Cleveland Browns (5-9) at Denver Broncos (11-3)
Before last week, the Browns hadn’t really gotten blown out all year. They had been competitive in every other game. They only have 3 other losses by more than a touchdown. One of those, a 14 point loss in New York against the Giants, was a lot closer than the final score as the Browns actually led 14-0 early. In another one, a 25-15 loss against the Ravens, they actually scored more frequently than the Ravens, but they had 5 field goals to 3 touchdowns and a field goal for the Ravens. Only a 10 point loss to the Bills week 3 was a game they weren’t really competitive in before last week.
I don’t know what happened last week, but maybe they just were completely unprepared for Kirk Cousins and overlooking him, expecting an easy 4th win in a row with Robert Griffin hurt, and they were completely caught off guard. This is still a team that plays a lot of close games. Their points differential is just -30 at 5-9 and they rank 20th in net points per drive at -0.11. Last year, they lost just 3 of their 12 games by more than 11 points and in 2010, they had just 2 such losses. The Browns are 5-2 ATS as double digit dogs since 2010, as they’ve had the most losses by a touchdown or less in the NFL over that time period. They’re actually 8-5-1 ATS on the season this year.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t get blown out by the Broncos, who have 6 wins this year by 12 or more, which is where this line is at. As a result, they rank 5th in net points per drive at 0.67. As a result of this, we’re not actually getting much line value with the Browns, even though they have played a lot of close games. If we take the difference, multiply by 11 (the average amount of drives per team per game) and add 2.5 for home field, we get that Denver should be favored by 11, which isn’t much of a difference. DVOA somewhat reinforces this as the Broncos rank 3rd in both regular and weighted, while the Browns rank 25th in regular, though 19th in weighted.
On top of that, the Broncos are touchdown plus favorites before being touchdown plus favorites when their opponent will next be touchdown plus dogs. Teams are 100-59 ATS in this spot since 1989, though just 16-13 ATS when both teams have a divisional game next. That trend overall is actually just 34-27 ATS since 2002. I am also worried about the loss of TJ Ward on Cleveland’s defense, but if I had to pick a side, I’d go with Cleveland to play another close game. There might also be some backdoor cover potential here. It’s not a significant play though.
Public lean: Denver (50% range)
Sharps lean: CLE 19 DEN 2
Final thoughts: The sharps love the Browns more than anyone this week. We also have reverse line action. I’m boosting this to 3 units.
Denver Broncos 24 Cleveland Browns 16
Pick against spread: Cleveland +11 (-110) 3 units