Cleveland Browns (4-9) +14, 38.5 O/U at Philadelphia Eagles (7-5-1)
-14, 38.5 O/U, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa., 8:30 PM
Eastern, Monday, ESPN
by Badger of Predictem.com
The Philadelphia Eagles look to continue their late-season playoff
push when they host the Cleveland Browns between the white lines of
Lincoln Financial Field on this weeks installment of Monday Night
Football on ESPN.
Left for dead after an embarrassing 36-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens three weeks ago, the Eagles have won two straight to climb back into
the NFC playoff picture. Quarterback Donovan McNabb, who was benched
at halftime of that Ravens game, has responded and rallied the Eagles
to back-to-back impressive wins over NFC playoff teams, including
last weeks solid 20-14 victory over the first-place New York Giants
and a 48-20 whoopin of Arizona on Thanksgiving Day.
The Browns are in a free-fall, having lost three in a row and five of
their last six games. Theyve been forced to play their third-string
quarterback due to injury to their top two choices, their defense
continues to fade away in the fourth quarter of every game, and head
coach Romeo Crennel is just two games away from being shown the door
and put out of his misery.
The sportsbooks are expecting a lopsided affair as the Eagles opened the
game as large 14-point favorites at home. The number has held too, as
it seems nobody with money to burn wants to wager it on the Browns
these days. The total opened at 38 and has moved up to 38.5 or even a
few 39s at some of the larger offshore sportsbooks. The moneyline
lists the Eagles at -800, while the Browns are large +600 underdogs.
McNabb has displayed his old form the past few weeks since head coach
Andy Reid shocked the world by benching him in favor of backup Kevin
Kolb against Baltimore. Although, it was a prototypical NFC East
power running game that sparked the Eagles to their upset win over
the Giants last week.
Brian Westbrook ran for 131 yards and a touchdown on a season-high 35
carries, and caught 72 more yards and the game-winning score in the
passing game to top 200 total yards by himself in the Giants game.
McNabb only had 30 attempts in the game (19-of-30 for 191 yards),
which may signal a change in the Eagles offensive scheme by Reid
that has been extremely pass-happy to start the season. Overall the
Eagles are the leagues 7th-ranked offense (354.8 ypg), 5th in the
passing game (249.5 ypg) and 6th in points scored each week (26.1 ppg).
The Browns offense played their first game with third-stringer Ken
Dorsey at the helm last week, but the overall results were typical of
their season-long struggles on that side of the ball. The Browns
havent scored an offensive touchdown in 13 quarters now, and while
Dorsey was less than spectacular in his first start since 2006 (22-
of-43, 150 yards, INT), its hard to lay all the blame on him when
the running game only gains 35 yards on just 19 carries.
Defensively the Eagles and coordinator Jim Johnson have turned up the
heat the past few weeks. They held Arizonas Kurt Warner to 235
yards passing and picked him off three times the week before, and
last week they limited Eli Manning and the Giants to 123 yards
passing, although there were several drops by Giants receivers in the
game that would have changed that number drastically.
The one thing the Eagles defense does do well is defend the run (93.1
ypg 8th). Last week they became really the only team this season
that stopped the heralded Giants running game, limiting them to just
88 yards rushing.
The Browns defense has followed the same theme all season long, play
strong for three quarters only to wear down and give up in the fourth
quarter. They give up a ton of yards on the ground (148.5 ypg 28th)
as teams grind it out to close out the game. Last week the Tennessee
Titans ran all over them for 235 yards, so expect more of the same
this week with the Eagles renewed emphasis on the running game.
These two teams havent met on the field in the regular season since
2004, a game the Eagles won 34-31 in overtime in Cleveland. Since the
1999 season the Eagles have won three of the four games played
between the two teams, including the only game played in Philly
(30-17 in 1999), but the Browns have covered the spread in three of
the four games including the 2004 overtime game as 7.5-point underdogs.
All four of the previous meetings went over the total, which is
direct conflict with most of the betting trends in this game. Both
teams are 6-7 versus the total in 2008 so far, and the under is 13-6
in Clevelands last 19 games overall. The under is also a solid 6-2
in Phillys last eight home games and its a moneymaking 13-6-2 in
Phillys last 21 games on the showcase of Monday Night Football.
Badgers Pick: The Browns best game of the season, by far, was their
35-14 victory over the Giants last time they were on Monday Night
Football. While some of the talent is gone, theres still something
to be said about the Browns players and their ability to turn it on
in front of the world on MNF. Philly may get caught looking past the
weakened Browns too (they play Washington and Dallas to finish the
season). Philly wins, but Cleveland finds some way to cover two
touchdowns. Take Cleveland plus 14 points here.