Almost nobody wants to put the Cleveland Browns in their Week 8 football picks. The Arizona Cardinals have been that impressive – but are the Cards overvalued now?
Jason's 2015 record as of Oct. 28: 22-16-1 ATS; 0-1 ML (-1.00 units); 18-26 Total
Are you ready for some Johnny Football? The Cleveland Browns aren't. Josh McCown has a sore shoulder and hasn't practiced all week, and back-up Johnny Manziel has been taking first-team reps, but it looks like McCown will start this Sunday (1:00 p.m. ET, FOX) when the Browns host the Arizona Cardinals. This game hasn't been circled on our NFL odds board; instead, Cleveland is a 4.5-point home dog as we go to press.
They could put the ghost of Otto Graham out there, and it wouldn't make anyone want to put the Browns in their NFL picks. According to our expanded consensus reports, Cleveland is drawing 15 percent of the action on this matchup, for an average bet size of $48. The average bet on Arizona: $116. Not too bad for an early Sunday matinee.
There are actually some good reasons to make a contrarian pick here. Arizona will be in the classic “West Coast team playing at 1:00 p.m. ET” situation – although that didn't help the Browns cover against the visiting Oakland Raiders in Week 3. Plus, the Cards are only dealing with a two-hour shift from the Mountain Time Zone. And they're 3-1 ATS in this situation under head coach Bruce Arians.
Okay, there's also the weather. The reports call for a 40-percent chance of rain at kick-off, at the tail end of a brief cloudburst. That benefits the home side; Arizona plays its home games under a retractable roof in Glendale, and the No. 3-ranked Cards offense leans a bit more toward throwing the ball (No. 4 pass, No. 12 rush). Then again, so does the No. 24-ranked Browns offense (No. 14 pass, No. 26 rush). That's according to the latest DVOA numbers at Football Outsiders.
Hand in Glove
Don't say we didn't try, Clevelanders. We gave the Browns our coveted BeeVee Award in Week 4, and they paid off as 4.5-point road dogs in a 30-27 loss to the San Diego Chargers. That was a game where McCown was coming back from a hand injury to replace Manziel, and there was a good chance of rain that day, too. So it's not like Cleveland can't get the job done.
We just think it's considerably less likely against the mighty Cardinals. They're coming off a Monday night win over the Baltimore Ravens that nearly got away from them in the fourth quarter; Baltimore ended up covering as 10-point road dogs (on the closing line) in a 26-18 loss. We expect a stronger effort this week. We also think McCown will struggle after getting beaten up by the St. Louis Rams last Sunday. It's hard to get much mustard on your throws when your shoulder feels like spaghetti. Everyone knows mustard and spaghetti don't mix.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Cardinals –4.5 (–105) at Heritage