Week 8 was a crazy one in the NFL, with the list of stunners headlined by Cincinnati’s collapse against quarterback Mike White and the New York Jets. The Bengals held a 31-20 lead with five minutes remaining in the game, but between an incredible effort by Jets running back Ty Johnson on a catch-and-run touchdown, a brutal interception by Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, and a final touchdown from White to tight end Tyler Kroft, the Jets were able to pull off a spectacular comeback.
White threw for 405 yards in what was undoubtedly a strong outing, but those 405 yards came despite throwing only ten of his pass attempts to receivers beyond ten yards. White did make some nice throws in those spots, but his yardage total was driven by an improbable number of explosive gains on check-downs and screen passes that will be difficult to sustain moving forward. It was a memorable debut as an NFL starter, but the Jets probably aren’t ready to scrap the Zach Wilson plan in favor of the Mike White plan based on this weekend’s game.
The Cincinnati loss tightened up the AFC North, a common theme for that conference’s divisions. Tennessee appeared to have a stranglehold on the AFC South until Monday morning’s news that running back Derrick Henry could miss the rest of the season with a foot injury, which opens a chance for redemption for Colts quarterback Carson Wentz, while New England’s win over the Chargers put the Patriots on Buffalo’s heels in the AFC East and kept the field wide open in the AFC West.
Clearer pictures are resolving in the NFC, where the Cowboys’ win without quarterback Dak Prescott over the Minnesota Vikings helped them secure the NFC East and put the Green Bay Packers well in front of the field for the NFC North. New Orleans joined Tennessee as teams that arguably won the battle but lost the war this weekend, as quarterback Jameis Winston went down with a serious knee injury in their win over Tampa Bay. Winston’s injury could leave the NFC West, where the Cardinals and Rams are tied at 7-1, as the only NFC Division set to have a serious race.
This damage report article will dive deeper into these division races around the NFL; all odds are provided by DraftKings.
Won the Battle but Lost the War?
New Orleans showed resilience as quarterback Trevor Siemian led them to a come-from-behind win after Jameis Winston went down with a serious knee injury. Tampa took the lead late and appeared to be in a position for a final game-winning drive, but quarterback Tom Brady threw an interception to P.J. Williams that sealed the game for the Saints.
New Orleans sits at 5-2, Tampa Bay at 6-2, but despite Siemian’s efforts on Sunday, Winston’s injury puts the Saints in a difficult position moving forward. Taysom Hill is expected to clear concussion protocol and take over at quarterback against the Falcons this week, but given that Winston was starting, the coaching staff sees Hill as a downgrade. The acquisition of running back Mark Ingram to reunite with Alvin Kamara in the backfield gives New Orleans the bodies they need to operate a run-heavy attack around Hill, but there’s a lot to adjust schematically before the Atlanta game. New Orleans isn’t down and out because head coach Sean Payton can scheme up a productive offense around Hill’s skill set but the loss of Winston widens the talent gap between the Saints and the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay currently sits at -400 and New Orleans at +300 on DraftKings’ NFC South Division odds; there is value on Tampa Bay relative to other division favorites, but it may not be a great edge given that the dropoff from Winston to Hill is relatively small for an NFL starting quarterback to a backup.
Tennessee picked up a hard-fought win over Indianapolis in overtime, but while running back Derrick Henry made it through the game, he suffered a potentially season-ending foot injury. No NFL team depends more on their running back; with Henry down, quarterback Ryan Tannehill will need to prove he’s worth his big cap number. Tannehill has been an efficient and explosive quarterback in his time in Tennessee, but this will be his first opportunity to show he can maintain that favorable balance without Henry drawing the defense’s attention. Receiver A.J. Brown has hit his stride and depth receivers are emerging behind him, but it would be a boost if Julio Jones’ persistent hamstring injuries cease at some point during this season and allow him to contribute more consistently.
The Titans are at -2000 and the Colts at +1000 for the AFC South crown; when you add up Tennessee’s 6-2 record, Indianapolis’s 3-5 record, and the astonishingly poor decision quarterback Carson Wentz made to throw that interception from his own endzone, it’s hard to see the Colts rallying this season, but Tennessee doesn’t offer much value at these odds.
Dallas Win Helps Lock in Two Divisions
Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson’s absence was a concern entering the NFL weekend. That showed up in a big way on the final drive, when Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper made big plays on both of Minnesota’s outside cornerbacks, Bashaud Breeland and Cameron Dantzler, to secure a road win for the Cowboys despite the absence of quarterback Dak Prescott.
Philadelphia blew out a hapless Detroit team, but the Dallas win snuffed out much of the hope Eagles fans might have gained from that victory. The Cowboys are now at 6-1, the Eagles at 3-5, and while this victory offers Dallas the luxury of potentially sitting Prescott for another week as they face the Denver Broncos, it would be a tall task for Philadelphia to rally even if Prescott does miss more games. The Eagles could flip the script if they beat a Chargers team coming off a loss to the Patriots, but as it stands, the Cowboys are in control of the East, as reflected by their -5000 odds on DraftKings.
The Packers have a similar stranglehold on the NFC North after they picked up a road win over the Arizona Cardinals without star receiver Davante Adams. Green Bay and Minnesota have both of their head-to-head matchups remaining, so the Vikings do have an opportunity to flip the script with a sweep of their rivals, but that is a daunting task against a Packers team that has been one of the NFL’s best since their Week One dud against the Saints. Green Bay is a -2000 favorite to win the NFC North on DraftKings; there’s a possibility there will be some value on that bet if the Vikings win the head-to-head matchup three weeks from now, but not much profit to gain as it presently stands.
Raiders Still Standing
Life moves fast in the NFL and as the Jon Gruden debacle fades away, the Raiders still stand atop the AFC West. The Chargers do have a head-to-head win over the Raiders, but Los Angeles’s consecutive losses dropped them to 4-3 ahead of a game against the Eagles, while the Raiders sit at 5-2 with a matchup with the Giants coming up.
Denver has the division’s best point differential at +20 and Patrick Mahomes still plays quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, which makes the AFC West as competitive as any in the NFL save the AFC North. Denver’s wins have come against relatively hapless opponents, which is why they have DraftKings’ longest division odds (+1400) despite having the best point differential, but the Raiders, Chargers, and Chiefs all remain in contention. The Chargers have the best odds at +125, the Chiefs the second-best at +225, and the Raiders the third-best at +275; though The Professor would stack it the same way, there’s certainly an argument that there is value on betting on the division-leading Raiders at the third-longest odds this deep into the NFL season.
The AFC West and AFC North are the two divisions that have four teams with relatively short division odds on DraftKings; in the North, Baltimore is favored at -145, the Bengals sit at +350, and the Browns and Steelers are tied at +650. This weekend’s unbelievable collapse against the Jets aside, the Bengals probably offer the best value in the AFC North at their odds, but as we approach the midway point of the NFL season, there’s no question that this division is up for grabs.
This article recapped developments from around the NFL this weekend. For more of The Professor’s content check him out on BeerLife Sports!