Cleveland Browns (3-11 SU, 5-9 ATS) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (9-5 SU, 8-6 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date/Time: Sunday, December 27, 2015 at 1:00PM EST
Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
by Scott, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CLE +12.5/KC -12.5
Over/Under Total: 42.5
The Cleveland Browns come to Arrowhead to face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. For Cleveland, sitting at 3-11, theyre just playing out the string of another awful season where not a lot went right. On Sunday, they fell to the Seahawks, 30-13, to lose their 11th game of the season. Conversely, the Chiefs are the hottest team in the conference, coming off a 34-14 road win at Baltimore, which was their 8th straight win. After a 1-5 start, they now hold the inside track for the final wild card and have somehow managed to draw within a game of Denver in the AFC West.
Its hard to find an adjective to really sum up the Chiefs turnaround this year. Its been nothing short of miraculous. That 1-5 start would have sunk a lot of teams. Some of those losses were absolutely heartbreaking and it looked like it just wasnt meant to be for the Chiefs this season. And when Jamaal Charles went down, it really looked bad. For that team to rally back with an 8-game win streak is amazing. Only two of the wins were by a one-score margin, with the other 6 being very conclusive wins.
The Chiefs offense got a big boost from the quarterback play of Alex Smith this season. Smith has thrown only 4 picks all season and just one in his last 11 games. Throughout the season, he has connected well with his primary ball-catchersreceivers Jeremy Maclin and Albert Wilson, as well as tight end Travis Kelce. In relief of Charles, Chancandrick West has filled in well and had another good game on Sunday. And they get help with Spencer Ware coming back this week from injury. Even Smith has made a bunch of big runs this season. The only thing wrong with this defense is the protection given to Smith, with the O-line allowing an alarming 44 sacks this season.
The Kansas City defense is a tough one, a unit that shuts down offenses, while also making a ton of big plays. This unit has rushed the passer well this season, led by Justin Houston (out) and Tamba Hali. Rookie corner Marcus Gilbert might be the best defensive rookie in the game with his 7 picks and 2 touchdowns. All told, this defense has picked off opposing passers 20 times, five times more than theyve given up. And theyve scored 6 touchdowns this season. Despite such a bad start, they enter week 16 ranked 3rd in points allowed with just 18.4 a game.
Its hard to take a Cleveland team to task for coming up short against a red-hot Seahawks team in Seattle on Sunday. That would have been a tough spot for any team in the league. Seattle has been lighting up the scoreboard lately and the 30 they put up against the Browns was actually the lowest point total they had put up in a month. Johnny Manziel is in there now and he won the game right before that and is now 2-3 this season as a starter, not too bad for a 3-11 team.
It didnt really take hold on Sunday against Seattle, but Manziel gives this team some better overall energy. He is raw and has his share of flaws, but he has been adept in getting some life pumped into this offenses sails. Theyve been running the ball a little better in recent games. Manziel has good chemistry with Cleveland targets TE Gary Barnidge, Travis Benjamin, and others. Dwayne Bowe makes his return to Arrowhead on Sunday, though hes had a strangely-quiet season for the Browns.
Clevelands defense has a lot of issues and that showed on Sunday, as it has all season long. When you give up a big rushing day to the passed-around Christine Michael, you know you have problems and Cleveland is one of the worst when it comes to stopping the run, something that could play a big role in this game. In allowing an average of nearly 28 points per game, they rank second-to-last in the NFL.
Cleveland coach Mike Pettine said he will coach this team as if he will be here next season. He wont be, but that means we might see him mix it up a little bit and give some other players a shot. That might be good, but when winning becomes secondary, thats not a team you necessarily want to put your money behind. But there are still enough guys on this team with their careers in a state of limbo and youd think they would be gunning to make a good impression. That goes for Manziel and a lot of players on both sides of the ball.
This seems like a strange time for Kansas City to take their foot off the gas. There is still work to be done and with the Jets and Steelers in the wild card picture with 9 wins, there are scenarios where a Chiefs slip-up could result in them not making the playoffs. Its worth gauging the true mental makeup of a team that is able to rally from such a pitiful start to the season. And look for that type of wherewithal to carry them through the final two games of the season.
Despite some favorable spreads, Cleveland is 5-9 ATS this season. The Browns have covered one measly spread since October 18. But while a point spread such as this is more understandable against a suddenly high-flying Seattle team, KC remains a problematic double-digit favorite. I see them winning, but not destroying the Browns, on Sunday. Ill take the points.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Cleveland Browns plus 12.5 points.
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