Thursday December 1st, 2011

Oddsmakers expect Tom Brady and the Patriots to rout the Colts. (Howard Smith/US Presswire)

How big of a mismatch is this weekend's Colts-Patriots game? According to the Vegas oddsmakers, it's one of the NFL's most one-sided matchups of all time.

The Patriots opened as 21-point favorites over the winless Colts -- that line's dropped a tiny bit since then -- but that's still in the upper echelon of the league's biggest spreads ever. To put it in some perspective, the next biggest opening line for this week was the 49ers as 13.5-point favorites over the Rams. No other team topped an 8-point edge.

Just six games since 1978 have opened with teams favored by 20 or more points, and New England has now been involved in three of them. During their undefeated 2007 regular season, the Patriots were 24.5-point favorites over the Eagles (New England won just 31-28), then opened at that same line just a few weeks later against the Jets (New England won, 20-10).

So, if there's a silver lining for the Colts, it's that the Patriots do not fare well historically when they're expected to run teams off the field.

The largest spread of all time came in 1966, when the expansion Atlanta Falcons were given 28 points against the powerhouse Baltimore Colts. Following the theme, the Colts failed to cover, winning just 19-7.

San Francisco has twice been a 23-point favorite -- in 1987 against Atlanta and in 1993 against Cincinnati. The 49ers won the former game by eight and the latter by 13.

The only team to actually cover one of these monster spreads is the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers, who beat the Bucs 42-0, blowing past the 24-point line.

This isn't the first time Vegas has anticipated an Indianapolis flop this season. The now 0-11 Colts have been double-digit underdogs three previous times in 2011, though they actually covered on two such occasions -- the only two times they've beaten the spread this year.

Indianapolis was an 11-point dog in Week 3 vs. Pittsburgh and lost by three, then was a 10-point underdog at Tampa Bay the next week and lost by seven. The Colts, however, also faced a 14.5-point line against the Saints. They lost that game by a whopping 62-7 count.

The Colts-Patriots rivalry might be fueling this week's gigantic spread as much as anything. Bill Belichick is not a coach who pulls his foot off the gas early in games very often, and his team's heated matchups with Indianapolis could drive him to bury this year's hapless Colts squad.

The Patriots beat the Colts last season in Foxborough, 31-28, but the meeting prior to that was the now-infamous 35-34 Colts win, when Belichick went for it on 4th-and-2 from his own 28 with a six-point lead late. In case you're wondering for whatever reason, college football's weekend schedule has several games with larger spreads than Sunday's Indianapolis-New England game. Oregon is a 31-point favorite in Friday's Pac-12 title game against UCLA; TCU opened as a 40.5-point favorite over UNLV; and Boise State opened with an absurd 52.5-point line against hapless New Mexico.

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