Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2016 Week 17 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (1-14) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5)

The Steelers are resting their starters with the #3 seed locked up and the Browns are probably the worst team in the league, so I’m not going to spend too much time on this one, though I do find it funny that the Steelers’ backups are favored by 5.5 over the Browns. Notice I said funny, not inaccurate. This line makes sense to me. The Steelers were favored by 16.5 on the early line last week and I can buy that the Steelers’ resting their starters is worth about 11 points on the spread. The Browns beat the Chargers for their first win of the season last week, but they still rank dead last in first down rate and could be flat after winning what they called their “Super Bowl” last week. Teams tend to struggle after a home upset victory anyway, going 63-81 ATS in that spot since 2012. I have no interest in betting either side in this game, but I’m following the trend and taking the Steelers, even if it’s for a no confidence play.

Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Cleveland Browns 17

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -5.5

Confidence: None

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San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (5-9) at Cleveland Browns (0-14)

Betting on winless teams is usually a good idea, as teams that are 0-8 or worse are 34-22 ATS since 1989. However, no one seems to have told that to the Browns, who have failed to cover in 8 straight games and are now 0-14. The Browns have lost 7 of those 8 games by 13 or more points and their average margin of defeat over those 8 games has been 13.88 points per game. They covered some spreads earlier in the year, but that was before injuries struck their offensive line and while Cody Kessler was starting at quarterback. Kessler wasn’t great or anything, but he was significantly better than both Josh McCown or Robert Griffin. It’s no coincidence that they are 2-2 ATS in the 4 games he’s started and finished and just 1-9 ATS in their other 10 games. RG3, who has looked lost in 2 starts since returning from injury, has been the worst of the bunch, but he’ll get another start this week.

Typically, when a team has lost as many games against the spread in a row as the Browns have, the odds makers boost the spread significantly, but we’re still getting good line value with the Chargers as 4.5 point road favorites in Cleveland. That’s because the Chargers are an underrated team. Despite a 5-9 record, the Chargers have an even point differential, significantly better than Cleveland’s league worst -188. That’s despite the fact that the Chargers are -5 in turnover margin on the season. They have 14 more first downs and 3 more offensive touchdowns than their opponents on the season and rank 5th in first down rate differential, significantly higher than the Browns, who are in dead last in that metric.

The Chargers are in a tough spot with a home game against the Chiefs on deck, a game in which they are expected to be home underdogs. Road favorites tend to struggle before being home favorites, going 52-71 ATS since 2002. The Chargers could overlook the Browns with Kansas City on deck. However, the Browns don’t exactly have it easy next week either with a trip to Pittsburgh on deck, where they will almost definitely be double digit underdogs. Teams predictably struggle before tough games like that, going 41-67 ATS since 2012 before being double digit underdogs. I like the Chargers’ chances to win this game by a good margin.

San Diego Chargers 27 Cleveland Browns 17

Pick against the spread: San Diego -4.5

Confidence: Medium

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Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills: 2016 Week 15 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (0-13) at Buffalo Bills (6-7)

Typically, betting on winless teams is a good idea, as teams that are 0-8 or worse are 34-21 ATS since 1989. On top of that, road underdogs on a 7+ game losing streak are 56-30 since 1989. However, no one seems to have told that to the Browns, who have failed to cover in 7 straight games and are now 0-13. The Browns have lost 6 of those 7 games by 13 or more points and their average margin of defeat over those 7 games has been 13.00 points per game. The Bills are an average team at best (22nd in first down rate differential) and favored by 10 points here, so we’re not getting any line value with them, but it’s still very hard to bet on the Browns this week, so Buffalo is the pick in pick ‘em leagues.

Buffalo Bills 24 Cleveland Browns 13

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -10

Confidence: None

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Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (4-7-1) at Cleveland Browns (0-12)

The Browns are 0-12 and probably the worst team in the league right now, but they have a pretty decent shot at getting their first win of the season this week, for three reasons. For one, they’re coming off of their bye week. Bye weeks have proven very valuable for winless teams in the past. Since 1989, 19 teams have gone into their bye week with a record of 0-5 or worse. Of those 19 teams, 11 have won their first game off of the bye week and 16 of them have covered against the spread, 16-2-1 ATS.

The second reason why the Browns have a shot this week is the return of Robert Griffin. Griffin has proven to be very frail throughout his career, but he’s undoubtedly the most talented quarterback on the roster and he spent the whole off-season as the starter. I have no idea if he’s 100% in his first week off the injury, but his return should be valuable for this team, as they’ve played 4 other quarterbacks in his absence. The third reason is the Bengals aren’t a very imposing opponent without wide receiver AJ Green and running back Giovani Bernard, both of whom are out with injury.

The Bengals got a big home win last week against the Eagles, but the Eagles were missing their top-2 skill position players and have not played well at all offensively since losing right tackle Lane Johnson with a suspension. The Bengals also were in a great spot last week, as they had this upcoming “easy” game on the schedule, but this week they’re in a very tough spot with a home clash against the Pittsburgh Steelers on deck. Road favorites are 51-71 ATS since 2002 before being home underdogs. The Bengals’ 18 point win over the Eagles last week shifted this line from 3.5 on the early line last week all the way to 6, so I like the Browns’ chances of at least keeping this game close and covering the spread, even if they don’t win their first game of the season. The money line isn’t a bad bet either this week.

Cleveland Browns 24 Cincinnati Bengals 23 Upset Pick +210

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +6

Confidence: High

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New York Giants at Cleveland Browns: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

New York Giants (7-3) at Cleveland Browns (0-11)

The Giants haven’t won a game by more than a touchdown all season and have a 7-2 record in games decided by a touchdown or less. Ordinarily, I like to pick against teams that are regularly squeaking out victories, especially as big favorites and especially as big road favorites, as the Giants are here (7 point favorites in Cleveland). However, I actually find it more impressive that the Giants have a 7-3 record despite a -7 turnover margin that is 3rd worst in the NFL, even if many of their wins could have gone either way. In fact, the Giants have 4 wins in games in which they lost the turnover battle this season. No other team has more than 2 wins in which they’ve lost the turnover battle. The Giants are 4-2 this season when losing the turnover battle. The rest of the league is 28-94 (.230).

Turnover margins tend to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so I love teams that are able to win despite not consistently winning the turnover battle. If the Giants can play turnover neutral football going forward (very possible), they could go on a real run down the stretch. They enter this game 5th in the league in first down rate differential, thanks primarily to an outstanding defense that allows the 3rd lowest first down rate in the league. Their defense hasn’t gotten a lot of attention because they only have 11 takeaways, but the takeaways should come and, if they do, look out for this team.

This week, it helps the Giants that they’re playing the worst team in the league, the winless Cleveland Browns, who rank dead last in first down rate differential by a wide margin. Typically, betting on winless teams this late in the season is a good idea because they tend to be undervalued, as teams that are 0-8 or worse are 34-18 ATS since 1989. In addition, the Browns are in a good spot here as home underdogs are 75-52 ATS off of a loss as home underdogs the previous week. However, considering the Browns were 9 point home underdogs last week for Pittsburgh, a team that’s inferior than the Giants, the Browns are not undervalued here. If either team is undervalued this week, it’s the Giants. There’s not quite enough here for me to put money on the Giants at 7, especially since they will be without top offensive lineman Justin Pugh for the 3rd straight week, but they are the pick here. They should be able to get their first big blowout victory of the season.

New York Giants 24 Cleveland Browns 13

Pick against the spread: NY Giants -7

Confidence: Low

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Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns: 2016 Week 11 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-5) at Cleveland Browns (0-10)

The Browns are in a tough spot here. They are 9 point home underdogs here against the Steelers and figure to be big home underdogs again next week when they host the 6-3 Giants. Teams are 38-90 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 4.5 or more, as huge upcoming home games tend to serve as a distraction for a team. On top of that, underdogs of 6 or more are 48-76 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6 or more. Normally, I go against teams in that spot, but the Browns are different because they are winless and desperate. Teams that are 0-8 or worse are actually 12-5 ATS before being 4.5+ point home underdogs. Believe it or not, betting on winless teams this late in the season has actually been a winning bet in the past, as teams that are 0-8 or worse are 34-17 ATS since 1989.

With that in mind, I’m actually picking the Browns this week. In addition to being hungry for their first win, the Browns are a little undervalued because of back-to-back blowout losses. Teams are 44-28 ATS since 2002 off of back-to-back losses by 21 or more, as teams tend to be undervalued in that spot. The Steelers’ have a strong offense, but their defense is a major problem, especially with arguably their best defensive player, defensive end Cameron Heyward, now out for the season. They shouldn’t be laying 9 points here. They also have to turn around and play another game in 4 days on Thanksgiving and favorites are 50-82 ATS before Thursday Night Football. The Browns are the pick here, though I’m not confident.

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Cleveland Browns 20

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +9

Confidence: None

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Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens: 2016 Week 10 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (0-9) at Baltimore Ravens (4-4)

The Browns are arguably the worst team in the league and certainly one of the worst two or three teams, but this line is way too high at 10. The Ravens are a solid squad, but have the worst offense in the league in terms of first down percentage. Their defense has been great, entering this game with the 2nd lowest first down percentage allowed in the NFL, but they only rank 18th in first down percentage differential, despite the 4th easiest schedule in the league in terms of opponent’s winning percentage. The Browns have a very weak defense, but it’s still going to be very tough for the Ravens to cover the 10, as limited as they are offensively. In fact, their last win by more than 10 points came in week 14 of 2014. And that’s despite the fact that they’ve played the Browns 4 times since then.

The Ravens are also in a horrible spot, playing an inferior team on a short week after a huge home upset victory over the Steelers last week, with a tough trip to Dallas on deck, a game in which they figure to be at least 6 point underdogs on the early line. Favorites of 6 or more are 23-52 ATS since 2008 before being 6 point underdogs and favorites of 10 or more are 54-73 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs of any amount. On top of that, teams are 58-78 ATS since 2012 off of a home upset victory like the Ravens’ win over the Steelers last week.

The Browns aren’t exactly in an easy spot either, as they have to turn around and face the Steelers at home, a game in which they figure to be huge home underdogs. Teams are 37-88 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 4.5 or more, as big upcoming home games like that tend to be a big distraction for teams. However, that has not been the case historically with winless teams this late in the season, as teams that are 0-7 or worse are 17-8 ATS before being huge home underdogs since 1989. Believe it or not, betting on winless teams this late in the season has actually been a winning bet in the past, as teams that are 0-7 or worse are 53-25 ATS since 1989. Winless teams understandably tend to be undervalued and I think that’s the case in this game. The Browns have kept 4 of their 9 losses within single digits and I like their chances of doing so this week against a Baltimore team that has had major issues moving the ball this season.

Baltimore Ravens 17 Cleveland Browns 12

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +10

Confidence: High

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