Cleveland Browns (2-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-2)
The Browns lost week one, but they still are one of the top teams in the league, as their loss came in Kansas City in a game in which the Browns won both the first down rate (7.68%) and yards per play battle (1.65), while the Browns’ two wins came in blowout fashion. Their offense ranks 3rd in the NFL in first down rate, while their defense ranks 4th in yards per play allowed, which are the most predictive metrics on either side of the ball. This matches up with my roster rankings and overall I have the Browns 9.5 points above average.
Unfortunately, we’re not getting great line value with the Browns as 2 point favorites in Minnesota, as the Vikings have been an underrated team since the season began, with a strong offense and a defense that is much healthier and more talented than a year ago. The Vikings are just 1-2, but their two losses have come by a combined 4 points and their +9 point differential ranks 13th in the NFL. They could easily be 2-1 or 3-0, despite facing a tough schedule to start the season (Bengals, Cardinals, Seahawks) and they are getting healthier too, with left tackle Christian Darrisaw set to make his season debut, shoring up a big position of need. The Browns should be able to win this game, but an upset wouldn’t surprise me either, so I am going to keep this as a low confidence pick for now.
Update: Darrisaw will be active for the Vikings, but apparently will not start in his debut. On top of that, the Vikings will be without one of their two questionable defensive starters, Anthony Barr, who has yet to play this season and will remain a significant absence. At the same time, this line has moved to even, so the Browns only have to win to cover now. They’re worth a big play, given these developments.
Cleveland Browns 30 Minnesota Vikings 24
Pick against the spread: Cleveland PK