NFL Picks: Stick With Broncos (-4) to Say Undefeated vs. (2-3) Browns

Kevin Stott

Wednesday, October 14, 2015 2:29 PM GMT

Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015 2:29 PM GMT

The Cleveland Browns and Head Coach Mike Pettine welcome Peyton Manning and the undefeated Denver Broncos to FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on Sunday for this big AFC inter-divisional game.

Odds Overview Denver Broncos vs. Cleveland Browns
The Denver Broncos (5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS) head east to FirstEnergy Stadium In Cleveland on Sunday afternoon to face the upstart Cleveland Browns (2-3 SU, 3-2 ATS) in this fun, AFC inter-divisional tilt from the Buckeye State and huge game for the hosts. Right now (Tuesday evening), the visiting Broncos are either 4- (MGM Mirage, Pinnacle) or 4½-point favorites (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, SportsInteraction) on the NFL odds board, while the Total in this game is either at 42 (MGM Mirage, The Greek) or 42½ in most places (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, Pinnacle). On the Money Line, the favored Broncos are priced at -210 with the underdog and host Browns are lined at +175 (Bet365) while the Denver Broncos Team Total Points has been set at 23½ (Bet365) for this game while the Cleveland Browns Team Total Points has been set at 17½ (Bet365). The Overtime prop here? Yes +600, No -1400 (Paddy Power). The Advanced Line on this game released last Tuesday night by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook here in Sin City had the Broncos open up as 5½-point favorites.

 

Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos (113 PF-79 PA) and QB Peyton Manning (74-58-5 ATS on Road) have marched undefeated through the first five weeks of their Regular Season schedule, beating the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1, the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2, the Detroit Lions in Week 3, the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4, and last week, in Week 5 on Sunday, Denver needed a 74-yard Chris Harris interception return for a TD to stifle a Raiders 4th Quarter drive in Oakland to turn a 9-7 game into a 16-7 score and an eventual 16-10 win to stay unbeaten. And once again, the Defense saved Denver. And it’s no coincidence, with the Broncos ranking #1 in Total Yards (278 ypg), #2 in Points Allowed (15.8 ppg) and #5 in the NFL in both Rushing Defense (85.2 ypg) and Passing Defense (192.8 ypg). But Denver does have some problems on Offense, and much has been made about the Broncos trying to become a more Rush-oriented team under new Head Coach Gary Kubiak, with the narrative—or maybe the Truth—being that Manning’s arm isn’t quite as strong as it once was and to try to get another solid year out of the 39-year-old legendary veteran, rushing the football more would be the easy answer. It hasn’t so far, and RBs CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman need to pick it up to make Life a little easier on Uncle Peyton. The Broncos (12/1 to win Super Bowl, Ladbrokes) do have the dynamic WR duo of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders and TE Owen Daniels, but could really use another Wes Welker-type guy to open things up some in the passing attack. The D can only rescue you so many times. Denver comes in here fairly healthy with star CB Aqib Talib (Ankle), WR Cody Latimer (Groin), T Ty Sambrailo (Shoulder), DE Kenny Anunike (Knee) and RB Ronnie Hillman (Hamstring) are all listed as Questionable for Sunday’s game while LB DeMarcus Ware (Back) is expected back later this month while T Jeff Heuerman (Knee) is out for the season. And, T Ryan Clady (Knee) and NT Marvin Austin Jr. (Groin) both sit on the Broncos Injured-Reserve List.

 

Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns (118 PF-132 PA) avoided a nightmare 1-4 start with a dramatic OT win against the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday to move to 2-3 as QB Josh McCown had another big game for Cleveland and the now sort-of official Browns starter used all his Skill Position players like Duke Johnson Jr., Isaiah Crowell, Travis Benjamin, Taylor Gabriel and Gary Barnidge, among others, in the crucial win. So, like last season, the Browns (275/1 to win Super Bowl, Paddy Power) and Head Coach Mike Pettine (11-9-1 ATS) are in the thick of the AFC North and AFC race? Whoa, whoa, whoa. Best pump those brakes some, Junior. If the Browns win here, they will still only be 3-3 and still live a division with the unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals (5-0) and the Pittsburgh Steelers. So, this is a big game, and 2-4 sounds more like the Browns (-0.4 Net Yards Per Play), although they seem better than many thought. On the Injury front heading in here, Cleveland has QB McCown (Ankle) listed as Probable (but he’ll go), while four Cleveland players are listed as Questionable for this Gridiron Buffet: DB Tashaun Gipson (Ankle), RB Robert Turbin (Ankle), LB Craig Robertson (Ankle) and RB Shaun Draughn (Back). DB Joe Haden (Concussion) is tabbed as Doubtful while six other Browns players are on the Injured-Reserve List including OL Michael Bowie (Shoulder), QB Connor Shaw (Thumb), RB Glenn Winston (Knee) and DB Charles Gaines. And of course, athletic WR Josh Gordon is serving his 1-year Suspension for violating the NFL’s Drug Policy for a second time.

 

Recent Relevant Series Trends and Realistic Game Expectations
The last meeting between these two AFC teams was in 2012 in Denver where the Broncos won and covered as 10-point favorites, 34-12 at Sports Authority Field, while the last meeting here in Cleveland, Denver also won and (barely) covered, this time as 3-point favorites, 34-30 in 2008 at the Browns home then, Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Broncos are 5-1 ATS the L6 against the Browns and Denver has one of the best Defenses in the league right now (NFL-leading 22 sacks, #1 Total Yards, #2 Points Allowed, #5 Rushing Defense, #5 Passing Defense). And Denver has also had to Travel, deal with a choppy QB (Manning the Elder) and face a much harder schedule than the majority of teams have in mid-October. As far as Total Trends, Browns Overs are 5-0 while Broncos Overs are 1-4, so that seems like a wash although upon scrutiny, one team almost always seems to be held down in this series and it’s usually You Know Who.

On Sunday against the Raiders, 39-year-old Denver QB Peyton Manning (104-62-5 ATS off Win) was pretty bad (once again), going 22 for 35 for 266 yards for 0 TDs and with 2 Interceptions and finishing with an anemic 35.4 QBR. Is there any room at the Nursing Home, Betty? And the Broncos (+0.6 Yards Per Play) aforementioned Rushing game was also non-existent against Oakland, with Anderson (11 rushes, 22 yards, 2.0 ypc) and Hillman (7 rushes, 21 yards, 3.0 ypc) being stifled by the improved Raiders D. But here, Denver is playing a team it has beat 10 straight times by a healthy average of 14.8 ppg, so with the best Defense around, the Trends on their side and an unbeaten mark to try to keep intact to keep pace with the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (4-0) for the Home advantage in the AFC Playoffs, Motivation will be high here for the visitors from the Rocky Mountains—who will be losing 2 Body Clock Hours, going from their MDT to EDT—who already have Road Wins (and covers) in Kansas City, Detroit and Oakland. This should be a tight and close game throughout with one of the Broncos talented WRs Sanders or Thomas possibly winning it for Denver in the end with a TD catch.

 

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Denver Broncos 23 Cleveland Browns 16

NFL WEEK 6 PICK: Broncos -4 (-107) at Pinnacle

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