Before this weekend, just five NFL playoff games since 1966 have featured a team favored by at least 15 points. Just one of those underdogs won the game (Google “Joe Namath” if you need more information on that).
Oddsmakers don’t think Brock Osweiler should guarantee the 16-point underdog Houston Texans can beat Tom Brady and the Patriots in New England. In fact, even if Brady were not playing, the Patriots would be favored by nearly two touchdowns.
“Normally, he is worth six to seven points to the spread, depending on the opponent,” said Scott Cooley, spokesman for BookMaker, an offshore book and casino. “But in this situation it changes a bit because the Patriots have a very capable backup in Jimmy Garappolo, who we’ve seen perform well in meaningful games. If Brady wasn’t playing this weekend, we would make the Patriots 12- to 13-point favorites.”
The Patriots (14-2) beat the Texans 27-0 in Week 3 with third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett leading the way.
Brady, of course, will be under center against the Texans and he’s playing some of his best football. He’s taking nothing for granted because coach Bill Belichick wouldn’t have it another way.
“There is nothing easy about this game for our offense,” Brady said on WEEI radio in Boston.
Osweiler is 1-0 against Brady. Peyton Manning’s former backup rallied Denver from a 21-7 deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Patriots 30-24 in overtime last season.
But this isn’t the same Osweiler – he was benched last month – and the Texans (10-7) are not last year’s Super Bowl champion Broncos.
The Patriots are used to double-digit point spreads in the playoffs. They’ve been involved in the five largest spreads since 2000, according to Pro Football Reference. They’re only 1-3 covering the spread as favorites, but 3-1 in the won/loss column.
New England was a 14-point underdog when it upset the Rams in the 2002 Super Bowl. After going 16-0 in 2007, the Patriots failed to cover three times as favorites of 12½ or more in the playoffs. They defeated the Jaguars and Chargers before losing to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
In 2012, they whipped Tim Tebow and the Broncos 45-10 in the divisional round to cover a 13 1/2-point spread.
Pro Football Reference lists 59 double-digit favorites in playoff games since the Super Bowl began in January 1967. The favorites are 33-25-1 against the spread and 47-12 straight up.
The five biggest point spreads in the playoffs since 1966:
19 points: 49ers vs. Chargers in 1995 Super Bowl. Steve Young threw six touchdown passes, including three to Jerry Rice, to lead San Francisco to a 49-26 victory and its fifth Vince Lombardi Trophy.
18 points: Colts vs. Jets in 1969 Super Bowl. Namath guaranteed a win for the underdog Jets and delivered. Broadway Joe threw for 206 yards, Matt Snell had 121 yards rushing and a TD and Jim Turner kicked three field goals in New York’s 16-7 victory over Baltimore.
16½ points: Vikings vs. Cardinals in 1999 NFC divisional round. Randall Cunningham tossed three TD passes, including one to rookie Randy Moss, to lead the Vikings to a 41-21 win.
1½ points: 49ers vs. Bears in 1995 NFC divisional round. William Floyd ran for three TDs and San Francisco routed Chicago 44-15.
15 points: Cowboys vs. Falcons in 1978 NFC divisional round. Danny White replaced Roger Staubach after he sustained a concussion and led the Cowboys to a 27-20 win, but not a cover.