The NFL announced Friday that the Kansas City Chiefs' top receiver, Dwayne Bowe, was suspended for Week 1 against visiting Tennessee. It likely won't shift the NFL odds, but should that affect your wagering choice on that game? Short answer: yes.
Fortunate Just 1 Game?
If the NFL doesn't start allowing marijuana, there might not be enough players to compete every week. I am kidding, but there are reports the league eventually will lessen the penalties for the stuff because it is so widespread among players, not to mention legal in a few states. Bowe was arrested in November by police in Riverside, Mo., for possession of marijuana but pled guilty to lesser charges when his passenger said the stuff was his (of course he did). In one respect, Bowe got off easy because he was suspended four games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances in 2009. I suppose those are two different things.
So what does this mean on the field? Currently the Chiefs are 6-point favorites on Sportsbook.com against the Titans with a total of 44. Sports Insights has Kansas City taking almost 75 percent of the early action. Bowe was listed at +10000 on NFL odds to lead the league in receiving yards. That wasn't going to happen regardless, but it's now even more remote.
The Kansas City offense already is very limited even with Bowe. Perhaps no team throws more short passes than the Chiefs. Alex Smith averaged only 6.52 yards per attempt in 2013. True, that helps boost his completion percentage and limits interception chances, but defenses have no fear of the deep pass so they can stack the box to stop star Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles. The Titans can do that more in the opener.
Bowe might be the most overpaid receiver in football after signing a five-year, $56 million extension last offseason. He will make nearly $12 million in 2014. Bowe caught only 57 passes (out of 105 targets) for 673 yards and five touchdowns in 2013 without coming close to a 100-yard game. His longest reception was just 34 yards. He did have a big wild-card game (eight catches, 150 yards, TD) in the loss against Indianapolis. Bowe ranked 61st in receiver efficiency, according to Football Outsiders. He reported to camp in the best shape of his life but has been dealing with a finger injury, with said finger having been dislocated about "15 times" according to Coach Andy Reid. That has led to a case of the drops. Interestingly, the suspension voids any base salary guarantees in Bowe's contract. He might be a candidate to be cut after this season.
So who replaces Bowe, who has led the Chiefs in receptions in each of his seven seasons, in the starting lineup? Someone from Junior Hemingway, A.J. Jenkins, Kyle Williams and rookie Albert Wilson. Those players have a combined total of 68 NFL catches. Bowe has 472. Kansas City's other starter is the mediocre Donnie Avery, who caught 40 balls for 596 yards and two scores in 2013.
The Chiefs visited the Titans in Week 5 last season and won 26-17 as 2.5-point favorites. Kansas City led 13-0 at the half, fell behind 17-13 early in the fourth and then Charles gave the Chiefs the lead for good on a 1-yard TD run with 6:27 left. Bowe was targeted six times and had four catches for 35 yards. Charles essentially was the offense that day with 22 carries for 108 yards and a team-high five catches for 37 yards. Minus Bowe, Tennessee can stick top cornerback Jason McCourty on Avery and keep a safety in the box, clogging up the lanes for Charles. The Titans will dare Smith to beat them. He's not that type of quarterback.
NFL Free Picks: Liked the Titans and the 'under' before this suspension and more so now. If Avery gets hurt sometime during camp or in the opener, the Chiefs are really up the creek. Charles may get 35 touches, and he'll be shadowed by a few Titans everywhere he goes.