San Diego Chargers (5-9 SU, 7-7 ATS) vs. Cleveland Browns (0-14 SU, 2-12 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date/Time: Saturday, December 24, 2016 at 1PM EST
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SD -6/CLE +6
Over/Under Total: 44
The San Diego Chargers take on the Cleveland Browns on Saturday in week 16 AFC action from FirstEnergy Stadium. Both teams came up short on Sunday, with the Chargers blowing yet another 4th-quarter lead to fall to the Raiders at home, 19-16. It was a demoralizing loss for a team that has been snake-bitten in more ways than one in a rough 2016 season. It has gone even worse for the Browns, who are down to their last two chances to register a win in the 2016 season or they will be joining an exclusive club of teams that went winless in a season.
The Chargersí loss to the Raiders was close, but painful. The Chargers blew their 8th fourth-quarter lead of the season. And at home, it seemed like a road game, as support for the team is waning in San Diego. Not even able to get a vote for a raise in hotel taxes to build a new stadium, the distaste for the team has to be demoralizing for the Chargers. And the lack of home support on Qualcomm Stadium was jaw-dropping on Sunday. They now trudge on to Cleveland and there might not be a ton of wind in their sails at this point. For all their issues, eight of the Chargersí nine losses were by single-score margins. Itís quite amazing that despite being 5-9, they have an overall point differential of zero.
The Chargersí offense has grinded down in recent weeks. Injuries havenít helped, as the loss of Melvin Gordon has robbed them of their last bastion of offensive hope in a season where theyíve lost a lot of key pieces. The line, while relatively healthy, has been getting dominated more and more as of late. The Chargers have scored 16 points now in back-to-back games, their lowest point-outputs of the season. On Sunday, Philip Rivers threw 2 touchdowns and a pick, which came on the last drive of the game. He looked a little better. Newly-added Ronnie Hillman peeled off some nice runs. The pass-catching crew can actually be quite good, with some guys stepping up this season, including Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman, Hunter Henry, and first-year Chargers receiver Travis Benjamin. Itís still unclear if Gordon will return this week.
The Chargersí defense could have been specialóa group with great athleticism and depth. Alas, injuries have robbed them of their potential. Still, Joey Bosa looks like the real deal with 7.5 sacks despite a late start to the season. Melvin Ingram is a player, as is Corey Liuget. The pass-defense has been iffy this season at times, but they can make plays, with Casey Hayward leading the league in interceptions. On the season, the Chargersí defense has secured 27 turnovers. If only they could have avoided such a bad injury crisis this season.
It has gotten really ugly for the Browns this season. Itís one thing to be 0-14, but somehow itís worse to be 2-12 against the spread and those of us unfortunate to have been taking some juicy-looking point spreads will attest to that. Obviously, the numbers havenít been big enough, with the oddsmakers being way off the mark this season with Cleveland. Theyíve missed covering eight spreads in a row with most of them being by a big margin. On Sunday, they lost 33-13 to a Buffalo team that had been looking pretty ragged. Even teams in bad form or just plain bad teams have thrived against the woeful Browns.
The quarterback situation in Cleveland has been a mess this season. With Robert Griffin, III. healthy after going down in the seasonís first game, he has started the last two games behind center. Last weekís performance was a lot better than his first, with RG3 throwing for 196 yards on 17-for-28 passing with 48 yards on the ground with a TD score. Still, they lost by 20 and itís been a hard fall from grace for the former Rookie of the Year. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson have been useful on the ground, with the aerial game in the hands of Gary Barnidge, Terrelle Pryor, Andrew Hawkins, rookie Corey Coleman, and others. The O-line might be the worst in the game, having given up 53 sacks and usually getting run over. They have accounted for a pitiful 15.7 points per game. Since October, their high-point total is 13 points. Yikes.
Obviously, the Cleveland offense is not alone in letting this season spiral into an 0-14 mess. The ďDĒ is ranked 31st of 32 teams in total defense, rushing defense, and in total points allowed. There is, however, a strange consistency with this defense, having allowed between 23 and 33 points in every game theyíve played this season. There is something to be said for dependability. There is also something to be said for a total lack of a playmaking component. Itís like the Cleveland defense is more often just there taking up space.
The Chargers offer a combination of different traits that make this something less than a gimme. On one hand, theyíve been in almost every game and with any luck, would be angling for a playoff spot. On the other hand, there arenít many teams who blow it worse than the Chargers. Just when you think ďNo, they wonít do that,Ē they will do just that. For as bad as Clevelandís O-line is, San Diegoís hasnít been much better in recent weeks. Again, itís unclear what is going on with these numbers on Cleveland, with the spread being San Diego minus 6 points this week. Yeah, itís nice to be getting 6 points at home against a flattened-out 5-win team, but that approach has not worked with Cleveland this season. And while itís odd that a team could go all season with just a few covers, it still doesnít seem like the numbers are big enough. But being stubborn and acknowledging the Chargersí state, Iím taking another stab on the Browns.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Iím betting on the Cleveland Browns plus 6 points.
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