Cleveland Browns vs. Minnesota Vikings Point Spread – Pick Against the Spread

Cleveland Browns (0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS) vs. Minnesota Vikings (0-2 SU, 1-1 ATS)
NFL Week 3
Date and Time: Sunday, September 22nd, 2014, 1:00 pm EST
Where: Mall of America Field, Minneapolis. Minn.
TV: CBS/DirecTV 705
by Badger, Football Handicapper,

Point Spread: Cle. +5.5/MIN. -5.5
Over/Under Total: 40.5

One of the NFLs eight winless teams will finally get off the schnid on Sunday, when the Cleveland Browns travel to the Metrodome to take on the Minnesota Vikings in an early game on CBS.

Minnesota has been competitive in both of their games so far, but it hasnt translated to the standings very well. Last Sunday was a perfect example, when they had the Chicago Bears on the ropes before letting them score in the final minute to steal a, 31-30, win from the Vikings on the road at Soldier Field. The Vikings are right there, they just cant put it together for a full 60 minutes.

The same cannot be said for the Browns and their winless start, as quarterback Brandon Weeden and the offense havent done much but wet themselves in two weeks of action. Weeden left last Sundays barnburner at Baltimore with a sprained thumb, so Cleveland will be forced to use either Jason Campbell or Brian Hoyer (or both) this weekend in Minnesota.

The injury to Weeden and the resulting change to a backup has caused this game to be the biggest mover in the NFL in terms of line movement this week, opening with Minnesota as 3.5-point favorites and then jumping all the way up to minus -6 after the Weeden news broke.

The over/under total hasnt seen nearly as much action or movement, opening at 41 (or 40.5 depending on where you wager) and moving very little if at all by midweek.

I know a lot of Browns fans, and people in general, are down on Weeden, but I say his coaching staff is mismanaging him. So far in two games the Browns have ridden their since departed horse (Traded to Indy on 9/18), Trent Richardson, who had a total of 31 carries (13 in week 1, 18 in week 2). Hes averaged over three yards a carry, but the Browns dont seem like they want to run the ball to me and I think thats a huge reason why theyre still winless in 2013.

You can surely expect the Vikings to pound Adrian Peterson on Sunday, so on paper this game could be a real quick, low-scoring affair. A low-scoring game looks even more likely since the Browns defense is much improved and currently ranked 4th against the run (59.5 ypg), putting this game on the line in the trenches.

Minnesota is a perfect 2-0 SU and 2-0 ATS in the two meetings with the new Browns franchise, winning in the Metrodome in 2005, 24-12. Incidentally, the Vikings were 4- or 4.5-point favorites both times, and the total closed at 38 and 40 in both games, so the more things change the more they stay the same.

If you follow betting trends, and frankly for this game you might want too, youll want to know that the Vikings have been a strong play at home going 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven. Cleveland is 0-5 ATS in their last five overall going back into last season, so they are due, but a huge risk thats probably not worth taking.

The under might be the strongest trend play though, with the under going 5-1 in Cleveland road games and 21-8-1 in their last 30 overall. The under is also 9-4 for the Vikings when playing against a team with a losing record.

Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Vikings should roll in this game, but the Browns defense is better than most people think and should make it tough. The best value in this game could be the under of 41, since I dont see both teams reaching 20-plus points. The Browns may very well be deflated with the team sending stud RB Trent Richardson on his way as well. It’s too early to tell though, as it just happened today. One thing can be said for sure… His replacement won’t be as good! Lastly, if Campbell is forced to start, the team is dead. He has, does and will continue to hold the ball too long which you can’t do in the NFL otherwise you end up with your face in the grass or throwing into coverage.