Chicago Bears (1-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-1)
The Browns are just 1-1, but I’ve been very impressed with them thus far this season. Their loss came in Kansas City against the Chiefs and they easily could have won, suggesting they probably would have beaten just about anyone else, anywhere else week one. In that loss, the Browns outperformed the Chiefs in more predictive metrics like first down rate (42.11% vs. 34.43%) and yards per play (8.16 vs. 6.51), primarily losing the game because they lost the turnover margin, which is much less predictive.
The Browns followed up that narrow loss to the Chiefs with a 10-point win over the Texans, which doesn’t sound that impressive, but the Browns once again performed better in more predictive metrics than margin of victory, winning the first down rate battle by 11.26% and the yards per play battle by 1.02. The Browns’ offense came into the season with as much upside as any team in the league and they have lived up to it, leading the league in first down rate through two weeks, despite dealing with some injuries, while their revamped defensive unit has been a solid complementary unit.
The Browns should be considered a legitimate contender, but are a bit underrated because their record doesn’t tell the whole story and the general public doesn’t realize this is a significantly improved team from a year ago. The Bears, meanwhile, were thoroughly outplayed in Los Angeles week 1 against a good, but probably overrated Rams team and then followed that up with a 3-point loss against the Bengals in a game in which they won the turnover battle by 3, but were outgained by 1.22 yards per play, a much more predictive metric.
Their offense could get a spark this week with rookie quarterback Justin Fields being forced into action with veteran Andy Dalton injured, but that’s far from a guarantee in his first career start and this offense has significant problems beyond the quarterback position, while their once dominant defense is middling at best thanks to several off-seasons of key departures and injuries to key players like Danny Trevathan and Eddie Goldman, who will once again be out this week.
I thought the Bears were a significantly below average team coming into the season and nothing has happened to change my mind on that, so a talented team like the Browns shouldn’t have any problem against them. This line is mispriced with the Browns only favored by 7 (my calculated line is Cleveland -12), so let’s take advantage with a big wager. This line is creeping up to 7.5 in some places, which would still be worth a bet, but not as big of a bet, given how important a number 7 is for betting purposes.
Cleveland Browns 27 Chicago Bears 14
Pick against the spread: Cleveland -7
Confidence: Pick of the Week