Week 9 in the NFL was full of upsets, with several heavy favorites dropping games to upend Survivor Pools for NFL fans everywhere. Chaos reigned in the AFC, where the Derrick Henry-less Tennessee Titans are the only team with a semblance of control in their division race, while the Cardinals were able to gain ground in the NFC West despite the absences of several offensive stars. It was as wild a week as any NFL fans have seen this season, but that’s what makes it worth tuning in.
The division odds in this article are provided by DraftKings.
Survivor Pool Destruction
It was a brutal week for survivor pools contestants who played the favorites. It didn’t stop with the big favorites who lost, as Kansas City might not have escaped against Green Bay if not for several special teams miscues by the Packers.
The Rams and Chiefs were playing against likely playoff teams but were heavily favored due to the absences of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Tennessee’s Derrick Henry. Those circumstances arguably make the losses by the Bills and Cowboys more stunning in comparison. Buffalo and Dallas have consistently played at a top-five level this season, while Jacksonville and Denver have been among the NFL’s bottom feeders, but the script flipped on Sunday and the repercussions are significant.
Denver’s win over Dallas did little to alter the NFC East playoff picture but it put the Broncos back in the thick of the AFC West race, where all four teams are either 5-3 or 5-4 after the weekend’s action. Buffalo’s loss dropped them to 5-3 while New England picked up a win over the Panthers to get to 5-4, setting up an AFC East race over the back half of the season that appeared unlikely a month ago. In the NFC West, Arizona took the outright lead over the Rams as they picked up a win despite the absence of quarterback Kyler Murray and receivers DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green, which added salt to the Rams’ brutal loss on Sunday Night Football.
The AFC West race will be discussed in more depth below; in the AFC East and NFC West, the weekend’s action opened potential betting opportunities. Buffalo remains the AFC East at -500 while New England has jumped up to +350 odds for the division; in the NFC West, Arizona is now the favorite at -225 with the Rams at +190. Of the four, The Professor would take the odds on the Rams because of the price; Arizona and Buffalo both deserve to be the favorites, but there isn’t a huge edge to gain by betting those teams at this time.
Crowded AFC North
The AFC North is not quite as tight as the AFC West but will be a close second if Pittsburgh beats Chicago tonight, which would leave the Ravens with six wins and the other three teams with five.
It’s an intriguing division because all four teams have been left for dead at some point in the NFL season. Baltimore had a string of preseason injuries and lost their opener against Las Vegas, the Steelers got off to a slow start, the Browns went through a month of injury-driven mediocrity, and now the Bengals have dropped two straight since they beat the Ravens to seize the division lead.
The replays of some of the recent cross-division games will be of particular interest moving forward; Cincinnati blew out Baltimore on the back of receiver Ja’Marr Chase’s standout performance, while Cleveland’s defensive trio of cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome and safety John Johnson teamed up for numbers game-changing plays that all swung the game in Cleveland’s direction. Those three teams are closer than the results of their head-to-head matchups indicate; given that the Steelers have trended in the right direction throughout the NFL season, it could be anyone’s race.
Twelve of the sixteen AFC teams remain in the thick of the playoff race; given that these AFC North teams will beat up on each other, the race for the AFC North crown becomes all the more important. Baltimore is the favorite at -175, with the Browns at +450, the Steelers at +550, and the Bengals at +700.
Cincinnati is coming off two brutal losses and quarterback Joe Burrow and receiver Ja’Marr Chase left numerous opportunities for big plays on the field but The Professor would point to them as the best value in this tightly-contested race. The Bengals have played sloppy football and that will have to change dramatically for them to capture this division but the talent is there and the price, which has a break-even win rate of 12.5% is appealing.
Broncos Alive without Von Miller
Jacksonville’s win over Buffalo merits a place in the discussion for the biggest shocker of the NFL weekend, but given that Denver appeared to wave the white flag when they traded franchise icon Von Miller to the Los Angeles Rams, their road win over the Dallas Cowboys took the cake.
The Broncos did not look particularly impressive when they held on for a win against Washington two weeks ago, but the win over the Cowboys indicates that this team deserves a second look. The Professor would argue that quarterback Justin Herbert’s play makes the Chargers the best bet to win the AFC West, but quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense are talented despite their recent issues, the Broncos may be the most complete team, and the Raiders have the talent to rebound from an emotionally challenging week and their loss to the New York Giants, though that did not get off to a great start when former first-round pick Damon Arnette released a threat-filled video that caused the team to cut him Monday.
Much like the AFC North, these AFC West teams will beat up on each other, and the issue is compounded by the fact that these two divisions play each other in full division crossovers. Baltimore has already played all for AFC West teams; if you believe the Ravens are the best team in either division, it would be one reason to tip the scales toward AFC West teams over AFC North teams for odds to make the playoffs as a Wild Card.
In terms of the AFC West Title, DraftKings agrees with The Professor that the Chargers should be the favorite and has priced them at +130. Kansas City is +160, the Raiders +550, and Denver +700; in this case, The Professor would stick to the favorite and take the Chargers at +130, which has a break-even rate of 43.5%.
This article recapped developments from around the NFL this weekend. For more of The Professor’s content check him out on BeerLife Sports!
Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.