Cleveland Browns (7-7) at Carolina Panthers (5-8-1)
The Browns had a horrific showing last week at home in Johnny Manziel’s debut losing the first down battle 5-24 against the Bengals and moving the chains at a 35.71% rate, as opposed to 78.38% for the Bengals. As a result of that, this line with Carolina favored by 4 is pretty reasonable. On the season, the Browns move the chains at a 68.28% rate, as opposed to 70.21% for their opponents, a differential of -1.94% that ranks 25th. The Panthers, meanwhile, rank 19th, moving the chains at a 73.45% rate, as opposed to 74.25% for their opponents, a differential of -0.80%.
However, teams generally do well off of a home shutout loss, going 40-26 ATS since 1989 off of a home game in which they didn’t score any points. On top of that, teams are 82-47 ATS since 2002 off of an ATS loss off of 28 or more. It might seem counterintuitive, but it makes sense when you think about it as teams are often overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed in that spot. I don’t think the Browns are undervalued, but they could easily be overlooked and embarrassed. Johnny Manziel, in particular, has been listening all week to how much of a bust he is, even though he’s made just one start and he’s 5 months removed from being a first round pick. I don’t expect him to be nearly as caught off guard this week, humbled off the worst performance of his career.
Neither of these two teams is in a good spot with tough divisional road games next week, Cleveland in Baltimore and Carolina in Atlanta. However, the Browns are in the worse spot. Non-divisional road underdogs (like the Browns) are 51-83 ATS as non-divisional road underdogs before being divisional road underdogs since 2002, while non-divisional home favorites (like the Panthers) are 89-106 ATS as non-divisional home favorites before being divisional road underdogs since 2002. I’m taking the Browns because I like their bounce back potential off of such an ugly loss and I don’t like how everyone is already writing off Johnny Football, but they’re not in a great spot, we’re not getting any line value with them, and Manziel is still unproven, so I’m not confident.
Carolina Panthers 19 Cleveland Browns 17
Pick against the spread: Cleveland +4