Cleveland Browns (0-14 SU, 3-11 ATS) vs. Chicago Bears (4-10 SU, 6-7-1 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date/Time: Sunday, December 24 at 1PM EST
Where: Soldier Field
by Evergreen, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CLE +6.5/ CHI -6.5
Over/Under Total: 38
A good storyline can turn an ordinary NFL game into a great one. Good luck trying to find a good storyline when the Cleveland Browns head to Chicago to take on the Bears. Maybe Cleveland finds a way to finally put a notch in the W column and avoid becoming just the second team to go 0-16. Beyond that, there are precious few items of interest when these teams square off this Sunday, but hey, what else are you going to do, talk to your family?
Neither of these teams are used to being the favorite but someone has to be and the online betting sites have Cleveland listed as 6.5 point underdogs. The Browns enter win just one ATS win in their last ten road games and 2-9 against the spread in their last eleven when facing an opponent with a losing record. Chicago has eight ATS wins in their last twelve at Soldier field but are just 1-5-1 against the spread in their last seven games overall. The Sagarin computers rate Chicago as the 23rd best team with Cleveland bringing up the statistical rear at 32nd. The offense-defense methodology is predicting a 21-11 Chicago win.
There is very little that has gone right in Cleveland and they enter as the 26th ranked offense in terms of yards and are dead last in points at 14.8 per game. Chicago brings a top-10 defense overall, ranking 8th in yards allowed and 12th in points with 21 surrendered on average. It will remain a challenge for the Browns to get consistent production again as Chicagos defense is the best unit on the field come Sunday but many of the issues in Cleveland are in their own hands. DeShone Kizer has thrown 19 interceptions this season and fumbled a half dozen times but coach Hue Jackson continues to have his rookie QB dropback and pass rather than use his solid running game to manage that turnover risk. Isaiah Crowell gained 78 yards on five carries in the first half last week but never saw another carry after that and Cleveland fell to the Ravens, in part due to the turnovers that Kizer created. There are a lot of good players on the Browns but they are currently being hamstrung by some very questionable coaching.
Chicago is going through some offensive woes of its own but Mitch Trubisky is being managed much better and has thrown for seven touchdowns against seven interceptions. That hasnt led to many wins for the Bears but they are playing much closer games and Trubisky is seeing positive development as his experience grows. A big problem in Chicago is the lack of playmakers as Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are about it. That duo has accounted for 1,400 rushing yards and nine touchdowns with Cohen entering the week as the second leading receiver on the team. The WR group in Chicago may be the worst in the league and injuries have played a big role in that. The Bears are 28th or worse in passing yards, total yards and points per game but they should see some success as Cleveland is 30th in points allowed at 25.9 per game. Joe Schobert (75 tackles) and Myles Garrett (5 sacks in 7 starts) are performing well as individuals but the Brows defense as a whole is underperforming and inefficient. Their sack, fumble and interception aggregate total is 2nd worst in the league and their 101 QBR allowed is dead last.
The QB play is going to heavily influence the outcome of this game. Cleveland has the absolute worst game-to-game quarterbacking rating but Chicago isnt much better with a bottom-10 overall mark. Both Kizer and Trubisky are fleet of foot and can damage a defense on a scramble so look for a key run or two to play big if the passing isnt going well. The Browns are 31st in third down completions but the Bears are just a few spots better. It is pretty evident why this game has the lowest over/under total of any game this week. All other things are arguably pretty equal in this one so the Trubisky v. Kizer matchup should be where this game hinges. Right now, that is to the Bears advantage.
Cleveland does have an advantage in playmakers as Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman are legit matchup problems for the Chicago secondary with TE David Njoku also a tough cover. Gordon has been peppered with 28 targets since returning from suspension but the inefficiencies of Kizer have led to only 12 receptions on those throws. Prince Amukamara has been playing corner at a high level according to Pro Football Focus but Cleveland is not shy about moving Gordon around to get the best coverage matchup. Duke Johnson is the do-it-all back for the Browns. He is at 845 scrimmage yards with six touchdowns and is the leading receiver on the team. Chicago will have to account for him in both the run and pass schemes. Again, Kizer is the key as all those skill players are reduced to ineffective levels if the QB is missing them or throwing it to the other team.
It is hard to trust either of these struggling teams but when in doubt, I like to stick with the better defense. Even though this spread scares me a bit, (is Chicago 6 points better than anyone?) I will put my money on that Bears defense before I put it on DeShone Kizer and Hue Jackson for that matter. Cleveland is just 3-11 against the spread overall. They have been large dogs in many games this season but more often than not, they have not been able to play better than what those betting lines suggested. If they were even a 6-8 ATS team, I would go with them here as I think this game will be close. I think Chicago is still motivated to build for next year and Cleveland seems lost in terms of what it will take to avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions at 0-16. Chicago 21 Cleveland 13
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