Week 6 in the NFL featured blowouts in two of the more anticipated matchups, but there were wild finishes from start to finish on Sunday, with the Jaguars picking up their first win on a walk-off field goal to open and the Steelers pulling out an overtime victory to close. It was also a light day on the injury report; the damage report will address those, but this week’s article will focus on some of the NFL’s divisional races with the first third of the season in the books. All Division Odds are provided by DraftKings.
Denver vs. Cleveland: Can Cleveland Stay Alive in AFC North?
Los Angeles at Baltimore and Arizona at Cleveland failed to live up to expectations, but while the Chargers’ loss can be written off as a mulligan, there are reasons for serious concern about Cleveland after Sunday’s blowout loss. Cleveland’s loss dropped them to 3-3, the same record as their Thursday Night opponent, the Denver Broncos, which makes the matchup significant in the early AFC Wild Card race as well as the AFC North race, though the Broncos appear to be fading from playoff contention.
The Browns will be without running back Kareem Hunt, who suffered a calf injury Sunday; if lead back Nick Chubb is unable to return after missing this week’s game, Cleveland’s run-centric offense will be at a notable disadvantage, particularly if offensive tackles Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin are out again. Quarterback Baker Mayfield is playing through a shoulder injury and receiver Odell Beckham also injured a shoulder Sunday, which leaves the Browns with few healthy weapons, a reason that the total on the game has dropped from 44 to 42.5 since Sunday.
It’s fortunate for Cleveland that they are not facing the NFL’s best competition this week; Denver quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw three interceptions and was sacked five times against the Raiders, which does not lend a great deal of confidence as he enters a matchup with Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett. It could be difficult for Cleveland’s offense to get on track with the injuries to Mayfield and the running backs, but the defense has a chance to get right against Denver.
The Browns became the AFC North favorite after injuries to Baltimore’s J.K. Dobbins (RB), Gus Edwards (RB), and Marcus Peters (CB), but they have fallen behind Baltimore to the second-place team at +300 on DraftKings. Baltimore is the favorite at -250, but Cincinnati’s AFC North odds may be the most interesting at +1100. The Bengals face the Ravens this week; Baltimore is favored by seven to open, but if you like the Bengals to pull off the upset, it would make sense to put an associated bet on them to win the division, because the odds would shift dramatically if they get the win. If Cleveland also lost, the Bengals could jump from third to first; it’s a long-shot for a franchise that has flopped in key spots in the past, particularly against a Ravens team coming off a dominant win over the Chargers, but it’s also a great opportunity for Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow to make a statement on the road.
AFC West: Chiefs Back in It
The Chargers should rebound from their loss to Baltimore, but it did open the door for the Chiefs to close the gap in the AFC West. Kansas City got off to a shaky start as sloppy offensive play resulted in three first-half turnovers, but quarterback Patrick Mahomes got into a rhythm in the second half and led the Chiefs to a comfortable win. With matchups against the Titans, who will be coming off a Monday Night matchup against Buffalo, and the Giants in the next two weeks, the Chiefs should be able to continue building back from their early-season struggles.
Las Vegas was able to pick up a win over Denver despite the distractions of the past week, but that win seems more likely to indicate that Denver won’t compete for the division rather than that Las Vegas is poised to make a run. The Raiders’ 4-2 record says otherwise, but the on-field product hasn’t matched that winning percentage; it should be a two-horse race between the Chiefs and Chargers, which is reflected by the DraftKings odds. Kansas City is the favorite at +110 to Los Angeles at +130, which is a bit of a surprise given that the Chargers beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead, but there is an argument to bet either team at better than +100 odds or to bet both of them at these odds, as this division appears set to come down to the two of them.
Dallas, Green Bay, Tampa Bay in Control
The NFC East suffered several prominent injuries on Sunday, as Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, Washington running back Antonio Gibson, and New York Giants receiver Kadarius Toney all had lower-body issues come up. Prescott’s injury came on the final play of the game and he may not miss any time, as Dallas is on a bye, but the Gibson and Toney injuries are further blows to teams that have disappointed in the NFC East.
It was expected before the season that Green Bay and Tampa Bay would run away with their divisions, but Washington’s no-show left Dallas with negligible competition in the NFC East. Dallas currently has the longest odds of the three division leaders at -1000 while Green Bay and Tampa Bay sit at -600, and it’s difficult to come up with arguments to bet a long-shot against any of the three given Carolina’s collapse over the past three weeks. The Vikings and Saints are tied for the best underdog odds at +450, and both teams still have two matchups against their respective division leaders, but quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady appear locked in and will be tough to beat.
An interesting play from this group of teams on DraftKings is Minnesota to make the playoffs at +175, a bet that hinges heavily on Minnesota’s performance over their next four games against the Cowboys, the Ravens, the Chargers, and the Packers. The Vikings and Cowboys are both on byes this week, but Minnesota could be must-watch football for a month starting in Week 8. It probably makes more sense to wait until the end of this stretch, when Minnesota may have longer playoff odds entering the stretch of the NFL season when they can make up ground, but for Vikings fans who like their team to go 3-1 over this stretch, the +175 to make the playoffs would be a solid bet to have in place.
This article recapped developments around the NFL from Week Six. For more of The Professor’s content, including his best bets for Week Seven, check him out on BeerLife Sports!