Cleveland Browns (3-10 SU, 5-8 ATS) vs. Seattle Seahawks (8-5 SU, 6-6-1 ATS)
NFL Week 15
Date/Time: Sunday, December 20, 2015 at 4:05 PM EST
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington
by Scott, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CLE +14.5/SEA -14.5
Over/Under Total: 43
The Cleveland Browns meet the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on Sunday. The Browns are mired in a 3-10 season, but they beat the 49ers on Sunday, 24-10, to establish some momentum with Johnny Manziel, who is now 2-2 as the Browns starter. But the Browns face a tough one on Sunday, going into Seattle to face a streaking Seahawks bunchone of the toughest road spots in the league. On Sunday, the Seahawks beat Baltimore, 35-6. In their last two games, both on the road, they outscored their pair of opponents, 73-13.
Johnny Manziel has his share of issues and drawbacks, but its hard to deny a certain edge he has that seems to rub off on the rest of the team when hes in there. Even with Josh McCown putting up big numbers at times, the team lacked an overall spark. Manziel at least seems to have a knack for manufacturing wins, with 2 of the Browns 3 wins happening with him as a starter, despite him only getting 4 so far this season. He has 3 games left to do some damage and create something positive heading into 2016.
The Browns are simply handcuffed by lack of playmakers on offense. They have run for only 4 rushing touchdowns all season, averaging 3.7 yards per carry. They got a huge showing from Isaiah Crowell last Sunday, so maybe they found something. Travis Benjamin is a nice receiver and the growth of TE Gary Barnidge this season has been remarkable, as he is really a robust weapon. But thats about it and its just too thin of a cast to make an impact consistently. Rookie Duke Johnson has been good as a ball-catching running back. They are averaging 18.5 points per game this season, but again, they look to have more spark with Johnny Football behind center.
In giving up 17.5 points a game on average, the Browns defense is ranked 30th in the NFL. They are one of the worst defenses against the run and only marginally better against the pass at 22nd in the league. They played well against San Fran on Sunday, giving up just ten points. But for the most part this season, offenses have been having their way with Cleveland and theyre going to need to dig deep to hold off a peaking Seattle offense on Sunday.
The Seattle offense has engineered a complete turnaround, with Wilson not only becoming more aerially-inclined, but doing so on a nearly-historical level. In their last 5 games, they have scored 173 points. Russell Wilson has gone completely haywire in the last 4 games, with 16 touchdowns and zero picks. During that stretch, he is an incredible 89-for-118 passing with 10 yards per pass attempt. And this Seattle offensive renaissance occurred just as they were losing their top players from the offenseJimmy Graham, Marshawn Lynch, and now Thomas Rawls. Its been nothing short of amazing. No quarterback with over 100 attempts has ever thrown for a higher QB rating in a 4-game stretch than Wilson has.
The loss of Rawls on Sunday could hurt, as teams start keying more on the passing attack. Having Fred Jackson and Dujuan Harris back there isnt terribly promising and you cant lose the kind of production that Rawls was providing without feeling the loss. But look what this offense has accomplished while in the midst of an injury bug infestation. Why question them now? They have been getting some nice individual performances from this offense lately. WR Doug Baldwin has 8 TDs in his last 3 games, a total that no one has exceeded in a 3-game stretch since 1993. Tyler Lockett has been stepping up more in the receiver role and has 2 multi-touchdown games in his last four. But as much as the skill-position guys have been helping, its the offensive line that has really made it come together. Earlier in the season, we saw Wilson barely able to set his feet and now hes able to orient himself to the field and pick his shots. The results have been tremendous.
It looks like the newfound offensive success has helped the Seahawks on the other side of the ball. They may not quite be the foolproof unit of the past several seasons, but they are still awfully good. And theyve been proving that lately, with 13 points allowed in the last two games, both on the road. Look for them to thrive now that theyre back at home. Seven times this season, opponents have scored 13 or fewer points. Cleveland looks to really have their work cut out for them on Sunday. Seattle is a team that has a lot of championship mettle and its all coming together at precisely the right time this season. Its becoming harder to remember how they were 2-4 at one point this season.
A lot of this game comes down to how different Cleveland is with Manziel in there. And maybe Cleveland is upgraded with him in there. But what kind of performance could he come up with in what figures to be his toughest-ever assignment as a football player in his life? The Seattle faithful havent seen their boys in 3 weeks and will be pumped, with the revival of their season now crystallizing. The problem is that its crystallized for everyone else too, hence the fat spread of 14.5. Seattle is top fodder on the talking-head shows and theyre probably not going to get exceptional value in matchups like this. I see Cleveland hanging in there and notching the cover.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Cleveland Browns plus 14.5 points.
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