Cleveland Browns (10-4) at New York Jets (1-13)
The Jets won their first game of the season last week, shocking the Rams as 17-point underdogs, but I wouldn’t expect anything close to a repeat of that this week. Even with that win, the Jets still rank dead last in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -5.96% (no other team is lower than -5.71%) and in point differential at -207 (no other team is lower than -148), with their average defeat coming by a whopping 16.2 points per game. They are also among the league’s worst in my roster rankings, especially with arguably their best player this season, defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, now out for the season.
On top of that, teams typically struggle to cover after big upset wins, covering at a 40.9% rate after a win as underdogs of 10 points or more, including 4-13 ATS over the past 30 seasons after a win as underdogs of 14 points or more. The Jets’ win last week was the equivalent of their Super Bowl, so there will almost definitely be some hangover effect this week, and the line shifted from Cleveland -11 to Cleveland -9.5 in the wake of the Jets’ upset, which gives us some line value with the Browns.
My calculated line is Cleveland -12, as, not only are the Jets still arguably the worst team in the league, but the Browns have emerged as a contender in recent weeks. The Browns have played a relatively easy schedule and have won just four of their ten games by multiple scores, so they rank just 23rd in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -1.36%, but their issues have been primarily concentrated on the defensive side of the ball, where they rank 29th in first down rate allowed over expected at +2.62%, which is definitely the better side of the ball to have issues on, because defensive performance tends to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. On offense, which is the much more consistent side of the ball, the Browns rank 10th in first down rate over expected at +1.26%.
The Browns aren’t a great defense, but they’re more talented than they’ve played thus far and they have their top-2 defensive players Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward in the lineup together again after both missed time, so I would be surprised if they weren’t better defensively going forward, which will make it much easier for them to win by big amounts. I would expect this to be one of those wins. This isn’t a big play on the Browns because they’re not in a great spot either, ahead of a much tougher game against the Steelers (favorites cover at just a 42.8% rate when their opponents have a winning percentage that is worse than their next opponent’s winning percentage by over 50%), but the Browns are bettable at 9.5.
Update: The Browns will be without their top-4 wide receivers due to being COVID contacts of linebacker BJ Goodson, who will also be out for this game. This is frustrating for my -9.5 bet, but this line has re-posted at 6.5 and I’m going to double down on the Browns at that number. The Browns are a run heavy team, so their wide receiver absences won’t be as big of a deal as they would be for most teams. My calculated line is actually still Cleveland -10. Hopefully they can win by double digits and cover both bets, but I like doubling down at 6.5 to offset losses from a 7-9 point win. And if you were lucky enough not to lock this in earlier, Cleveland -6.5 would be one of my top plays of the week.
Cleveland Browns 27 New York Jets 17
Pick against the spread: Cleveland -6.5