Cleveland Browns (2-4) at St. Louis Rams (2-3)
One of the most important things to look at when picking a side against the spread is who the teams are playing next. Typically, the difficulty of a team’s upcoming matchup seems to at least correlate with their likelihood of covering this time. In this game between the Browns and Rams in St. Louis, the Browns have easily the tougher upcoming matchup, as they host the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals, while the Rams host the bottom dwelling San Francisco 49ers. While the Browns are expected to be 4 point home underdogs, the Rams are expected to be at least 6 point home favorites next week. Teams are 71-123 ATS since 2010 before being 4+ point home underdogs and 109-67 ATS over that same time period as 6+ point favorites (as the Rams are here as 6.5 point favorites) before being 6+ point favorites (as the Rams are expected to be again next week against the 49ers).
However, the Rams really do not deserve to be favored by 6.5 points, as they rank 30th in rate of moving the chains differential, thanks to a pitiful offense that moves the chains at the league’s worst rate. Through 5 games, they have just 72 first downs to 97 for their opponents. There’s a very good chance they finish with 6 wins or fewer this season and teams that finish with that few wins only cover the spread about a quarter of the time as favorites of 6 or more. It’s a tough trend to use because you don’t always know that a team won’t win that many games, especially early in the season like this, but I’m making an educated guess.
Besides, the Browns, while they have their own issues, rank 18th in rate of moving the chains differential, so there’s really no reason the Rams should be favored by 6.5 here at home. They’re not 3.5-4 points better than the Browns. They should be favored by only like 2 points, even with an easy game on deck for the Rams and a tougher one on deck for the Browns. The Browns are missing defensive backs Joe Haden and Tashaun Gipson with injury in this one, but neither of them have been playing that well anyway. Meanwhile, the Rams are without outside linebacker Alec Ogletree and defensive end Chris Long from a defense that is keeping this team afloat. As long as this line is higher than 6, I have no problem putting money on the Browns.
St. Louis Rams 17 Cleveland Browns 16
Pick against the spread: Cleveland +6.5