The beauty of the NFL is you just never know. Before the season, sports bars across the country had to be lamenting a Bills at Browns battle, figuring the walk in traffic would be awful. Instead, we have two presumed second-rate teams playing pretty good football, in what should be a much better than expected contest and the beer and wings business could be brisk.
The Las Vegas Hotel opened this Thursday night AFC affair with Cleveland at -3 over visiting Buffalo. Sportsbooks in Nevada and offshore have hung the number 41 on this matchup.
The Series History
This will be the eighth meeting between these clubs in the last 17 years, with the Bills holding a 4-3 SU and ATS. Buffalo won last year’s conflict 24-14 as a three-point road favorite and have beaten the betting odds three straight times. The UNDER has been the play the past three times and is four of the last five since 2007.
Examining the Line Makers Releases
These squads met 369 days ago and the most difficult part in understanding these NFL odds on the side is the switch from a year ago of Buffalo at -3 to a field goal underdog. What has changed?
Last season, the Bills were thought to be a team on the rise coming off a 6-10 campaign and head coach Chan Gailey was in this third season, knowing his team had to be at least .500 to prove they were headed in the right direction under his guidance. It turned out the victory over the Browns was high-water mark of the season with Buffalo 2-1 and they stumbled to 6-10, setting the table for Doug Marrone to take over as the new head man.
Buffalo was once again stopping and starting over, something the upper part of the state of New York was becoming accustomed to. Yet, at the quarter pole of the season, the Bills are .500 and are not any worse off than they were a year ago at 2-2.
After the Trent Richardson trade with Indianapolis, the coffin and hearse were ordered for the Browns 2013 season, especially with Brandon Weeden out with an injury at quarterback and little-used (anywhere) Brian Hoyer given the starting job. With Rob Chudzinski the seventh head coach since Cleveland got its football team back in 1999, fans were rightfully fearful.
Instead of folding like a seat at FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland has played with fury and emotion in upsetting Minnesota on the road and rival Cincinnati at home.
Hoyer has brought stability under center and found the right receiver and a solid defense is allowed to shine, not having to defend as many short fields. The time of possession is close to 50-50, preventing the Brownies from wearing down also.
In conclusion, these are two evenly-matched teams, and the spread seems accurate based on the home field, it just feels peculiar that it could swing six points without a lot of factors being different.
Are the Bills a Good or Bad Bet?
Coming into Week 4, Cleveland had the seventh-best run defense and Buffalo played like a collegiate academy football team in running 55 times against Baltimore in the 23-20 upset, their most attempts in nearly 17 years. Unfortunately, this strategy is unlikely to work versus the Browns who are good in stopping the run and NFL football handicappers saw C. J. Spiller left with yet another injury, leaving him a mystery for Thursday night, leaving Fred Jackson and Tashard Choice to do the totting and catching of the ball from EJ Manuel.
Buffalo will have to run the ball effectively, because they will not win if Manuel is dropping back to throw 40 times.
The Bills battered secondary held up against Baltimore, but will they have the same success on the road against a seemingly hot quarterback?
Are the Browns a Good or Bad Bet?
Given all that has happened, it is no less shocking Cleveland is 2-2 as it the Indians are in the postseason in baseball this fall. Hoyer has shown why New England kept him around for three seasons besides his cheap contract, he had game.
Hoyer has been poised in the pocket and though not familiar with his receivers, he finds them when they break open and delivers the ball on time. Against the Bills secondary, Hoyer can move the chains.
The Browns defense is underrated, at least to this juncture, and they have the ability to choke off Buffalo’s offense.
Check back with me later this week when I offer up my free NFL picks on the total and spread for this Thursday throw down right here at SBR Forum.