- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 2, 2019

ASHBURN — Dwayne Haskins wasn’t fazed.

Told the Redskins will be the biggest underdogs they’ve ever been at home Sunday, the rookie quarterback started to explain what gives him confidence that Washington will actually be able to pull off the upset against the New England Patriots.

“We have talent just like they do,” Haskins said. “We just have to play our best ball. We haven’t yet and when we do, we’ll see what happens.”

The NFL has been long-dubbed as a league of parity. Any given Sunday, fans like to say. But when the Redskins take on the defending champions Sunday, New England will be favored by 15½ points — making the Redskins the latest double-digit underdog this season.

According to BetOnline, including Week 5, there have been nine spreads this season that have been at least 10 points. And while that isn’t a drastic increase from previous years — 2018 had six double-digit underdogs through the first five weeks, five in 2017 — the disparity between the lines themselves are greater.

In 2019, there have already been five games that featured a spread of 14 points or greater.

By comparison, only two games, one in each year, met that criteria over the past two seasons.

“You have these teams that are just so god awful at the bottom,” said Dave Mason, BetOnline’s sportsbook brand manager. “We’re coming up with the props of who’s going to get the No.1 pick in the draft, I mean there’s just so many good — or bad — teams. You have these horrible god-awful teams and on the flip side, you have teams like the Chiefs and the Patriots that are just juggernauts.

“You have that kind of recipe for humongous spreads and blowouts,” he said. “These teams are bad. There’s not just one or two of them.”

Take a quick look at the standings and you’ll quickly see there are six teams that are winless this season:  the Redskins, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals.

At this point last season, only one team had yet to record a win.

Pro Football Reference, an online football encyclopedia, has tracked point spreads for every game dating back to 1978. This century, the number of double-digit underdogs has varied each year. For instance, 39 games featured a spread of at least 10 points in 2018 — while there were only 16 games in 2016 that hit that mark.

But this year, there’s one glaring difference when examining how oddsmakers are setting lines.

Through the first four weeks, the average spread in games has been 16½ — a noticeable jump from past seasons.

“Despite the number of double-digit spreads remaining the same, the average spread of these games is significantly higher this season,” said Bovada head oddsmaker Pat Morrow in an email. (Bovada is an online sportsbook.)

Oddsmakers say it has been a challenge in setting lines for games that have been such extremes.

In particular, the Dolphins, who have stripped down their roster by trading away marquee players amid cries they’re tanking, have been a combined 62-point underdog through four weeks — and haven’t covered the spread once. Mason said that’s an NFL record, passing the 2002 Texans.

The Patriots have also set a record by being 55-point favorites through the first month of the season, Mason said. The Patriots surpassed the 1996 San Francisco 49ers, who were minus-48.

The fact that the Patriots are heavy favorites, however, hasn’t stopped bettors from favoring New England.

Mason said 91% of bettors for Sunday’s game have sided with the Patriots — making it the most popular bet of the week.

“Everybody and their mother is betting on the Patriots,” he said.

There could be good reasons for doing so. The Redskins rank near the bottom of the league in both offense (28th) and defense (26th), while the undefeated Patriots have only allowed one defensive touchdown this season. Oh, and the Redskins have yet to name a starting quarterback as coach Jay Gruden again declined to do so Wednesday.

The last time the Redskins were this significant of underdogs at home was in lead up to an October 1995 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys, who were 13-point favorites. But hey, Washington’s fortune could soon change. An early look at next week’s lines reveals the Redskins are six-point favorites against the Dolphins.

“That’s going to be a juggernaut of a game,” Mason said.

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