Vikings vs Bills: 5th Largest Spread in Last Decade, Will Vikes Cover?

by Rick Rockwell
on September 21, 2018

On Sunday, September 23rd, the Buffalo Bills travel to Minneapolis to take on the Vikings in a game where Minnesota is a massive favorite at -17 points. If this spread holds, then it will be tied for the 5th largest spread in the last decade. However, it doesn’t even crack the top 10 largest spreads since the AFL/NFL merger. Let’s examine this further to see which team will cover the spread and if there’s any betting value in this game.

Why is the Spread So High?

The spread originally opened at -16.5 points with most online betting sites. However, it has gone up slightly to 17 points, which ties it with a 2009 Vikings game, and several others, for the 5th highest in the last ten years. We’ll take a look at those other 5 games shortly.

There are numerous reasons as to why this game has such a large spread. On the Minnesota side, the Vikings are a legitimate Super Bowl contender with an elite defense, solid running game, explosive wide receivers and a Top 10 QB.

On the Buffalo side, they have been outscored 78 to 23 in the first two games of the season. Their offensive line is one of the worst in the league, they’re starting a rookie QB, the receivers are unimpressive so far, and the defense hasn’t stopped anyone.

On paper, this looks like a massacre. But, will it be?

The Top 5 NFL Spreads Over the Last Decade

As mentioned, the Bills vs Vikings is tied for the 5th highest spread over the last 10 years at -17 points. Coincidentally, they’re tied with a previous Vikings game that took place in 2009, and other games that also had spread of -17 points.

5) Minnesota Vikings (-17) vs Detroit Lions (Nov. 15, 2009)

The Lions were one season removed from going winless and taking on the Vikings who were one of the best teams in the NFL. Coming into this game, the Lions were 1-7 and on a historic losing streak. The Vikings were 7-1 and led by Brett Favre who passed for 344 yards. Adrian Peterson rushed for 133 yards and 2 TDs. Minnesota won 27-10, but didn’t cover the spread.

Result: Minnesota won by 17, which is a Push

4) New England Patriots (-17) vs New York Jets (Dec. 24, 2016)

The Patriots were 12-2 coming into this Christmas Eve matchup as they hosted the dreadful Jets who were 4-10 at the time. New England jumped all over the Jets in the first half and led 27-0 at halftime. Brady finished the game with 214 yards and 3 touchdowns. New York didn’t score until the 4th quarter. Sadly, it was far too late for the Jets as they ended up losing 41-3.

Result: New England won by 38, covering the spread

3) Seattle Seahawks (-19.5) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (Sep. 22, 2013)

The Jaguars traveled to Seattle in this Week 3 matchup and were blown out before they even stepped off the bus. Seattle opened up a 24-0 lead at halftime and went up 31-0 before Jacksonville even scored. Russell Wilson led Seattle with 4 touchdown passes and the Seahawks defense demolished Chad Henne and the Jaguars offense. Seattle won the game 45-17 and covered the largest point spread since the 2001 Rams (-20 against Carolina).

Result: Seahawks won by 28, covering the spread

2) New England Patriots (-20.5) vs Indianapolis Colts (Dec. 4, 2011)

The Colts came into this matchup 0-11 as they were without Peyton Manning for the year due to a neck injury. Dan Orlovsky was the starting QB for the Colts and he was tasked with the job to outduel Brady. The Patriots jumped out to a 17-3 halftime lead and stretched it to 31-3 by the beginning of the 4th quarter. Brady had 2 TD passes to Gronkowski and New England was winning in a blowout. Unfortunately for bettors, the Patriots took their foot off the gas pedal and the Colts scored 3 touchdowns in the 4th to close the gap. Ultimately, New England won 31-24.

Result: Patriots won by 7 points, didn’t cover the spread

1) Denver Broncos (-26.5) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (Oct. 13, 2013)

The Broncos were 5-0 at the time and led by Peyton Manning. The Jaguars were 0-5 on the season with a 0-3 road record, and traveling to Mile High Stadium. The Jaguars had lost all 5 games by double digits and the Broncos had won all 5 games by more than 18 ppg. It was a “David vs Goliath” battle, which resulted in the largest NFL spread since the merger (depending on source).

At one point, the spread went as high as 28 points, which would’ve made it the highest spread as it surpassed the 27 point spread of the Steelers vs Bucs in 1976. However, by game day, the spread had come down to 26.5 with many sportsbooks.

Manning led the Broncos to an early 14-0 lead. However, the Jaguars clawed their way back and was down 19 to 21 late in the 3rd quarter. Denver was able to pull away as Knowshon Moreno scored two of his 3 rushing touchdowns late in the game and the Broncos won 35-19.

Result: Broncos won by 16, did not cover the spread

What are the All-Time Highest NFL Spreads?

As mentioned, the Broncos vs Jaguars is considered by some to be the highest spread since the 1970 NFL merger. Some sources claim the Steelers vs Bucs is the highest modern-NFL spread at -27. Keep in mind that various sources may have used betting data from different sportsbooks. This could’ve led to different spreads for the same game. The following is a list of the all-time highest spreads according to ESPN, SI, and other resources:

Year Game Spread Final Score Cover
1976 Steelers at Buccaneers Pit -27 Pit 42 – TB 0 Yes
2013 Jaguars at Broncos Den -26.5 Den 35 – Jags 19 No
1993 Bengals at 49ers SF -24 SF 21 – Cin 8 No
2007 Eagles at Patriots NE -24 NE 31 – Phi 28 No
1987 49ers at Falcons SF -23.5 SF 25 – Atl 17 No
1977 Buccaneers vs Cowboys Dal -23 Dal 23 – TB 7 No
2007 Dolphins at Patriots NE -22 NE 28 – Mia 7 No
1976 Patriots at Buccaneers NE -21 NE 31 – TB 14 No
2007 Jets at Patriots NE -20.5 NE 20 – NY 10 No
2011 Colts at Patriots NE -20.5 NE 31 – Indy 24 No
2001 Panthers at Rams STL -20 Rams 48 – Car 14 Yes
1992 Buccaneers at 49ers SF -20 SF 21 – TB 14 No
2013 Jaguars at Seahawks Sea -19.5 Sea 45 – Jags 17 Yes
2002 Texans at Eagles Phi -19 Phi 35 – Hou 17 No
2007 Patriots at Baltimore NE -19 NE 27 – Bal 24 No
1992 Patriots at Bills Buff -19 Buff 16 – NE 7 No
1987 Vikings at Bears Chi -18 Chi 27 – Min 7 Yes
2000 Falcons at Rams STL -17.5 Rams 45 – ATL 29 No
2005 Texans at Colts Indy -17.5 Colts 31 – Hou 17 No
1985 Bills ad Dolphins Miami -17.5 Miami 28 – Bills 0 Yes
1996 Buccaneers at Packers GB -17.5 GB 13 – TB 7 No

I’m sure there’s a chance that I missed a few games with spreads higher than 17.5 points. However, this gives you a good idea as to how massive favorites have fared in covering a large spread. According to the games above, the favorites are 5-16 ATS when the spreads are 17.5 points and higher.

Will the Vikings Cover the Spread?

Since 1978, the Vikings have been favored by 16 or more points on 3 occasions and Buffalo has been an underdog of 16 or more points on 4 occasions:

Vikings:

  • 2009 – won 27-10 over Detroit, Push the 17 point spread
  • 1998 – won 48-22 over Bears, Covered 16 point spread
  • 1998 – won 41-21 over Cardinals, Covered 16.5 point spread

Bills:

  • 2007 – lost 38-7 to NE, didn’t cover 16.5 point spread
  • 2007 – lost 56-10 to NE, didn’t cover 16 point spread
  • 1985 – lost 28-0 to Miami, didn’t cover 17.5 point spread
  • 1985 – lost 38-7 to Miami, didn’t cover 17 point spread

The Vikings are 2-0-1 ATS when favored by 16 or more points. The Bills are 0-4 ATS when getting 16 or more points. One last note, teams that are favored by 17.5 points or more have gone 5-16 ATS according to the games listed above. According to one betting source, from 2000 to 2012, teams that were favored by 17 points went 3-4-2 ATS during that span.

It appears that the magic number here is 17.5 points and there’s a good chance that the spread for the Vikings vs Bills could go up to that considering that Buffalo could be without a few key starters. If that’s the case then the odds aren’t in Minnesota’s favor to cover.

If the spread stays between 16 and 17, then Minnesota has a solid chance at covering the spread based on their franchise’s 2-0-1 ATS record of that spread margin. For Buffalo, they need a miracle on Sunday, in order to cover this spread. Bills fans will cling to the improved team play in the second half of last weekend’s game against the Chargers.

As for now, Minnesota should win this game. But, I’m leaning towards Buffalo covering the spread. As for betting value, I would go with the Over 40.5 total points at a line of -108. Vikings will score 30+ points and the Bills could get enough garbage time points to easily hit the Over. The Over is 4-2 in the last 6 head-to-head meetings between these two teams. For Buffalo the Over is 4-2 in their last 6 games, 16-7 in their last 23 games following a SU loss, and 11-5 in their last 16 following an ATS loss.

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