Cleveland Browns (0-11 SU, 2-9 ATS) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (5-6 SU, 6-4-1 ATS)
NFL Week 13
Date/Time: Sunday, December 3, 2017 at 4:05PM EST
Where: StubHub Center, Carson, California
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CLE +13.5/LAC -13.5
Over/Under Total: 41.5
On Sunday at the StubHub Center, the Cleveland Browns take on the Los Angeles Chargers. For the Chargers, things have started to get serious. They last played on Thanksgiving, hammering the Cowboys, 28-6, for the big win. They now have smashed opponents in consecutive games and even after blowing several games they should have won, are now at 5-6 and in the hunt in a division where theyre the only ones winning lately. The Browns fortunes took another dip on Sunday, when they lost 30-16 to the Bengals. At 0-11, they Chargers are the only team they have beaten in their last 30 games, topping them last season, 20-17. Can they do it again and get their first win of the season or will the Chargers exact revenge, get to .500, and take another step toward getting to the top of the division?
The Browns are really in trouble. Its one thing to be a struggling team in a state of a total rebuild. The expectations arent very high, but even those low standards arent being met. We see the oddsmakers starting to make the adjustments, as the Browns have been covering precious few spreads the last few years. With bettor confidence at an all-time low, they are giving the Browns nearly two touchdowns. And for this Chargers team who actually lost to the Browns last season to be such resounding favorites really is a sad commentary on how far Cleveland has fallen.
The Browns are working with the leagues last-ranked offense, as they average a paltry 15 points a game. At quarterback, they have some young options, none of which are really panning out. DeShone Kizer has talent and can run the ball some, as well, but hasnt been able to get much out of this group. Isaiah Crowell is a good back, while guys like Corey Coleman, Kenny Britt, Duke Johnson, and rookie tight end David Njoku are nice pieces to have. It just hasnt taken hold. Look for Josh Gordons return this week, as the onetime receiving yards-leader makes begins his comeback. That could be an X-factor, but more down the road. Against a tough Chargers pass-defense and having not played in a few years, this could be a spot where he is just getting his feet wet.
In the years to come, the Browns defense should start to see youth pay off handsomely. But with youth comes growing pains and thats the stage this defense is in this season. Some injuries havent helped, nor has the lack of support being offered on the other side of the ball. Myles Garrett is a growing force as a pass-rusher. Jabrill Peppers is a safety who is coming along nicely, while CB Jason McCourty can make plays in the secondary. They actually arent as bad as theyve been made to look. If the offense could just have a good day every now and then, this defense could shine, but theyre being asked to do too much of the heavy lifting and arent quite up to the task.
The Chargers have been through a lot already this season. A horrible start to the season, injuries, and cruel late twists late in multiple games almost had them down and out. They could easily be 7-4 and yet, they have been playing well with two straight rollicking wins. The offense has begun to play up to its capability, with Philip Rivers starting to turn it loose. The defense has been solid all season and they are starting to put forth more-complete performances. After outscoring the Bills and Cowboys by a combined 82-30 score, they look to keep the good times rolling against the Browns this week at home.
Getting the Chargers offense rolling has been critical. After putting up 54 points against Buffalo, they did some nice things against Dallas. Rivers is coming off his best game of the season, throwing three touchdowns with 434 yards against Dallas, on 27/33 passing. They are finally getting some big showings from number-one receiver Keenan Allen, who has 3 touchdowns and 331 yards receiving in the last two games. Melvin Gordon is a difference-making back who is due to have a big game, helped by rookie Austin Ekeler, who can be a force aerially. With Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates, Rivers has nice targets at tight end, along with receiving talent like Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams (questionable), and others. To see them start to get the most of this group suggests the Chargers could make a run coming down the stretch.
This Chargers defense might be one of the better ones theyve had in years. Theyve been stout and have been making a lot of plays in recent weeks. They picked off two passes in their last game, with Casey Hayward getting another pick and Desmond King returning one for a touchdown. Tre Boston has been a major surprise at safety, as the secondary has actually been quite good in 17. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are getting after opposing quarterbacks in a big way. In the middle, Jatavis Brown continues to grow in his second season and getting underrated LB Denzel Perryman back has started to really pay off.
Getting Gordon back and facing a team they beat last season could give rise to a Browns team that is in a position to make some good things happen this week. But while the Chargers are facing a winless team at home, its a critical game for them. It would be hard to justify any thoughts of grandeur if they were unable to win this game. Its a game they absolutely must have. On one hand, the Browns have been so bad that the point spread isnt altogether out-of-line, even against an undependable sub-.500 Chargers team. Its just hard to get behind the Chargers in this role. More often than not, they dont get the most of what they have and even if a blowout is in the cards, this doesnt seem like the best week to get behind the Bolts. Ill take the points.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Cleveland Browns plus 13.5 points. - Bet your pick for this game using your credit card at an online bookie where it WILL work for deposits and where you’ll receive a generous 50% signup bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $250! (Example: Deposit $250 and they’ll give you an extra $250 FREE!) Find this great offer at Bovada Sportsbook.