If it's Week 4 of the preseason, the Chicago Bears must be playing the Cleveland Browns. The two teams have split their past 11 preseason games against the NFL odds.
Cleveland and Chicago have such a long and rich sporting history together. True, things have mostly gone in favor of Chicago, but the Cavaliers have taken the lead in the NBA with LeBron James back in town, and the Tribe are ahead of the White Sox in the AL Central. As for their respective football teams, the Bears have won three of their four matchups against the Browns (the new Browns, that is), but they've split the cash at 2-2 ATS.
It's been a saw-off in preseason play, too – at least since these two teams started facing each other every year in the Week 4 finale. They've done this for 11 years now, with the Browns enjoying a 6-5 SU advantage while dividing up the pot at 5-5-1 ATS. They'll try it one more time this Thursday (8:00 p.m. ET) at Solider Field, where the Bears are laying up to 1.5 points on the NFL odds board at press time.
Deuces Never Looses
It's just as well these two teams are dead even, because there's not much we can glean from their postseason records anyway given the number of changes on both sides. Chicago has a brand new coach this year in John Fox, the club's third head coach in four years. And Mike Pettine is the fifth man under the headset for Cleveland since 2008. Even if we look at those two coaches individually, Fox is 26-28 ATS in exhibition play, while Pettine is 3-4 ATS.
So let's move on to the next item on our preseason betting checklist: QB depth. Both teams have lost their second-stringers; Cleveland's Johnny Manziel has apparently been shut down until the regular season with a sore elbow, while Chicago's Jimmy Clausen suffered a concussion last week against the Cincinnati Bengals. Too bad for Clausen, given how well he was playing this preseason.
This means we can expect to see the third-string QBs from both teams play most of Thursday's contest. For the Browns, it'll be Thad Lewis, a sixth-year veteran who has performed admirably in spot starts for both Cleveland and the Buffalo Bills. For the Bears, it'll be David Fales, last year's sixth-round pick out of San Jose State, who was outmatched in last year's 33-13 loss to the Browns (–4 at home).
This is enough to get us to buy in on Cleveland, at least for this week. Fales will be performing behind an offensive line that hasn't been jelling as hoped, and there are a number of injured Bears who won't be around to help Fales on Thursday. That includes the team's top four wide receivers. The young Browns don't look like they have much of an offense, either, but at least they've got some warm bodies for Thursday's contest. Let's burn this river down, and may the prolate spheroid be with you.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Browns PK (+100) at 5Dimes