PointsBet became the first US-based sportsbook to release NFL lines for the first 16 weeks of the 2020 season. The upcoming campaign is likely to look quite like no prior one due to COVID-19-related factors. The possibility of very limited or no fan attendance is certainly one that could have a significant betting impact.
Point spreads set this far in advance are naturally all subject to change — even in a normal year — based on potential future developments such as key injuries and teams exceeding or failing to meet expectations. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting exercise to examine which matchups oddsmakers currently see the biggest disparities in at this stage of the offseason.
Accordingly, here are the top five largest opening point spreads of the upcoming season and a quick analysis of the possible rationale behind each.
Biggest NFL point spreads in 2020
The Baltimore Ravens — considered by many at the start of last postseason as the odds-on favorite to emerge from the AFC — currently hold the distinction of largest projected margin of victory at this point in the offseason. If the Jaguars mostly fulfill their low expectations leading up to this game, Jacksonville could already be in offseason mode against a Baltimore team expected to be fighting for home-field advantage in the AFC at this stage of the campaign.
Baltimore is also part of the game with the second-largest spread for the 2020 season. This should be the fifth regular-season contest of Joe Burrow’s NFL career if all goes as planned. The Cincinnati Bengals do head into the season with an impressive group of offensive personnel that could allow them to surprise some opponents. However, the Ravens decimated Cincinnati by 36 points the last time the two teams met in November and have taken three consecutive games in the series overall. The oddsmakers clearly have faith in their ability to extend that streak at home.
The defending champion Kansas City Chiefs make their first appearance on this list in this Week 3 interleague clash against a Carolina Panthers squad expected to have its share of tribulations in its first season under coach Matt Rhule. If blessed with good health, the Chiefs could well be hitting on all cylinders by this midseason meeting. Explosive rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire should be fully immersed in what could be the league’s best offense. That could particularly spell trouble for Carolina, which allowed the fourth-most rushing yards per game (143.5) last season and lost one-time Pro Bowler Luke Kuechly to retirement this offseason.
The reigning NFC champion San Francisco 49ers frequently dominated teams with a versatile running game and suffocating defense in 2019. The Washington Redskins lost 13 games last season due in large part to an inability to counter either effectively. If the 2020 season plays out as expected, each team will be at diametrically opposite ends of the spectrum by the time this contest kicks off. This game’s Santa Clara setting only serves to fortify the 49ers’ projected advantage. Then, its late-season date supports the notion rookie first-round wideout Brandon Aiyuk could already be making a sizable impact on offense.
The Saints once again come into a season with high expectations. They’ll look forward to having Drew Brees healthy for the entire campaign after they were forced to make do without him for five games in 2019. The signing of Emmanuel Sanders also gives the future Hall of Fame quarterback a much-needed reliable second wideout alongside top target Michael Thomas. New Orleans also has both the running game and defense – two Achilles heels of the 11-loss 2019 edition of the Panthers – to win big at home against a Carolina squad headed for a potentially difficult transitional year.
Five more large spreads to monitor
In addition to those contests, here’s a look at five other intriguing games throughout the course of the season with notably robust opening spreads.
The Super Bowl LIV champs project for a double-digit win against Texans team they knocked out in last year’s AFC Divisional round.
The Cleveland Browns stole one from Ravens in 2019, but Baltimore expected to come into 2020 with chip on its folder after last season’s disappointing conclusion.
Joe Burrow will get one heck of a first NFC road test — even with the likelihood of a small or non-existent Lincoln Financial Field crowd — and the Cincy defense could also have its hands full against Philly’s talented offense.
The 49ers are unsurprisingly initial big home favorites, but will potential early-season Dolphins success and a possible Tua Tagovailoa ascension to the starting job change this line over time?
A high-powered Cowboys team expected to be among the NFC elite are big Thanksgiving favorites, although a better-than-expected performance from Redskins second-year signal-caller Dwayne Haskins leading up to this contest could change the current outlook.