The reputation of heavy underdogs — extremely heavy underdogs — is in the hands of the Jaguars.
The Seahawks are 19-point favorites over Jacksonville, which according to thebiglead.com is the 10th-largest spread in NFL history. Seattle opened as a 21-point favorite but money placed on the Jaguars quickly moved the line to 20, and then 19.
Incredibly, the last eight underdogs of 20 points or more (dating to 1976) have covered. Increase that window to 19 points or more, dating through the 1976 season, and 10 of 12 underdogs of 19-plus have covered.
My first instinct was to think if any coach might run up the score and cover a number this large it would be Seattle’s Pete Carroll, who often behaves like a WWE manager. But then I was reminded that Jacksonville’s rookie coach is Gus Bradley — Carroll’s defensive coordinator in Seattle last season.
You have three options: taking Seattle, taking Jacksonville, or staying away. Only two of those — the last two — can be rationalized.
This week’s picks (home team in caps):
Indianapolis (+10½) over SAN FRANCISCO: The 49ers were favored by 10 or more points four times last season and went 2-2 against the number. None of those opponents — the Bills, Rams, Dolphins, and Cardinals — was close to being playoff caliber, and only one — the Rams — had a quarterback who was somewhat established (Sam Bradford). The Colts can open up their offense with Andrew Luck, and while the 49ers will want to respond aggressively after getting slapped around in Seattle, this number remains a healthy head start for Indianapolis. Risking $110 to win $100.
MIAMI (-1) over Atlanta: The Dolphins began the season with two road wins and open at home looking to make a statement against the Falcons. This is unfamiliar territory for Miami, being favored against a Super Bowl contender, but the Dolphins are improved and the Falcons are banged up, particularly at linebacker and running back. Risking $165 to win $150.
Buffalo (+2) over NEW YORK JETS: In the battle of rookie quarterbacks, I’ll side with the signal-caller (E.J. Manuel) who helms the more balanced offense, and gladly take the points in the process. The Jets displayed a great defensive effort against New England but don’t have an offense worthy of laying points, particularly against a decent divisional opponent. Risking $165 to win $150.
Last week: 2-2, minus $20. Season: 4-4, minus $40.Ed Ryan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @EdzoRyan.