Las Vegas oddsmakers deserve some credit. They made the worst regular-season matchup in recent NFL history interesting.
There are bad matchups in the NFL every week, and they don't get any attention. Nobody mentioned last week's Carolina-Arizona game to you, did they? But hang an enormous 27-point spread (according to the line used by Yahoo's Pro Football Pick 'Em) between 0-5 Jacksonville and 5-0 Denver and people take notice. It's the largest point spread ever recorded on a NFL game. One of the most interesting conversations among football fans this week has been, can the Broncos really cover all those points?
It's a lot to ask, but it can be done. The largest recorded line before this was Pittsburgh as a 26-point favorite over Tampa Bay in 1976. Pittsburgh won 42-0.
There isn't a huge sample size to compare this game to, because OddsShark.com said there have been just eight instances of a NFL team being favored by 20 or more since 1990. Six of those times, the underdog lost but covered:
2007: Patriots (-24) beat Eagles 31-28, underdog covered
1993: 49ers (-23.5) beat Bengals 21-8, underdog covered
2007: Patriots (-22) beat Dolphins 28-7, underdog covered
1991: Bills (-20.5) beat Colts 42-6, favorite covered
1992: 49ers (-20.5) beat Buccaneers 21-14, underdog covered
2007: Patriots (-20.5) beat Jets 20-10, underdog covered
2001: Rams (-20) beat Panthers 48-14, favorite covered
2011: Patriots (-20) beat Colts 31-24, underdog covered
It's a reminder that, unlike college football, there's not a ridiculous gap between the best teams and worst teams in the NFL. This Jaguars team is particularly bad, but at least they get a quarterback upgrade by backup Chad Henne having to start for injured Blaine Gabbert. And if the Broncos get a good lead, they have no reason to keep running up the score.
Jacksonville should cover the 27 points. No NFL team should get almost four touchdowns against another NFL team. This isn't Alabama against Georgia State. And hey, if the Jaguars get blown out, at least we get to keep alive the dream of seeing a team go 0-16 against the spread in our lifetime.
Here are the rest of the Week 6 picks:
Bears (-7.5) over Giants (picked Thursday): I probably feel worse about the Bears after their win Thursday night than I did before it. The Chicago defense is really, really beat up. They probably would have lost to a real team.
Bengals (-7) over Bills: The Bengals kept Tom Brady and the Patriots out of the end zone last week. What chance does Bills quarterback Thad Lewis, fresh off the practice squad, have against them?
Lions (-3.5) over Browns: I'm putting an asterisk on this one. If Calvin Johnson is inactive, I take the Browns. Because Matthew Stafford isn't very good without him.
Raiders (+9) over Chiefs: Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor is one of the best stories in the NFL this season. I think he does enough to make it close.
Vikings (-2.5) over Panthers: Is Ron Rivera still Carolina's coach? Mike Shula still the offensive coordinator? Yes on both? Then I'm not picking the Panthers.
Steelers (+2.5) over Jets: Coming off a bye week helps Pittsburgh, and coming off a Monday night road game doesn't help New York. The Steelers are going to win a few this season.
Buccaneers (+1) over Eagles: Opponents have done well to take options away from the Eagles and make them predictable. Quarterback Nick Foles is little threat to run, so that's one less option for defenses to worry about.
Ravens (+2.5) over Packers: Maybe Baltimore figured out some things in last week's win at Miami. That seemed like an important victory for them, although they can give it right back by losing at home.
Texans (-7.5) over Rams: This just seems like the week that Houston takes out a lot of frustration on a really bad team.
Seahawks (-13.5) over Titans: Different story if Jake Locker was quarterback, but he's not, and a great defense can swallow up a limited and predictable offense.
Saints (+2.5) over Patriots: Heck of a game. I just don't think the Patriots' offense is healthy enough yet to keep up.
Cardinals (+10.5) over 49ers: This game has "49ers 10, Cardinals 6" written all over it.
Cowboys (-5.5) over Redskins: Jerry Jones was right, there are moral victories in the NFL. Nobody says it out loud, but they exist. The Cowboys should feel a lot more confident after battling the Broncos like they did last week.
Chargers (+1.5) over Colts: Nice quarterback battle for Monday night. The Chargers' defense against Andrew Luck is a serious mismatch, but San Diego's offense is much better than anyone figured. And yes, angry Colts fans, if they win another tough road game I'll be happy to bump them up the power rankings.
Last week: 3-11
This season: 29-46-2