By Mark Paulette
As Michael Scott once said, “I’m not superstitious, just a little stitious.” So when the New England Patriots opened as 16-point favorites over the Houston Texans ahead of Saturday’s Divisional Round matchup, I couldn’t help but think that the hefty line spelled anything other than trouble.
The Pats have been involved in five of the eight largest spreads in modern NFL history and each time failed to cover –
(T) 7. Jets @ Patriots, 12/16/07, (+20.5) – 2007, we all know how that regular season went. The Pats came in undefeated, as they would finish, while the Jets were a meager 3-10. But Gang Green must’ve been inspired by a rookie D-Lineman by the name of Mike DeVito, playing in his fifth career game, as NYJ kept it close. Final – Pats 20, N.Y. Jets 10.
(T) 7. Colts @ Patriots, 12/4/11, (Patriots favored by 20.5) – When a team is 0-10, led by Dan Orlovsky and visits Foxboro in December, it’s bound to make its way onto this list. Pats covered early, leading 31-3 after three quarters, but Indy scored three garbage TD’s in the fourth. Final – Pats 31, Indy 24
- Patriots @ Buccaneers, 12/12/76, (Patriots favored by 21) – The Bucs were 0-14 in their inaugural year in the NFL, meanwhile the Pats were a solid 10-3. Tampa grabbed a 14-7 halftime advantage, but were outscored 24-0 in the second half. That late charge was still not enough to see the Pats cover. Final – Pats 31, Bucs 14.
- Dolphins @ Patriots, 12/23/07, (Patriots favored by 22) – Another failure from the dominant ’07 squad. The Pats looked like an easy cover after racing out to a 28-0 halftime lead, but decided to not come out of the locker room for the second half. Final – Pats 28, Fish 7.
(T) 2. Eagles @ Patriots, 11/25/2007, (Patriots favored by 24) – Let’s keep ragging on the ’07 team. This line is actually tied with a Bengals-49ers spread from 1993 in which the ‘Niners failed to cover, but won 21-8. Like the team from San Fran, the Pats would win this contest, but only after staving off A.J. Feeley’s feisty bunch. Final – Pats 31, Philly 28.
Now the Pats enter the weekend toting the fourth-largest spread in postseason history and the largest since 1999. In the three games with larger spreads, the 49’ers stomped the Chargers, 49-26, (49ers favored by 19) in Super Bowl XXIX and in 1999, the Vikings covered by beating the Cardinals, 41-21, (Vikings were favored by 16.5). The third game on the list is one of the most iconic in NFL history, as not only did the underdog cover, but they actually won the game as Joe Namath came through on his guarantee and defeated the 18-point favorite Baltimore Colts, 19-7, in Super Bowl III.
Under the guidance of the “Hoodie”, the Pats have been 15+ point favorites 13 times. In those games, the team is a perfect 13-0, however, against the spread they’re a much shakier 7-6. What does that tell us? It reaffirms what many already hold true, that the Texans have zero chance of winning come Saturday night. But it also says that history is not on the sideline of New England when it comes to blowing Houston out of the water.
But what does history know? The Pats beat this same team 27-0 in week three with a third string, rookie quarterback who had a broken thumb. This time, they trot out the GOAT on a prime time stage.