Los Angeles Rams (2-0) at Cleveland Browns (1-1)
I was strongly considering betting on the Browns earlier this week, but then the injuries kept piling up. All in all, the Browns are expected to be without starting safeties Damarious Randall and Morgan Burnett, right tackle Chris Hubbard, tight end David Njoku, linebacker Christian Kirksey and they could be without 3rd receiver Rashard Higgins and their two starting cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams. On the other side, the Rams’ only concern is right guard Austin Blythe, who left last week’s game against the Saints with an ankle injury and could only get in a limited practice on Friday.
Blythe being out would be a significant loss for the Rams, who already had lost a pair of 2018 starting offensive linemen this off-season. The Rams are 2-0, but they’ve also played about one quarter out of eight against a team starting a healthy starting quarterback and their win against the Panthers came by 3 in a game in which the Rams recovered all 4 fumbles in the game. If the Browns were close to full strength, they could easily pull the upset, but I can’t take the Browns with them being this banged up, even if the line has shifted to Cleveland +3.5.
Even as 3.5-point home underdogs, we’re only getting a little bit of line value with the Browns and that little line value would disappear if both Ward and Williams were to also miss this game, a strong possibility given that neither player practiced on Friday. I’m taking the Browns for pick ‘em purposes, but this is a no confidence pick, as the Rams get to face get another opponent that is far from 100% and could have too big of a talent advantage for the Browns to keep it close.
Los Angeles Rams 26 Cleveland Browns 23
Pick against the spread: Cleveland +3.5