Cleveland Browns (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS) vs. San Diego Chargers (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS)
NFL Week 4
Date/Time: Sunday, October 4, 2015 at 4:05PM EST
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
by Scott, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CLE +8.5/SD -8.5
Over/Under Total: 44.5
The Cleveland Browns come into Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday to face the San Diego Chargers. It is a battle of 1-2 teams, making this a big game for both. On Sunday, the Chargers came out on the wrong end of a tough game, losing 31-14 to the Minnesota Vikings. Cleveland had their own issues on Sunday, losing at home to the Raiders, 27-20.
San Diego entered this season with some high hopes and while its too early to go into panic-mode, failing to beat Cleveland at home this week would represent a major setback for this team. There may not be much the Chargers can do about it. The offense is the key for this team. The defense doesnt have to be great, but the offense needs to at least be very good. And its really hard for that to happen with a front line that is not able to get the job done.
Its almost as if the San Diego offensive line did something wrong in a previous life with the amount of bad breaks they have absorbed so far in 2015. Already riddled with injury problems, theyve been trying to tough it out with a patchwork line, but Sunday saw everything fall to pieces. With multiple starters already out such as DJ Fluker, Sunday saw C Chris Watt go out with a groin injury. Orlando Franklin was taken out of the game with an injury. Then late in the game was the final nail in the coffin, with left tackle King Dunlap taken off the field with yet another injury that turned out to be a concussion. Its almost too much to keep track of, but suffice to say, the Chargers offensive line is in a state of complete turmoil.
Unfortunately for the Chargers, the offensive line is not a part of the team that go into the toilet. It just resonates so badly when the quarterback receives no protection and is subjected to a beating and when running backs struggle with no holes being opened. There are other parts of the team you could perhaps camouflage somewhat when its in shambles, but the offensive line is not one of those things. It has taken an offense that is among the best in the league and rendered it a below-average group.
Before we relegate the Chargers to the scrap heap, lets remember the games they have been in for the last two weeksdemanding road contests against a pair of really tough defenses in Cincinnati and Minnesota. In these games, not only were the Chargers playing in foreign territory, but they were also facing home defenses that have a way of making it really hard on a team that is trying to work its way through offensive line issues.
Well see where the Browns take it from here, but its going to be hard to go back to Johnny Manziel after Josh McCown threw for 341 yards on Sunday, albeit in losing fashion. But with the Browns moving forward with McCown, it casts their offense in a bad light. On Sunday, they could only muster 3 points in the first half, with Oakland taking a 21-3 third quarter lead. Sure, they got back into it late. But maybe going with McCown was a bum move. After all, why draft a QB in the first round and then yank him after he finally shows the first real positive developments of his career?
Also handicapping the Cleveland offense is a seeming lack of a run game. Guys like Isaiah Crowell will provide some production here and there, but this offense is pretty flat with McCown taking to the air almost exclusively, relying on serviceable, but hardly electric receivers like Brian Hartline and Travis Benjamin. Veteran tight end Gary Barnidge went for over 100 on Sunday. While thats a good sign, its a bit troubling that just about anybody can step up and lead a receiving game that really lacks an identity.
Inconsistencies have also plagued the Browns defense. They looked good enough in their week 2 win over the Titans, but sandwiching that game are two mediocre performances. QB Derek Carr and RB Latavius Murray both had really big games against Cleveland on Sunday, with almost 500 total yards of offense allowed by this D. They registered no sacks against the Raiders, with the lack of pressure up-front causing a good Cleveland secondary to get overwhelmed at times. Now on the road against an urgent San Diego team, they will need to find a way to get it together.
With his line in tatters, Rivers is also without one of his main weapons over the years, with TE Antonio Gates serving the final game of his suspension. Replacement Ladarius Green was suitable filling in, but a concussion left him out of action on Sunday and hes iffy for this week, as well. But Rivers still has ample weaponry. Perhaps he can throw some more quick-release passes, with the O-line looking to have a better a day at home against a less-fierce Cleveland D-line. During his tenure at San Diego, offensive coordinator Frank Reich has done well in making adjustments in the light of major injury issues. This isnt the first season theyve been hit hard on offense by the injury bug.
Again, this is a big game for the Chargers at home. Losing to the Browns at the Q and falling to 1-3 would create a hole that might be hard to get out of, even with it being the first quarter of the season with a lot of football left. And make no mistake; the Chargers problems are real. I think theyll win, but its simply too hard to lay a big number on SD right now.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Cleveland Browns plus 8.5 points. Bet this (and ALL) NFL/college games at -105 reduced odds at the web’s best sportsbook: 5Dimes. It’s dumb to pay more for odds!
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