The National Football League kicks off their final week of the regular season with two games today and the rest of the teams in action tomorrow. The competition starts with an afternoon contest between the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos and has the Philadelphia Eagles hosting the Dallas Cowboys in the nightcap.
Three of the teams in action today, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Dallas, are headed to the playoffs. The Cowboys have clinched the NFC East Division title and will be in action next week while the top seed, and only National Football Conference bye week, has already been secured by Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers.
The Kansas City Chiefs are hoping to secure the AFC top seed with a win today and a loss tomorrow by the Tennessee Titans. The Chiefs relinquished control of their own destiny last Sunday with their road loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Had they won that game, Kansas City would have only needed a win today to lock up the top seed. With the loss in the Queen City, Andy Reid’s squad needs help even with a victory today, and they are not likely to get it with the Titans playing the woeful Houston Texans tomorrow.
While I think the Chiefs win today, the double-digit line causes pause for risking money on the proposition. The Broncos would like nothing better than to end the Chiefs top seed hopes and can go full out without fear of failure or protecting players from injury given their season will end late this afternoon.
With both the Eagles and Cowboys assured of a Wild Card weekend playoff date, who these teams are willing to risk injury to in an almost meaningless contest leaves this game in the for viewing purposes only category.
What we are looking for in the final week of the season is a point spread that makes no sense, one that is designed by the books to lure money to the wrong side of the proposition. We get that in Cleveland.
The Browns were horrible on Monday night during their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers as fourth year signal caller Baker Mayfield looked both physically challenged and failed to make a number of reads one would think an experienced NFL quarterback would have mastered by now. Turns out, Mayfield was hurting, and is scheduled for off-season surgery and will not see action tomorrow. He will be replaced by veteran Case Keenum.
In other words, the Browns are without their starting quarterback and hosting a Cincinnati Bengals team that clinched the AFC North Division title last week with their win over the Chiefs.
If the Bengals beat the Browns tomorrow they could earn the AFC top seed and the coveted first week bye … but for that to happen, in addition to Zac Taylor’s squad winning they would also have to see the Chiefs lose today and the Titans upset by the Texans on Sunday.
The Bengals are taking the approach to this game that their playoff spot is locked in with the AFC North Division title and they are getting ready for the postseason by resting key players, most notably, quarterback Joe Burrow.
A week ago, Burrow outdueled Patrick Mahomes in their division clinching win and late in that game he injured his knee. The bruised knee is not serious and is not the one he had surgically repaired last year. If this game did surely mean something to the Bengals, he would in all likelihood be playing today. But, given it probably doesn’t matter to the Bengals playoff seeding, the organization has taken the wise route of resting Burrow to have him in the best possible physical shape for next week’s opening playoff round.
The books know what that means.
The opening line on this contest had the Bengals favored by three points and now they are a six point underdog in Cleveland.
This is a final week of the season gem where one team, the home team in this case, has an opportunity to erase some sting of not earning a postseason berth after high hopes at the season start against a team that has risen from the ashes and won their division. The Bengals are fine on allowing the Browns a satisfying but meaningless win while they prepare for the playoffs and Cleveland begins preparation for next April’s draft.
Qoxhi Picks: Cleveland Browns (-6) over Cincinnati Bengals