Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (0-15) at Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3)

This is another game I will not be betting on because one team will be resting starters. The Steelers can still get the #1 seed if they win and the Patriots lose at home to the Jets, but clearly they do not think Patriots/Jets will be a competitive game, as they have said they will be resting key starters with a first round bye locked up, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and running back Le’Veon Bell and presumably others. As a result, this line has dropped from Pittsburgh -14 at home over the Browns to -7.

The Browns are more talented than their record suggests (even if that isn’t saying much) and could be a competitive football team next season if they can get a real quarterback. In a lot of ways, they remind me of the 2012 Chiefs, who had some talent, but went 2-14 with a -24 turnover margin. The following off-season, they added Alex Smith to stabilize the quarterback position and their turnover margin and they went 11-5 as a result, with largely the same supporting cast.

The Browns are at -28 in turnover margin, which would be tied for the worst single season mark since the 2000 Chargers (who went 1-15), but most of that has been because of their horrendous quarterback play. Turnover margins tend to be unpredictable on a week-to-week and year-to-year basis anyway, though the Browns have been an exception to that this season because DeShone Kizer has been exceptionally bad. On the off chance they can play neutral turnover football against the Steelers’ backups, I am taking the Browns because this line is still pretty high, but this is just a no confidence pick.

Pittsburgh Steelers 19 Cleveland Browns 13

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +7

Confidence: None

Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears: 2017 Week 16 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (0-14) at Chicago Bears (4-10)

I have picked the Browns against the spread in 6 straight games because I’ve felt for a while that they aren’t quite as bad as their record suggests, especially with Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman back. They’ve only covered in 1 of those games, but fortunately I have been hesitant to actually bet on them over that time period, only betting on them as 3.5 point underdogs in a game they took the Packers to overtime. In addition to the Green Bay game, the Browns came close to covering in against the Jaguars and Lions, before falling apart late in the game.

This week, I don’t think we’re getting line value with the Browns, as the Bears have been underrated for a while. They’ve had some injury issues in recent weeks, with right guard Kyle Long going on injured reserve a couple weeks back and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and left guard Josh Sitton join him this week. However, they have been better defensively since getting middle linebacker Danny Trevathan back last week and now they get safety Adrian Amos back from a 3-game absence, which is a huge re-addition.

On the season, the Bears have definitely been better than their 4-10 record suggests, as they rank 21st in first down rate differential at -1.16% and 23rd in point differential at -60. They are 2-6 in games decided by 8 points or fewer and have just 4 double digit losses, including a 10-point loss in Detroit last week that was closer than the final score. The Bears were about even in first down rate in that game, but lost by 10 because they lost the turnover battle by 3 and had 2 red zone interceptions. Fortunately, turnover margin tends to be unpredictable on a week-to-week basis, so I don’t hold that against them too much, especially since they are now facing the league’s worst team in turnover margin this week.

The Bears have faced one of the toughest schedules in the league this season in terms of opponent’s records at 56%, as only the Panthers and the Saints have faced a toughest schedule. That strength of schedule will obviously drop this week after facing the winless Browns. The Browns, meanwhile, have a strength of schedule of just 46%, largely as a result of playing in the much easier AFC. The Bears are 1-10 against NFC teams this season, but have won all 3 games they have played against AFC, beating the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals. On the season, the NFC is 36-22 against the AFC (31-25 ATS).

That being said, there isn’t enough here for me to confidently bet on the Bears as 6.5-point favorites. Both teams are in pretty bad spots, as they both have tough upcoming games, with the Browns going to Pittsburgh and the Bears going to Minnesota. Both teams are expected to be double digit underdogs in those games and teams are just 105-179 ATS (37.0%) since 2008 before being double digit underdogs. The Browns should be more focused though, as they try to avoid going 0-16, and underdogs tend to be better before being double digit underdogs than favorites anyway, as underdogs are 82-137 ATS (37.4%) in that spot since 2008, while favorites are 22-40 ATS (35.5%) over that time period. The Bears could definitely look past the Browns here this week, though I still like their chances of winning this one by at least a touchdown.

Chicago Bears 20 Cleveland Browns 12

Pick against the spread: Chicago -6.5

Confidence: Low

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (7-6) at Cleveland Browns (0-13)

Last week, I selected the Browns as 3.5 point home underdogs against the Hundley and I picked them to win straight up. They led by 14 going into the 4th quarter and had a 90% chance of winning with just a few minutes left in the game, but the Packers came back, pushed it to overtime, and then scored a touchdown in overtime when they just needed a field goal, meaning they didn’t just win, but they also covered. I also picked Indianapolis +3.5 in Buffalo, so I lost against the spread in two games where I had a 3.5 point underdog in overtime. Making matters worse, I had the Browns money line in a 50:1 parlay with the money line of the Eagles, Vikings, Falcons, and 49ers, who all won.

This week, I am a lot less confident in the Browns, and not just because of what happened last week. The Browns have been competitive in more games than you’d think this season, despite their record, and could easily cover the 7 here. However, the Ravens have had a lot of success against low level teams this season. They’ve beaten the Bengals, the Browns, the EJ Manuel led Raiders, the Matt Moore led Dolphins, the Brett Hundley led Packers, and the Tom Savage led Packers by a combined 121 points, with all 6 wins coming by at least a touchdown. Their defense isn’t as good since they lost top cornerback Jimmy Smith, but their offense has been a lot better in recent weeks thanks to the emergence of lead back Alex Collins

The Ravens are also in a great spot because they have another easy game on deck, as they host the lowly Colts next week. Favorites of 6 or more are 70-42 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 6 or more again, as teams tend to take care of business against inferior teams when they don’t have any upcoming distractions on the schedule. We are getting some line value with the Browns, who are better with receivers Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman back and who have been competitive in most of their recent games, but I can’t take Cleveland with any confidence this week.

Baltimore Ravens 19 Cleveland Browns 13

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +7

Confidence: None

Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (6-6) at Cleveland Browns (0-12)

Typically, it is not a good idea to bet on teams who will be big home underdogs in their next game, as teams tend to struggle before a big home game, going 39-67 ATS since 2014 before being 4.5+ point home underdogs. The early line has the Browns as 6.5 point home underdogs against the Ravens next week. However, the Browns are in desperation mode at 0-12, so I’m not sure if that trend really applies. On the other side, the Packers may see this as an easy win before they get Aaron Rodgers back for the playoff push next week and may not give their best effort as a result.

Even if they do give good effort, I’m not convinced this will be an easy win for the Packers. Brett Hundley is legitimately one of the worst quarterbacks to start for an extended period of time this season. The Packers covered in a near victory as 14-point underdogs in Pittsburgh two weeks ago and beat the Buccaneers last week, but they lost the first down battle 28-15 against the Steelers and 25-16 against the Buccaneers, a mediocre team that they needed overtime to beat at home. In 7 games with Hundley under center, the Packers have won the first down rate battle just once, on the road, in Chicago, which isn’t that impressive.

On the season, the Packers rank just 18th in first down rate differential at -0.61%, despite having Rodgers for the first 5 games of the season. Part of that is because of injuries on defense, but they remain banged up on that side of the field in this one, with starting cornerbacks Kevin King and Davon House out and outside linebacker Nick Perry questionable after missing practice all week. That’s actually only 5 spots ahead of the Browns, who rank 23rd at -2.35%.

The Browns obviously haven’t won any games, but their defense hasn’t been bad and their offense has been putting together some drives. The issue for them has been turnovers as they rank dead last in turnover margin at -19. Turnover margin tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, but it hasn’t been for the Browns because they’ve been at a significant disadvantage quarterback wise in every game they’ve played. This week they won’t be, so they could easily play turnover neutral football and pull the upset, especially given how good recently reinstated wide receiver Josh Gordon looked in his debut last week. Even if they don’t win their first game of the season this week, I like their chances of covering this 3.5 point spread, given that 25% of games are decided by a field goal or less.

Cleveland Browns 20 Green Bay Packers 19 Upset Pick +150

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +3.5

Confidence: High

Cleveland Browns at Los Angeles Chargers: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (0-11) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-6)

The Chargers have been underrated for a while, but the public seems to be finally catching on. They started 0-4, but 3 of those 4 losses came by 3 points or fewer, including 2 in which they missed makeable field goals. They’ve also played better on the road than at home this season, going 3-2 with close losses to the Patriots and Jaguars, as opposed to 2-4 at home, but that’s not a huge surprise, considering they have no home fans in Los Angeles. Despite that, they rank 10th in the league in point differential and 5th in the league in first down rate differential. They could easily be 7-4 or 8-3 right now with better luck in close games and an actual homefield advantage.

That being said, I think this line is actually too high at 13.5. The Chargers still likely won’t have much of homefield advantage and I don’t think they’re 12-13 points better than the Browns. The Browns obviously haven’t won all season, but their defense has played better in recent weeks with Jason McCourty and Myles Garrett back healthy, while the offense gets Josh Gordon back this week after getting Corey Coleman back a few weeks ago, much needed additions to a once paper-thin receiving corps. Deshone Kizer is such a bad quarterback that he might screw it all up again, but the Browns have a good chance to keep this one close if they can avoid turning it over too much.

Los Angeles Chargers 20 Cleveland Browns 10

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +13.5

Confidence: Low

Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (0-10) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-6)

The Bengals are in a terrible spot here, as they could look past the winless Browns with a huge home game against the Steelers on deck. Teams are just 36-67 ATS since 2014 before being home underdogs of 4.5 or more, as big upcoming home games tend to present a major distraction for teams, and the Bengals are +7 currently on the early line. On top of that, favorites of 6+ like the Bengals are here are just 55-90 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs of 6 or more. Picking the Browns has been a pretty bad idea over the past couple years, as they’ve covered in just 4 of their last 20 games, but that’s pretty adequately priced into this line, as the Bengals as favored by 8 points, my exact calculated line. This is a no confidence pick, especially since the Browns have another tough game against the Chargers on deck, but this could be a major trap game for the Bengals, so Cleveland is my pick in pick ‘em pools. I can’t take them for any confidence though, as they could easily be down by 7 late and allow a return touchdown or screw up some other way.

Cincinnati Bengals 20 Cleveland Browns 13

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +8

Confidence: None

Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (6-3) at Cleveland Browns (0-9)

The Browns led the Lions 24-17 in the 3rd quarter last week, despite allowing a return touchdown earlier in the game and getting no points out of a goal line opportunity at the end of the half, but they ended up losing 38-24 when the Lions scored three straight touchdowns. Despite numerous screw ups, the game was one of their best of their winless season. One of the reasons for that is that their defense was fully healthy coming out of the bye, after defensive end Myles Garrett, outside linebacker Jamie Collins, and cornerback Jason McCourty all missed time in the first half of the season.

Collins unfortunately got hurt again last week and now is out for the season, but he wasn’t playing that well, so the Browns still have a decent defense out there. They’re obviously not fully healthy on offense without perennial All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas, but they do get #1 receiver Corey Coleman back from a 7 game absence this week. The Jaguars, on the other hand, are without a pair of starters on the offensive line, left guard Patrick Omameh and right tackle Jermey Parnell, and stud running back Leonard Fournette is at less than 100% with his ankle injury. Given that, we’re getting some line value with the Browns at +7.5, but not enough to pick them confidently as they still figure to have a major problem scoring on the Jaguars’ tough defense.

Jacksonville Jaguars 16 Cleveland Browns 10

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +7.5

Confidence: Low