Atlanta Falcons (4-4) at Cleveland Browns (2-6-1)
This line has moved significantly since the early line last week, as the Falcons have gone from being 1-point favorites to now being 6-point favorites. That’s a 5-point line movement that moves through key numbers of 3 and 4, the kind of line movement typically reserved for quarterback injuries. The reason for that is the Falcons blowout win in Washington last week, but that win isn’t as impressive as it looks at first glance because the Redskins are nowhere near as good as their record at 5-3. They have a negative point differential at -12, despite a +7 turnover margin, and rank 22nd in first down rate differential at -2.42%. They also happened to basically lose their entire offensive line to injury in the game.
The Browns didn’t play that well at home for the Chiefs last week, but it was good to see their offense perform well in their first game without Hue Jackson or Todd Haley. New offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens is a former running backs coach and he’s put more of an emphasis on running the ball with talented rookie lead back Nick Chubb and also getting pass catching back Duke Johnson more involved in the offense to combat their lack of depth and experience at wide receiver.
The Browns’ defense is also getting better, with safety Damarious Randall likely returning from a one-game absence, cornerback Denzel Ward returning after getting hurt early in last week’s game, and linebacker Joe Schobert likely returning from a 3 and a half game absence. Schobert was playing at a high level before going down and their recent defensive struggles have coincided with his absence, so his return, even if he’s not quite at 100%, will be huge for this defense. They lost fellow linebacker Christian Kirksey for the season last week, but he had not been playing well of late.
With the Browns getting closer to full health, the Falcons should not be favored by this many points on the road against them. This is not the same Falcons team as recent years, with Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal, Deion Jones, and Devonta Foreman all on injured reserve. Prior to last week’s win over the mediocre Redskins, they played close games at home against the Buccaneers and Giants. Their offense is strong, but even after last week’s win, they still rank dead last in first down rate allowed at 43.85%. I like the Browns’ chances of keeping this one close and give them an outside chance at pulling the upset.
Atlanta Falcons 34 Cleveland Browns 31
Pick against the spread: Cleveland +6