Cleveland Browns (3-3 SU, 1-3-2 ATS) vs. San Francisco 49ers (5-1 SU, 5-0-1 ATS), 4:15 p.m. EST, NFL Week 8, Sunday, October 30, 2011, Candlestick Park, San Francisco, California, TV: CBS
by Scotty L, NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Clev +9.5/SF -9.5
Over/Under Total: 38.5
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The Cleveland Browns come to Candlestick Park on Sunday to face the San Francisco 49ers. Cleveland has begun the season 3-3–a respectable mark for a team many figured to be a doormat. The 49ers, meanwhile, have also surprised and have people paying attention at 5-1, including 4 straight victories. Those betting on the Niners this season have yet to lose, but are now coming off a bye-week as nearly double-digit favorites.
Before the bye-week, San Francisco was really cooking. Favored by just a few points, they rolled over 4-1 Tampa Bay, 48-3. The following week, they went into Detroit and beat the undefeated Lions, 25-19. Head Coach Jim Harbaugh has really turned things around. The offense is improved and playing efficiently, while the defense has become one of the leagues best so far in 2011.
Cleveland is doing about as well as can be expected. They have been matched kindly, facing Cincinnati, Indy, Miami, Tennessee, Oakland, and Seattle. 5 of 6 games were decided by under 10 points. Among their 3 wins were a one-point win at home against Miami and an ugly 6-3 game at home against the Seahawks on Sunday. While they might not be as good as their record suggests and could become a bottom-pack team by seasons end, they deserve credit for being resourceful and still within striking distance in week 8.
With an offense struggling behind 2nd-year starter Colt McCoy, the Browns defense has answered the call. In a season that is seeing record-breaking passing prolificness, Cleveland is holding opposing quarterbacks to 172 yards passing per game–good for 2nd in the league. Giving up 291 total yards per game, this D is ranked 4th in the league. Their resistance against the rush, however, has been suspect and that is the 49ers bread and butter.
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Niners RB Frank Gore (109-541-4) has overcome a slow start and is currently in high gear–with 3 consecutive 100-yard games. Its difficult to imagine his success stopping against the rather porous Cleveland run D. QB Alex Smith might only have a little over 1000 yards passing through 6 games, but a 63.3 completion percentage and 8 TDs against a mere 2 picks speaks to his growing maturity and efficiency. Pass catchers Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and Josh Morgan anchor a nice crew. And Ted Ginn, Jr. is always a risk to break one during a punt or kick return.
This matchup obviously favors the 49ers. The Browns figure to have trouble kick-starting a struggling run attack against the robust Niners D. And Colt McCoy may have been spoiled in his first 6 games, as he will surely encounter a more feverish pass rush and shutdown secondary than he has seen yet this season. But if the 49ers were to have a letdown, why not this week?
Jim Harbaugh will certainly fight against an off-game, but there might not be much he can do about it. In three consecutive weeks, San Fran went into Philly to win, blew out Tampa, before going into Detroit to win a tough game. The bye-week will probably help them regenerate their spirit, but should we expect the 49ers to be at a fever pitch every week? They have not failed to cover this season, so if they were to slip mentally a bit, why not against the overlooked Browns as big favorites?
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: It can be dangerous to attempt forecasting team letdowns. While one would be within reason in assuming the 49ers will not play their best game, what happens on the field on Sunday might just blow that theory to smithereens. The Niners are a good team because they play hard every week and have not had that letdown yet. But Im going to go out on a limb and predict that the 49ers at least come out a little slow. Maybe Cleveland can put up an early score and allow their defense to keep the Niners from running wild. Look for a game Cleveland squad to keep it close and get the cover. Take the Cleveland Browns plus 9.5 points.
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