Green Bay Packers (6-6 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. Cleveland Browns (0-12 SU, 3-9 ATS)
NFL Week 14
Date/Time: Sunday, December 10 at 1PM EST
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium
by Evergreen, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GB -3/CLE +3
Over/Under Total: 40.5
It is getting down to do-or-die time in the NFL. There are a handful of teams clinging to scant playoff hopes and every week from here on out is a must-win. Green Bay (6-6) is one such team that is just on the outside looking in and they are desperate for a win this week against the Cleveland Browns. Aaron Rodgers is potentially just one week away from getting back in the lineup and saving the season but a loss this week would have the Packers looking at a 9-7 record at best and that may not be good enough. Cleveland is currently winless but has seen some motivated play from individuals like Myles Garrett and Joe Schobert on defense. Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon make up a legit NFL wide receiver tandem and the Browns are surely motivated not to join the list of teams to go 0-16.
Green Bay has been up and down since losing Rodgers but head to Cleveland this week as 3.5 point favorites. There are plenty of online betting sites that have the Browns as a 3-point home dog and that hook, or lack thereof, could come into play with both teams evenly matched over much of the stat sheet. Cleveland is the 32nd ranked team by the Sagarin metrics with Green Bay at 16th. Those same computers are modeling a 24-17 Packer win. The Browns have just one win against the spread in their last nine games following an ATS win. The Pack is 5-1 ATS in their last six on the road against an opponent with a losing home record.
Green Bay has put together a 2-5 mark with Brett Hundley at the helm. There have been confined moments of solid play but overall, Hundley has been a very limited thrower, accumulating just a 70.6 QB rating since taking over. His 5-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio is below average but he has been helped out greatly by his legs, averaging 8.4 yards per carry with two rushing scores. His performances have been very much in line with what DeShone Kizer has put together is his rookie campaign. Kizer is barely over 50% completions, throwing for just six touchdowns against fifteen interception but has rushed for 308 yards and leads all QBs with five rushing touchdowns. The last few weeks have seen Kizer take better care of the ball and that will be key to Clevelands success this Sunday. Neither signal-caller is likely to be a dominant factor in this one but each will have to make the throws when necessary and limit the turnovers. This matchup is a push.
Both teams have seen their most consistent success come from their running games. Green Bay has found a duo of young backs in Jamaal WIlliams and Aaron Jones. Williams has three rushing scores over the last four weeks and adds a nice pass catching option with 162 yards on 15 grabs with a score. Jones is the more fleet of foot and averages 5.5 yards per carry while leading the team with four rushing touchdowns. Cleveland is 6th against the run but look for Green Bay to stick with the run to protect Hundley. The Browns backfield of Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson will be equally as important if Cleveland is going to win. Crowell is the thumper on the early downs with Johnson doing the passing down work. Duke leads the team in receptions (52) and receiving yards (456) and should see success as Green Bay has allowed at least six running back receptions in three straight games. The Packers are 14th at defending the run and these position groups are probably a push again as neither is overly efficient or dynamic.
It is another close shave at WR with both teams possessing big time talent but both are also facing limitations due to poor play from the quarterbacks. Cleveland is 23rd in passing yards with Green Bay at 27th but both have awesome potential. The Packers, with Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, should be able to find a secondary matchup to exploit but Hundley has too often been forced to focus on the rush as Green Bay has allowed the most sacks in the league. Nelson has been the most absent since Hundley took over and it appears that the Nelson/Rodgers connection works in large part due to chemistry, not talent. Cleveland celebrated the return of Josh Gordon by throwing his way 11 times last week. He turned in a 4-85 line which is actually impressive given the caliber of corners he faced against the Chargers. Kizer missed Gordon once underneath and once more on a throw over the top that would have been a long score. Gordon, and Corey Coleman, could face a Packer secondary working without Damarious Randall and Kevin King as both are questionable. That could turn into a large advantage for the Browns but Kizer must be able to connect and take advantage. Cleveland is a bottom-5 team in sacks allowed as well and protecting long enough for Gordon to run those 9-routes could be a challenge. Cleveland does have the best tight end on the field as David Njoku leads the team with four touchdowns. Green Bay has allowed three tight end scores in just the last two weeks and Njoku should have a wide open short-middle to work in with those speedy receiver stretching the defense.
It is not a surprise to see both units losing the time of possession battle. Both are below average in converting third downs and both struggle to get off the field on third as a defense. That leads to a lot of tired defenders late and it has shown up for both teams with games lost in the second half after keeping it close through the first half. Whoever can sustain the drives and win the field position game will have a tremendous advantage Sunday as neither team is likely to march 80 yards for a score. Turnovers and the return game will also factor majorly as this game is likely coming down to a play or two at a crucial moment.
If you listen to the radio in Green Bay, many have compared the Hundley-led Packers to the Browns. Both have sometimes extreme limitations at the QB position and that fact leaves them susceptible to losing to anyone. The most troublesome point on that note is that Hundley is in year three and twice he has been held to less than 100 yards passing. Outside of one really good game at Pittsburgh, Hundley has been borderline terrible as a passer. His legs have saved him plenty but Cleveland is ready for a runner as that defense faces the shifty Kizer everyday in practice. I think this game is a pickem to be honest so it is a no-brainer to me to take Cleveland and the points. You wouldnt have go far to talk me into a moneyline bet on the Browns either as it is hard to lose all 16 in a season and Cleveland just got its most dynamic player back. Gordon gets a long TD to wow the crowd and Cleveland stick a one in the W column, beating Green Bay by a 21-17 margin.
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