The point spread in gambling exists because of situations like this Sunday, where the Minnesota Vikings, a team with Super Bowl aspirations, host the Buffalo Bills, who will almost assuredly have a top five draft pick. Anyone can easily pick the Vikings to win the game, but the point spread is meant to be a 50-50 wager. It’s a weighted pick ‘em selection designed to even the playing field.

Now, there are truer ways to measure the talent, or lack thereof, when it comes to football teams, but the point spread has some telling and unique aspects to it. It’s a reflection of not a single team, of course, but two team’s relation to one another. It takes into consideration where the game is being played, key injuries, weather, and many, many statistical trends.

But most noteworthy, it factors in what the public perception of the involved teams are, and those that set the point spread want people to bet on both sides of the line. If we were to pick the winner of the Vikings and Bills game, upwards of 90%, if not more, would take Minnesota to prevail. But the point spread essentially says, how many points can we spot the Vikings this week to get people to actually take the Buffalo Bills. And that’s why it’s so high. Through two weeks, no one thinks the Bills are any good.

It’s rare that over the course of a season a point spread will hit this high, especially with only two regular season games to show for it. The 17 points isn’t a record by any means, but it’s an indictment at Week 3, and arguably has more to say about the BIlls than the Vikings, who aren’t 2-0 but in fact 1-0-1.

And so we go fact-hunting and statistic searching, with results that offer some hope this coming Sunday for the team, and maybe some input that will make you sound smart (or like a big time gambler). As a note, these stats only go back to 1980, because that’s how far the very handy and fun OddsShark Database goes back.

  1. This is the seventh time in Bills history they have been an underdog by two touchdowns or more. They lost all seven, and only covered in one game, the most recent, against the New England Patriots in 2008. Curiously, that game took place Week 3 as well, with the Bills visiting the Pats at Foxboro as 14.5 point underdogs. They lost 38-30 behind Ryan Fitzpatrick’s two touchdowns.
  2. The two largest point spreads came in the 1980s, both against the Dolphins. The Bills lost at Miami 38-7 in 1984 as 18.5 point dogs, and against the following year in Miami as 18-point dogs by a score of 28-0.
  3. When you change the framework to double digit underdogs, things look a little bit better. Albeit not for winning straight up. In the Bills last thirty games as dogs by 10 points or more, they’ve only won two, but are still 13-16-1 against the spread.
  4. Looking at the league on whole, the Bills aren’t ranked as badly as other historic mismatches. The Jaguars were very, very bad in 2013, and earned the status of biggest underdog ever. While they were 19 point dogs in September to Seattle, they were given 26.5 points in Denver a month later against Peyton Manning and the Broncos. They lost by 38 to the Seahawk, but kept it to 16 at Mile High.
  5. For what it’s worth, the 1976 Los Angeles Rams beat the Atlanta Falcons 59-0; the Patriots did the same to the Titans in 2009 for the biggest margins of victory in NFL history.
  6. The Bills worst loss in team history was a 56-10 beating by the Patrits in 2007. The second worst loss was Week 1 this year.

Looking ahead, it’s hard to envision the Bills being favoured in any game, barring any big injury to an opponent. Week 5 at home hosting the Titans looks to be low, but playing at Minnesota and then Green Bay isn’t likely to improve how the Bills are perceived around the league. Home games against the Jets and Dolphins in December don’t seem in the Bills favour either.

Conversely, there are likely to be more double digit spreads, though whether or not they will be three score spreads is another matter. The spread Week 4 at the aforementioned Packers will be dependent on Aaron Rodgers availability and health; if he looks good this week, the BIlls can’t be given less than 10 at Lambeau.

The Bills could very easily be double digit dogs at home on October 29 against the Pats (The BIlls have only been favored over the Pats twice in the last 15 years - they lost both). Buffalo has only been underdogs by 10 points or more at home four times - twice against the Brady-led Patriots.

Week 3 Mini Preview: There isn’t much hope going on the road against a great defense, especially one coming off a frustrating tie against a division rival. The Ravens aren’t exactly Super Bowl contenders, and the Chargers showed their typical second half apathy coasting to a victory in Buffalo. The Vikings are better on both sides of the ball. Minnesota is sure to win, and win big. Let’s just try to keep Allen upright.