Cleveland Browns (2-4 SU, 4-2 ATS) vs. St. Louis Rams (2-3 SU, 2-3 ATS)
NFL Week 7
Date/Time: Sunday, October 25, 2015 at 1:00PM EST
Where: Edward Jones Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
by Scott, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CLE +4.5/STL -4.5
Over/Under Total: 42
The Cleveland Browns come to the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday to face the St. Louis Rams. Cleveland is at 2-4, following a tough overtime loss to the unbeaten Broncos last Sunday. It was their third close loss of the season, but theyre showing some signs of improvement. Theyll need to be on their game this week against the well-rested St. Louis Rams, who is coming off a bye week. In their last game, they lost in Green Bay, 24-10.
Perhaps with the extra rest, the Rams were able to find something, as its been a bizarre start to the season. They opened the campaign with a nice overtime home win over Seattle, only to lose by 14 at the Redskins the following week. An ugly 12-6 home loss to the Steelers followed, before St. Louis was able to beat the then-unbeaten Cardinals on the road. After 3 road games in 4 weeks against tough foes, they got the bye week, with this being the first of two straight games at home. They should be comfortable, dug in, and rested for an incoming Cleveland squad that means business.
The agonizing losses in winnable games could take a toll on the spirit of this Browns team, but it should give them hope. Rather than a bottom-rung team that struggled to make things happen, theyve at least graduated to the ranks of the dangerousa scrappy team that can jump up and bite you. Still, it has to be tough for a team that is right on the precipice to lose the way they have. The loss to the Chargers was particularly brutal, as the Browns scored a TD and a two-pointer late to tie it and the San Diego winning FG attempt sailed left, only to have an offside penalty give them another chance, which they converted. And with a chance to go to 3-3 and hand Denver their first loss, a Broncos drive late in the overtime period cost them what would have been another good win.
Say this much for the Browns, though,at least they have an offense now. Its hard to even characterize recent Browns offenses because they had no identity. They would just grope for foothold, but this team has developed a nice aerial attack, with Josh McCown putting up huge numbers since returning from a concussion. Against Denver, he didnt have a great game, throwing 2 interceptions. They havent really been able to develop a run-game that is impactful, but the offense is moving and scoring points and thats a good sign. Travis Benjamin is morphing into a nice number-one receiver. TE Gary Barnidge had another 2 TD catches and is becoming a real force, especially in the red-zone. Rookie running back Duke Johnson, Jr. is beginning to showcase his talent, both in the run and pass. Youre starting to see some consistent contributors stepping up with this Cleveland offense.
Now if only the Cleveland defense could keep pace. Its not so much the points theyre giving up, even though thats been too high, but its a defense that could really use an infusion of clutch play from time to time. Whenever the offense rallies, the D lets them down. Theyre not rushing the passer enough, with only 10 sacks through 6 games, while the Cleveland O-line has allowed 22 sacks. The defense simply hasnt been making enough big plays. Only once this season have they played particularly well for four quarters, as they more often than not put a still one-dimensional offense in a position where they have to score a lot of points.
St. Louis would like to establish a greater air of consistency and this would be a good week to try, as a win would bring them up to the .500 mark with a future in an NFC West division that is in a state of flux. Their range of form has been pretty wide-ranging this season. At their best, they look like a contender and at their worst, theyre just lousy. Good luck trying to pinpoint what youll get from week to week with this bunch. At the same time, with a lot on the line in this game and things starting to get serious, one could expect a sound effort from the Rams.
As the Rams have been inconsistent as a team, so has first-year St. Louis starter Nick Foles at quarterback. He has thrown 6 touchdowns with 5 picks in 5 games. He was just 11-for-30 against Green Bay and hasnt surpassed 200 yards in passing since the season opener. But the Rams are holding out hope, with the emergence of Todd Gurley, the high-powered rookie back. In his last two games, he was showing signs of his dominant form, with 305 yards on the ground. After a few games of getting his feet wet, followed by a bye week, he could conceivably go off big-time against the leagues last-ranked run defense in Cleveland.
The emergence of a very good back is a boost, but the St. Louis offense still labors. Guys like Kenny Britt, Jared Cook, Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, and Benjamin Cunningham are nice players, but none of them are guys who can be counted on to deliver on a game-by-game basis. Some weeks, a few of those guys have a good game and other times, theyre barely making a peep on the field.
St. Louis has one of the fiercest fronts, with a pass-rush that can at times be immense. It doesnt resonate in great run defense, however, but the secondary is strong. This is a defense that can make plays and get stops, especially when the offense isnt hanging them out to dry with strings of three-and-outs. This is a group that could get better as the season carries on, with the offense getting more teeth with the ascension of Gurley.
Its not going to be easy for Cleveland, who is in the midst of a tough 5 road games in 7 week span. St. Louis, meanwhile, is rested, having been relaxing and planning, while Cleveland was losing in gut-wrenching fashion. I think we see a good version of the Rams this week.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the St. Louis Rams minus 4.5 points.
Bet this game at an online sportsbook where your credit card WILL work for deposits and where you’ll receive a giant 50% sign-up bonus up to $1000 in FREE cash! –> MyBookie!
Additional NFL Football Betting Previews