After the Kansas City Chiefs cut running back Kareem Hunt late last season, they didn’t miss a beat before losing to the New England Patriots in the AFC title game.
Likewise, after the Chiefs suspended All-Pro wideout Tyreek Hill on Friday for alleged child abuse, oddsmakers at the Westgate sportsbook made only a slight adjustment to Kansas City’s season win total, which opened Sunday at 10½.
“We probably would’ve had the Chiefs at 11 wins if he was going to play,” Westgate sportsbook manager Ed Salmons said. “We still think he’s going to play for the Chiefs.
“I would guess the NFL will suspend him between four and eight games.”
Hill finished fourth in the league last season in touchdown catches (12) and receiving yards (1,479). But quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the reigning NFL MVP, is the biggest key to Kansas City’s success.
“The perception will be they’ll be worse without (Hill),” Salmons said. “But Mahomes is so special. It’s just hard to say.”
Kansas City and New England remain the 6-1 co-favorites to win Super Bowl LIV, followed by the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams at 8-1.
Those four teams are the only ones with double-digit 2019 win totals at the Westgate, which also Sunday posted playoff odds, division odds and games of the year.
Same old New England
“The Patriots’ schedule is the easiest schedule I’ve ever seen,” Salmons said. “I didn’t really want to like the Patriots this year because they’re old and regressing. Then I looked at their schedule.
“I think I had them as an underdog in one game this year, if you count being 1½-point underdogs to the Eagles.”
Rough road for Raiders
The Raiders are at the other end of the spectrum, with one of the league’s lowest win totals at 6. Oakland is a 16-1 underdog to win the AFC West and a 7-1 underdog to make the playoffs.
“The Raiders have the hardest schedule in the league,” Salmons said. “Their easiest road game is at Denver. And we like Denver a lot.
“It will be hard for the Raiders to get seven wins out of that schedule.”
Ripe for regression
The Westgate expects several teams to regress this season, including the Dallas Cowboys (9), Houston Texans (8½) and Chicago Bears (9), who didn’t have a first-round or second-round pick in the NFL draft.
“The Bears had no draft picks and their division is pretty good. I think the Bears will go under their wins,” Salmons said. “Houston had the easiest schedule in the history of football last year.
“I didn’t think much of Dallas last year. They just happened to win a lot of close games. Their division will be much better this year.”
New York, New York
The Westgate is high on the Jets (7½), who haven’t topped five wins since 2015, after they acquired Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell and drafted Alabama defensive end Quinnen Williams.
“We love the Jets this year,” Salmons said. “They’re kind of like last year’s Browns. It’s a big number for a team that hasn’t done much lately.
”It’s Sam Darnold’s second year and they got him some weapons. How can the Jets not be way better?”
The Westgate also is higher on the Giants (6) than most people after they drafted unheralded Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the No. 6 pick.
Salmons said the Giants were in a lot of close games last season and weren’t as bad as their 5-11 record.
“Even though the (general manager) is obviously a moron, the picks they got are only going to help the team on defense and (running back Saquon) Barkley is definitely a weapon,” he said. “They have a chance to win seven games. I don’t think that’s a reach.”
Don’t sleep on Steelers
The Steelers lost Bell and wideout Antonio Brown but are still rated essentially even with the much improved Browns. Both teams have win totals of 9 and Cleveland (+140) is only a slight favorite over Pittsburgh (+150) to win the AFC North.
“The Steelers are another team we think will be better than what people think,” Salmons said. “I know the perception is out there that the Browns are much better. But people need to pump the brakes on the Pittsburgh hate stuff. Pittsburgh is still going to be solid.”