The Broncos begin the 2015 regular season at home against Baltimore, and they have opened as point spread favorites, just as they have been in 27-of-28 games in Denver since Peyton Manning arrived three years ago.
However, the Broncos aren’t huge favorites by any stretch, and that’s telling.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, which set the first Week One lines in Nevada, has made Denver a four-point favorite over Baltimore. The CG Technology sports books have similarly listed the Broncos as four-point favorites, per VegasInsider.com.
Now contrast that line to the last two point spreads in Ravens-Broncos matchups in Denver with Manning under center.
In the 2012 divisional playoffs, the Broncos were nine-point favorites over Baltimore, which pulled off the upset and went on to win the Super Bowl.
In the 2013 regular season opener, the Broncos were 7.5-point favorites vs. the Ravens. This time, the Broncos turned the tables, rolling to victory.
In short, the opening point spread for Baltimore-Denver suggests the Nevada betting market doesn’t see a significant difference between the clubs entering 2015.
Think of it this way: it’s generally assumed the home field is worth about a field goal on the line. Take that out of the equation, and a Denver-Baltimore game on a neutral field might have an even narrower point spread.
There are multiple factors likely at play here. The Broncos lost some of their core talent in free agency, most notably tight end Julius Thomas and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. There’s also the matter of what the 39-year-old Manning has left. Furthermore, the Ravens gave Super Bowl-winning New England all it could handle in the 2014 divisional playoffs.
It will be interesting to see how handicappers treat the Broncos in 2015. Some might see the prospect of a Manning-led team laying a mere four points as value. Others, however, might decide the end is near.
It’s against this backdrop that the Baltimore-Denver line is set. Are these the big, bad Broncos of recent years, or are they just the Broncos?