Minnesota Vikings (0-0) vs. Cleveland Browns (0-0), Browns Stadium, Cleveland, Sunday, September 13th, 1 PM Eastern, Fox
By Zman of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Vikings -4/Browns +4
The circus that is the Brett Favre saga continues, just in another color, this year purple, when the Minnesota Vikings begin their supposed trek to the Super Bowl with a visit to Cleveland for a bout with the Browns Sunday afternoon.
Many online sportsbooks have moved Minnesota from a three-point road favorite to -4 and even -4 1/2 in recent days. And many bookies have bumped the total on this game from 39 to 40. The Vikings are also listed at around -220 on most moneylines, with Cleveland getting +180 as home underdogs.
The Vikings went 10-6 last year to win the NFC North, but quickly bowed out of the playoffs with a Wild Card-round loss to Philadelphia. With a potent running game led by the great Adrian Peterson and a solid defense, Minnesota went in search of an upgrade at quarterback this off-season. First, they traded for Sage Rosenfels. And mid-way through the exhibition season the Vikes talked Favre into coming back, and he is fully expected to be the starter this Sunday and for the rest of this year.
But we should remember that Favre is coming off shoulder surgery, and he led the league in interceptions while toiling for the Jets last year. And there are questions as to who Brett will throw the ball to this season.
In 2006 the Browns went 4-12. Then, with QB Derek Anderson throwing the ball all over the field, Cleveland went 10-6 in ’07 and nearly made the playoffs. But last year, playing with the expectation of a post-season appearance, Cleveland collapsed, won just four games, and parted ways with head coach Romeo Crennel. They then replaced him with another Belichick disciple, Eric Mangini, who went 23-25 in three years as head man with the Jets, and got canned after going 9-7 and missing the playoffs last year.
And although he tried to keep it a secret, Mangini has supposedly decided that former Golden Domer Brady Quinn will start at QB for the Browns Sunday.
These two teams haven’t met since the Vikes beat the Browns 24-12 at the Metrodome back in 2005.
Minnesota went just 6-10 vs. the pointspreads last season, and 3-5 ATS on the road.
The Browns went 7-9 against the pointspreads last year, but 3-1 ATS as home dogs.
The totals went 9-7 in Vikings games last season, which averaged 45 points, while the O/Us went 6-9-1 in Cleveland games, which averaged just 36 points.
Minnesota ranked 17th in the league in total offense last season at 331 YPG, fifth in rushing at 146 YPG, and 11th in average time-of-possession at 31:18. The Purple defense ranked sixth overall at 292 YPG, led the league vs. the run at a stingy 77 YPG, and ranked fourth in sacks with 45.
Cleveland ranked 31st in the league in total offense last year at 249 YPG, 26th in rushing at 100 YPG, and 30th in TOP at 27:32. Defensively, the Brownies ranked 26th overall at 357 YPG and 28th vs. the run at a generous 152 YPG.
The Vikes went 3-1 both SU and ATS during this just-completed exhibition season, beating the Colts, Chiefs and Texans, and losing to the Cowboys. Cleveland, meanwhile, just went 2-2 both SU and vs. the numbers this preseason, beating the Lions and Titans and losing to the Packers and Bears.
On the NFL futures markets, the Vikings are listed as favorites of right around +110 to win the NFC North this year, +500 to win their first NFC championship since the Bud Grant days, and at +1,100 to win their first-ever Super Bowl title.
The Browns, on the other hand, are getting right around +1,500 to win the AFC North this season, upwards of +5,000 to win their first AFC championship and +7,500 to win their first-ever Super Bowl crown.
Zman’s Pick: Laying points on the road in the NFL isn’t really my thing but I absolutely love Minnesota’s chance of covering here as the Browns have to prove themselves on offense before they get my money. Take the Vikings -4.