread has been higher were the 1995 Super Bowl, when San Francisco covered the 19-point spread with a 49-26 triumph over San Diego, and the 1969 Super Bowl, when Joe Namath guaranteed a New York Jets’ victory in the face of their 18-point-underdog status and produced a stunning 16-7 victory over the Baltimore Colts.
Is there value in betting the Texans in this spot?
“Double-digit (under) dogs usually fare well in the NFL, but there’s not that many people who’ve been saying, ‘I’m going to wait for the spread to reach 16½ and then I’m going to hop on Brock,’ ” Kornegay said.
Having it both ways
The early action on the Patriots when the number was at 14 or 14½ does provide some bettor advantages, however.
Since the number has climbed to 17 at MGM, the early bettor on New England now can wager on the Texans for the same price, getting 17 points with the hope of winning both wagers, known in the trade as the middle.
Should New England win by 15 or 16 points under that scenario, the bettor has risked only the 10 percent “juice” that the book charges on both bets, but stands to collect double the profit of a one-way bet.
The Dallas Cowboys, who host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, and Patriots are the two conference favorites to reach the Super Bowl.
“We gear (point spreads) toward the sharps all year, but we’re approaching the Super Bowl and that’s the only line we make geared toward the public opinion,” Kornegay said. “What we can depend on is that the (general) public will bet on what they’ve seen last.
“So, whatever they see in these games will influence their opinions on the championship games, and it will also influence their opinion toward the Super Bowl. We knew last year everyone would bet the Panthers against the Broncos. That’s why the books did so well.”
LeGarrette Blount, center, runs between Texans defenders on Sept. 22 in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots, without quarterback Tom Brady, won 27-0.