The 5 largest point spreads in NFL games since 1976

Friday, 25 June 2021 18:32 EST

Whenever a point spread of 18 or more points is posted, NFL bettors would do well to pay attention, as profitable opportunity awaits in these blue-moon occurrences. Just 30 NFL games since 1976 have kicked off with such a gaudy spread, a rate of exactly two every three seasons – not that such a blowout is often forecasted: Zero games went off with such a high spread from 1977 to ’84, and four of the 30 had the 2007 New England Patriots as favorites.

For those wondering why 18 points is the benchmark, well, something interesting happens at spreads surpassing 17½ points: The biggest underdogs are 0-30 SU/10-20 ATS overall but in games of point spreads ranging between 15 and 17½ those records climb to 9-101 SU and – get this – 54-53-3 ATS in the last 110 such.

And the underdog performs better ATS as one moves up the list of high-pointspread games: Just twice in the past 11 NFL games of point spreads over20 has the favorite covered and one of these wins, as will be shown below, was a historical outlier.

For fun, then, here’s NFLbets’ look at the biggest five pointspreads in NFL history. Bettors may want to keep such results in mind when one of these bloated numbers comes down the pike.

5. final score: 1987 San Francisco 49ers 25 at Atlanta Falcons 17
final score ATS: Atlanta 17, San Francisco 2

Amid a season of oddities beginning with an early-season strike by 85% of NFL players was this week 5 game which made the ’87 Niners the biggest away favorite ever. (The second-biggest was, naturally, the 2007 Patriots, who got 18½ at Baltimore in week 2.) The anomalous spread in this game is down to Joe Montana’s picket-line cross to rejoin the Niners and the close result to Montana’s injury in the second quarter. A second meeting late in the season ended with a more characteristic 35-7 San Francisco win.

4. Final score: 1993 49ers 21, Cincinnati Bengals 8
final score ATS: Cincinnati 32 at San Francisco 21

Great things were expected of the 49ers in ’93 and after starting the season with a shaky 3-3 SU mark, Steve Young & Co. whipped off five consecutive wins of an average 42-14 score before heading into this week 14 match against the 1-10 Bengals. For a half, team qualities appeared reversed, however, with Cincinnati leading 8-7 at halftime; the 49ers D shut out the opposition in the second half, but Young was an uncharacteristic 13-or-25 for 179 yards and zero TDs vs two picks plus took a safety. After this, the ‘’93 Niners closed out the season with a 1-3 “run” and were disposed of the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship.

3. Final score: 2007 New England Patriots 31, Philadelphia Eagles 28
final score ATS: Philadelphia 28 at New England 3.5

As with the above 49ers game, this ATS loss in week 12 boded badly for the ’07 Pats – at least as far as NFL bettors were concerned. After going an incredible 9-1 ATS to start their remarkable season, New England went just 1-8 against an average 15½-point spread. (Clearly the sportsbooks weren’t fucking around after 10 weeks of thrashing cashings…)

2. Final score: 2013 Denver Broncos 35, Jacksonville Jaguars 19
final score ATS: Jacksonville 19 at Denver 8.5

26½ points may seem like an outrageous spread, but the Broncos, now armed with Peyton Manning had run up 230 points in their first five games and four times topped 40 points. The Jaguars, by contrast, were Jaguaresque, outscored by an average score of 36-10 and thrice scoring in single digits in the first five games. Even sicker than the 14-12 halftime score was the fact that even without Paul Posluszny’s pick-six in the second quarter, the Jaguars still would have covered…

1. Final score: 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers 42, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0
final score ATS: Pittsburgh 15, Tampa Bay 0

Under no circumstances should the NFL bettor ever take the favorite when giving 27 points – unless said bet is on a dynastic superpower against a winless expansion team who averages 8.9 points per game. Then it’s okay.

 –written by Os Davis