Things were looking up for the Browns and down for the Falcons but now they’re looking down for the Brownsand up for the Falcons so some things never change in the NFL. Let’s look at this and try to find a good pick.
Cleveland Browns at Atlanta Falcons (Falcons -3, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook), Sunday 18:00 (CBS, 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT): This interconference game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta sees the host Falcons (4-6 SU, 4-6 ATS) and the visiting Cleveland Browns (6-4 SU, 5-3-2 ATS) in a game in which both teams could really, really, really use the win. The thought of both the Browns and Falcons in the conversation about winning their respective divisions (AFC North, NFC South) heading into Week 12 but hey, who knows? The Arizona Cardinals have the best record in the NFL (9-1) and we have just landed a vehicle on a comet so maybe my friend The Future is Now.
The NFL odds have the Falcons listed as 3-point Favorites—the SuperBook’s Advanced Line was -1½—here over the Browns who are +150 Underdogs in the Money Line (Winner) marketplace with Atlanta at -165 (Paddy Power). The Total Points is set at 47½ (Ladbroke’s) with the Falcons Total Team Points at 25½ (Betfair) and the Browns Total Team Points at 22 (Paddy Power). A random prop wager from this game? The Team To Score First prop sees the host Falcons at -125 (bet365) with the Browns priced at -110.
Although Cleveland’s 23-7 loss to the Houston Texans at Home in frigid Ohio on Sunday may not seem like the end of the world, it exposed a side of the upstart Browns that exists where this team seemingly struggles with teams that in the standings that may not be better than them but that on the gridiron may actually end up being so. The Browns wins have come against the Saints (4-6), Titans (2-7), Raiders (0-10), Buccaneers (2-8), Steelers (6-4) and Bengals (6-4)—teams with a combined 20-41 SU record. And although Cleveland’s defense—led by LB Karlos Dansby (68 tackles) and FS Tashaun Gipson (6 INTs)—is playing lights out and is ranked #6 in the NFL in Scoring allowing 19.5 ppg, the Browns almost have to be good on D with the offense scoring an average of just 16.4 ppg over their L5 games.
QB Brian Hoyer (161 completions, 2,212 yards, 10 TDs) has led Cleveland (5-2 SU L7) to this point and has kept rookie draftee Johnny Manziel quiet and on the bench but the truth is that the Browns are 16th in Passing (236.2 ypg) and their leading WR—Andre Hawkins (39 receptions, 504 yards, 12.9)—has just 1 TD and Cleveland should be putting up more points against the level of competition they have played so far. The Browns will get talented WR Josh Gordon back this week after serving his suspension which should help immensely but clicking instantly seldom happens in professional sports.
LBs Dansby (knee) and Jabaal Sheard (ankle), CB Johnson Bademosi and TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) were all listed as Day-to-Day early Monday.
It looked a month ago that the Falcons had no chance at any joy this 2015 NFL season, but all of a sudden, Atlanta is now tied with the New Orleans Saints (4-6) for the NFC South Division lead and actually in a position where a division title would lead to the Falcons hosting a playoff game. And that may seem unfair because it is unfair. On Sunday, Atlanta edged the Carolina Panthers, 19-17 in Charlotte to tie New Orleans for the NFC South Division lead as the Saints were surprised by the Bengals, 27-10 in The Big Easy. QB Matt Ryan (218 completions, 2,525 yards, 16 TDs, 93.4 QBR) and WRs Julio Jones (61 receptions, 853 yards, 3 TDs) and Roddy White (39 receptions, 491, 4 TDs, 12.6 ypc) give the Falcons and 7th-year head coach Mike Smith (60-48-2 ATS) the 7th-best passing attack in the NFL 272.2 ypg), but Atlanta is 23rd in Rushing (97.2 ypg) as RB Steven Jackson (111 rushes, 426 yards, 4 TDs) and the other RBs play second fiddle to an offense built around Ryan (32-25-2 ATS) and the pass. Defensively, the Falcons rank last (#32) in the league against the Pass (280.8 ypg) and 24th against the Run (124.0 ypg). So, the Falcons defense, shall we say, sort of sucks? Atlanta has allowed just 17 points in its last 2 games, but those were wins against aforementioned Carolina and Tampa Bay—fellow NFC South members where all 4 of the Falcons wins come from. And the Browns certainly aren’t in the NFC South. They live in a division where losing records are apparently illegal this season.
Injury-wise for Atlanta, DT Jonathan Babineaux (knee), RB Antone Smith (knee), WR Devin Hester (wrist) and T Jonathan Scott (hamstring) were all listed as Day-to-Day on Monday while CB Robert Alford (wrist) is Out Indefinitely.
Best Betting Approaches
The last time these two teams met—on 10/10/2010—the Falcons won 20-10 as 3-point Favorites in Cleveland so there was obviously something in the water at that day. With this meeting between two teams who don’t play that often, it seems the Under is my NFL pick, specially with both teams needing the game so much and likely being cautious. But this game is in a dome free from Mother Nature’s potential late-November wrath in the Peach State so the cold and the elements won’t hold the score down. It will be up to the Browns defense to keep Cleveland in the game, meaning if they can dictate the pace, this one should end with both teams scoring in or near the low-20s. Also, both the Falcons and Browns are 7-3 Under heading in here. And because the Browns lost to the Jaguars and were a pathetic 3-of-13 on 3rd down in Sunday’s loss to Houston, Atlanta (2-5 ATS L7) could accidentally end up winning this by more than a handful of points with WRs Jones and White contributing in a big way. But this team is too hard to recommend. With the Browns (7-14 SU L21) playing in 5 consecutive Unders and 4 of the L6 on the Road going Under the Total and this game all of a sudden meaning so much to both teams, the thought is that both defenses rice to the occasion and this one ends up a close, low-scoring dogfight probably settled by a late FG.
NFL Pick: Under 47½ at 5Dimes