Cleveland Browns (0-4) at New York Giants (2-2)
In my weekly Power Rankings, I had the Browns in last for the 3rd straight week, but I didn’t feel comfortable about. Yes, the Browns are one of two remaining 0-4 teams and compared to the other one, New Orleans, they’re much less likely to turn things around. They’re the only 0-4 team that isn’t really a surprise. Everyone predicted they’d be bad, as they had been for years, and that’s been the case.
However, I really didn’t feel like they’ve been awful. They have lost a single game by more than 10 points and they’ve had a fairly tough schedule, playing Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Buffalo, and then Baltimore. Jacksonville has a win, but I don’t feel like they’ve looked good in any of their games, even their win, and their 2nd year quarterback appears to be much more of a bust than the Browns’ 1st year quarterback Brandon Weeden, who has improved as this season has gone on.
The Browns, meanwhile, rank just 23rd in the league in yards per play differential, which is not horrendous at all. If I were to compare then to Minnesota, Miami, Indianapolis, and St. Louis, all of whom started last year 0-4, I think they’re closer to Miami, who eventually finished 6-10, than the other three, who all got top-3 picks in the NFL draft.
So yes, the Browns are bad, but I they’re not awful and I feel like they’re underrated. Also, given that they have only lost 1 game by more than a touchdown and none by more than 10, I like that we’re getting 9 points with them this week. They’re 2-1-1 ATS this year and should be able to keep this one close again and improve to 3-1-1. On trend that works in Cleveland’s favor, teams in their 2nd straight road game as dogs off a loss are 59-38 ATS since 2008.
I also like that the public is betting the Giants, yet the spread is still falling. Also, even though the spread is falling, there is line value here. Going back to the Browns’ 23rd ranked yards per play differential, they have a differential .4 yards worse than the Giants. An old gambling formula tells says to divide that by .15 and add 3 for home field either way. By that logic, this line should be -5.5 in favor of the Giants, so we get 3 points of line value, which is significant. They’re also rested coming off 10 days rest, a situation teams are 111-89 ATS in since 1989.
Now, onto the Giants. They’re in a very tough spot this week. They’re coming off a loss to the Eagles as dogs and looking forward to a trip to San Francisco, where they will certainly be dogs. This is a classic breather game for them against the “lowly” Browns. Teams in that situation are 52-78 ATS since 2008. They’re also incredibly banged up. Kenny Phillips is expected to miss this game, which will hurt a pass defense that already ranks dead last in the league in YPA. An improving Brandon Weeden should be able to move the ball on them, just like everyone else has.
Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden are also expected to miss, though that’s not as big because Eli has proven he can put up big numbers in spite of banged up receiving corps. On top of that, two starting offensive lineman might not play. Eli is one of the best in the league at avoiding sacks when under pressure, but like any quarterback, his completion percentage does drop under pressure. Finally, this team is just 22-30 ATS at home since 2006 and 40-18 ATS on the road. I love exploiting these road/home disparities. Banged up and in a breather game situation, the Giants could find themselves in a game very similar to their week 2 game, needing a comeback to beat an inferior opponent.
Public lean: NY Giants (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Cleveland covers)
Sharp lean: CLE 8 NYG 2
Final Update: The LV Hilton sharps seem very afraid to bet this game for some reason, but when do they, they pick Cleveland. No one likes the Giants this week. I feel pretty confident about this one.
New York Giants 31 Cleveland Browns 27
Pick against spread: Cleveland +9 (-110) 4 units