Browns crash from big favorite to underdog with Baker Mayfield's COVID case

Lance Pugmire
USA TODAY Sports+

The Cleveland Browns’ COVID-19 outbreak that has ensnared quarterback Baker Mayfield and coach Kevin Stefanski forced prominent bookmakers to dramatically alter the point spread for Saturday’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders. 

For the home game fraught with playoff and AFC North division-title repercussions, sports books originally sliced the Browns (7-6) from as great as a 6.5-point favorite to just a three-point favorite following a rash of Tuesday positives. 

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WynnBET was one of the first to fully revise the line Wednesday, making the Raiders a two-point favorite.

Many other shops are keeping the game off the board for now.

“If you lose eight or nine starters, it has a huge impact on the line,” said Jay Kornegay, the Las Vegas Superbook’s race and sports director. “Now, with the Mayfield news, and with many of the Browns still pending, you’ll see an additional shift in the line whenever we post it. 

“It seems like the NFL is adding to this massive COVID list every six to nine hours, so we’ll wait until we have the appropriate information. There’s time. We just have to know who’s on the field and who’s not on the field.”  

Browns QB Baker Mayfield is hoping he can return from the COVID list for Monday's game against the Raiders.

Tipico Sportsbook took the game off the board Wednesday morning following the Browns' announcement Mayfield, defensive tackle Malik McDowell, cornerback Troy Hill, defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo and safeties John Johnson and Nathan Meadors were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. 

Those players join eight other Browns sidelined Tuesday, including No. 1 receiver Jarvis Landry, tight end Austin Hooper and offensive linemen Wyatt Teller, Drew Forbes and Jedrick Willis. 

The Browns, who used backup quarterback Case Keenum to defeat the Denver Broncos earlier this season when Mayfield was injured, host the Raiders (6-7) at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday. 

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Las Vegas has lost two consecutive games, while the Browns (5-2 at home) are tied with the Cincinati Bengals one game behind AFC North division leader Baltimore. The Pittsburgh Steelers hover at 6-6-1. 

Quarterback losses tend to have the most impact on the line, as was seen earlier this season when the Green Bay Packers’ line moved down six points because quarterback Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 before a loss at Kansas City. 

As a Thursday night game for AFC West supremacy arrives, the Chiefs were downgraded half a point by the Las Vegas Superbook. This followed head coach Andy Reid’s announcement standout defensive lineman Chris Jones entered the COVID protocol, along with lightly-used receiver Josh Gordon. 

Riding a six-game win streak, Kansas City (9-4) is a three-point favorite over the Chargers (8-5) at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. The Chargers have won two straight and beat the Chiefs on the road earlier this season.  

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The Chiefs badly want to pressure Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, who was named AFC offensive player of the week for shredding the New York Giants at home Sunday. Herbert gets All-Pro receiver Keenan Allen back from the COVID list this week. 

The Chargers seek their first AFC West title since 2009. Before Jones was struck, the Chargers fretted about how to stop him from reaching Herbert because their standout rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater was sent to the COVID list. 

Slater hasn’t been ruled out and his status is seen as critical, given that his replacement would be the mistake-prone, highly criticized Trey Pipkins. 

Meanwhile, the Chargers’ co-tenant Los Angeles Rams shrunk from an opening seven-point favorite to -4.5 at Tipico, and as low as four points at some other shops, including the Las Vegas Superbook. 

The Rams’ freefall is linked to the positives of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and nine teammates, including Pro Bowl defensive back Jalen Ramsey and No. 1 running back Darrell Henderson. 

“The more testing they do, the more positives they’ll have … and the more we’ll know,” Kornegay said. 

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