Cleveland Browns (3-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-0)
Last week, I took a 3rd string quarterback in Kansas City as significant underdogs, even though I was scared, because they were in such a good spot. That worked out for me as Case Keenum led the Texans to a near win as the Chiefs won by a final score of just 17-16. This week, the Chiefs are once again facing a 3rd string quarterback at home and the Browns, like the Texans were last week, are in a good spot. I actually like the Browns even more than I did the Texans for two reasons.
The first reason is that this line is a point higher. That might not seem like a significant difference, but it is because 7 is a key number. Approximately 8% of games are decided by exactly a touchdown. The second reason is I trust Jason Campbell more than I did Case Keenum. Keenum was a complete unknown going into last week’s game. He couldn’t get himself drafted in 2012 and he hadn’t played an NFL snap in his career. That scared me. Campbell, however, is proven.
With the Raiders, he went 11-7 in 2010 and 2011 with a team that hadn’t won more than 5 games in a season since 2003 and has gone 10-22 in their next 26 games without him. He really didn’t look good in about 6 quarters of work in place of an injured Jay Cutler in Chicago last year, but he was facing two of the best defenses in the NFL last season in San Francisco and Houston in those two games and he had very little offensive supporting talent around him. He has 71 career starts so I’m not going to base my opinion on him off of 6 quarters last year. We know what he is. His career quarterback rating is 82.4 as he’s completed 60.8% of his passes for an average of 6.7 YPA, 76 touchdowns, and 52 interceptions.
He’s not great, but he’s alright and he’ll almost definitely be an upgrade over Brandon Weeden. The Browns have a solid supporting cast. We saw Brian Hoyer win 3 games in 3 tries with the team earlier this season before tearing his ACL because he was able to get the ball to Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron downfield and rely on a solid defense. Jason Campbell should be able to do his best Brian Hoyer impression.
It helps Campbell that the Browns are in a good spot this week, as I mentioned earlier. They are road dogs off of a road loss, a situation teams are 95-55 ATS in since 2008 and a situation which historically covers at around a 65% rate, no matter what year you use to cut off your sample. Meanwhile, while the Chiefs are 7-0 and have a top-5, arguably top-1 defense, they aren’t as good as their record. They don’t move the ball well offensively and they’ve faced a cupcake schedule and they’ve been helped by an unsustainable turnover margin of +11.
In 4 home games, they beaten the Texans and Cowboys by a point a piece and their games with the Giants and Raiders were within a touchdown going into the 4th quarter before a few fluky things busted things open. The Browns have a much better defense than those two teams so they should be able to keep it a close, low scoring game like the Texans and Cowboys did. Despite that, the public is still all over the undefeated Chiefs like they were last week. I expect a similar result and the odds makers to make money again.
The only concern here and the reason why this isn’t a Pick of the Week is that Cleveland might lack enough focus to keep this close. They have a big divisional home game against the Ravens, while the Chiefs have no distractions with a trip to Buffalo on deck. Non-divisional road dogs are 49-76 ATS since 2002 before being divisional home dogs, while non-divisional home favorites are 66-45 ATS since 2008 before being non-divisional road favorites. However, since the Chiefs are 7-0, I think the Browns will be plenty focused. Home favorites who are 5-0 or better are 19-30 ATS since 2002. It’s a big play on the Browns.
Kansas City Chiefs 16 Cleveland Browns 13
Pick against spread: Cleveland +7.5