Cleveland Browns (4-9 SU, 4-7-2 ATS) vs. Arizona Cardinals (6-7 SU, 8-5 ATS), 4:15 p.m. EST, NFL Week 15, Sunday, December 18, 2011, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona, TV: CBS
by Scotty L, Pro Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Cle +6.5/AZ -6.5
Over/Under Total: 37.5
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The Cleveland Browns come to Arizona to face the streaking Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. Arizona is coming off a great 21-19 home win against the 49ers, where they overcame a 12-point 3rd-quarter deficit against the toughest defense in the league to score against this season to notch their 5th win in 6 games. The Browns, meanwhile, dropped another game last Thursday, falling to the Steelers 14-3. It was their 6th loss in 7 games.
After a 1-6 start, Arizona has gotten to 6-7, quietly becoming one of the best second-half teams in the league. The fact that they have managed it with a unsettled QB situation is even more miraculous. Starter Kevin Kolb, troubled by the injury bug, suffered a concussion early against the Niners on Sunday. John Skelton once again stepped in and did a good job (19 for 28-282-3-2). He clicked with WRs Larry Fitzgerald (7-149-1), also connecting with Early Doucet for a key 60-yard touchdown strike.
Coming from behind against San Franciscos vaunted defense and beating a team that defeated them by 16 a mere 3 weeks prior shows how far Arizona has come. Their defense has become increasingly clutch as the season has worn on, as illustrated by how they shut the 49ers down for most of the second half on Sunday. They are managing to squeeze every drop of talent out of their players–totally congealing as a team.
As if losing 6 of 7 wasnt enough hardship for Cleveland, they lost QB Colt McCoy to a concussion on Sunday, forcing them to now go with 31-year old and 511 backup Seneca Wallace. The onetime Seattle on-again/off-again starter is a fine player, but it is doubtful that the change at the top will pump much wind into the Browns sails. The ensuing controversy about McCoy remaining in the game after the concussion probably didnt help the already-sagging morale in the locker room.
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With all of Clevelands woes occurring on McCoys dime, a change might not be such a bad thing. McCoy was clicking less and less with a receiving crew that actually has some talent. Maybe Wallace can do a little better, at least in the short term. It doesnt help that McCoy was not the only one to get snake-bitten against Pittsburgh. TE Ben Watson also suffered a concussion and starting fullback Joshua Cribbs (31 catches) is questionable with an injured groin. A tinge of silver lining could rest in the fact that Clevelands defense is number-two against the pass, a big part of Arizonas game. Then again, they can be very leaky against the run, which should result in Beanie Wells (216-943-9) soaring past 1000 yards for the season in this game.
You see a pair of teams in going in totally opposite directions and the urge is to jump on the winning side. But even in losing 6 of their last 7, the Browns have managed some close affairs, or at least the occasional tendency to hold strong teams to low totals. In other words, there is reason for pause before just up and assuming they are going to get destroyed against the Cardinals. The Arizona form-reversal has been great, but the last time they were favored by this many points, they were a playoff team and Kurt Warner was their quarterback.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: It seems almost crazy to talk about a team that started 1-6 getting to the postseason, but 9-7 teams make the playoffs all the time. If the Cardinals win out, they can reach that mark. After winning 5 of 6 to get to get to this point, why let the dream come to a halt against the likes of the reeling Browns? Arizona has blossomed in the role of underdog, so being cast as a substantial favorite might be different for them, but against the Browns at home, it just might be a good spot. Look for the Cardinals to continue rolling. Take the Arizona Cardinals minus 6.5 points.
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