Washington Redskins (7-6) at Cleveland Browns (5-8)
Robert Griffin is expected to be a true game time decision for this one and we won’t know for sure about his status until tomorrow morning. Lines are slowly starting to trickle in spite of this and if you had to ask me, I’d said it’s more likely than not that Robert Griffin plays. Normally, when a quarterback is a game time decision, he plays.
It’s only when a quarterback is ruled out in the week prior that he doesn’t play and this is such a huge game for the Redskins if they want to make the playoffs, I can’t see him sitting out. The fact that lines are already starting to trickle in is a good sign, especially since Washington is favored by 1 (they were favored by 2.5 a week ago). That suggests that the odds makers are fairly sure Griffin will play.
I’m going to make this pick as if I’m fairly sure Griffin will play, for that reason. We are getting some line value with the Browns, who are better than their 5-8 record would suggest. They are just -13 in points differential and they rank 16th in net points per drive at -0.03. The Redskins, meanwhile, rank 15th in net points per drive at -0.02. These teams are basically equal and if you take the difference, multiply by 11 (the average amount of drives per team per game), and add 2.5 points for home field, you get that Cleveland should be favored by those 2.5 points.
However, that doesn’t hold up to DVOA. Washington ranks 10th in DVOA, which takes things into account things like strength of schedule, and 11th in weighted DVOA. Cleveland, meanwhile, ranks 25th in regular and 20th in weighted DVOA. Cleveland is also in a bad spot as home dogs off a win as home favorites, a situation teams are 52-72 ATS in since 1989, the only trend that is relevant in this one.
Furthermore, I just don’t want to bet against Griffin right now and I don’t think the Browns are ready to win straight up against a team like the Redskins yet. They’ve hung with some good teams, but they need to win straight up to cover here. It’s only a small play because of the uncertainty of Griffin and it would rank near the bottom in any confidence pools, but the Redskins are the pick.
Public lean: ?
Final update: Griffin was surprisingly ruled out today and Kirk Cousins will start tomorrow. This line is now Cleveland -2. I like betting on good teams starting backup quarterbacks as they tend to give 110% to compensate and opponents tend to overlook them. Remember the Steelers beating the Ravens with Charlie Batch?
The Browns also have bigger things to worry about as they have trips to Denver and Pittsburgh next on the agenda. Favorites are 35-72 ATS since 2008 before being touchdown dogs and 7-20 ATS before being touchdown dogs in two straight. Teams are also 105-62 ATS as dogs before being favorites in the last 2 seasons and the Redskins go to Philadelphia next week, when they should have Griffin back. When the opponent will next be dogs, teams are 116-59 ATS in that spot since 2008.
It’d be a bigger play, but I feel like the 4.5 point line movement from last week (the Redskins were -2.5) is not enough to compensate for Griffin’s loss, especially considering the Browns looked pretty impressive last week, blowing out the Chiefs. Griffin might be the league’s most valuable player outside of Brady and Manning this year and the Redskins supporting cast isn’t very good. It’d be a big play at +4 or more, but not at +2. The Redskins should be the right side though.
Final update II: Now at +4, I like the Redskins a lot more.
Washington Redskins 20 Cleveland Browns 17 Upset Pick +180
Pick against spread: Washington +4 (-110) 3 units