Cleveland Browns at Los Angeles Chargers: 2021 Week 5 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (3-1) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-1)

Both of these teams have gotten out to impressive 3-1 starts, but the Browns have been the better team. They rank 4th in first down rate and 2nd in yards per play allowed, which are the most predictive offensive and defensive stats, while the Chargers rank 8th and 12th respectively. The Browns also hold a huge edge in special teams DVOA (5th vs. 31st), which has a lot of predictive value as well. Combining the three stats, the Browns rank 2nd in the league, while the Chargers rank 13th overall. 

The Chargers get a lot of credit for their win over the Chiefs, but they relied on a +4 turnover margin to win a one score game and turnover margin is very non-predictive week-to-week. In terms of first down rate, the Chargers were -7.92% in that matchup and that tends to be much more predictive. The Browns, meanwhile, lost their matchup in Kansas City, but had the advantage in first down rate (42.11% vs. 34.43%) and yards per play (8.16 vs. 6.51) in a one score loss in which they lost the turnover battle.

The final result of these two teams’ games against the Chiefs may be skewing this line, as the Browns are 2 point underdogs, which implies that the Chargers are the slightly better team, as they should not be getting 2 points for homefield advantage in Los Angeles, where they are 12-20 ATS all-time and frequently draw large crowds in support of the visitor. Giving the Chargers one point for homefield advantage, I have the Browns favored by 2.5 points on my calculated line. They have a good chance to pull the small upset here and should be the ones slightly favored. This isn’t a huge play, but the Browns are worth a bet this week.

Cleveland Browns 27 Los Angeles Chargers 24 Upset Pick +115

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +2

Confidence: Medium

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