BY GEORGE EISNER
After a tough loss at home last weekend to the Los Angeles Chargers in which rookie kicker Cade York missed a 54-yard go-ahead field goal wide right, the Cleveland Browns will seek to get back to .500 in Week 6 of the NFL season while playing host to the New England Patriots.
The visitors from Foxboro are navigating a few difficult injury situations on offense, while the Browns will be eager to pick up a win before their meeting with the Baltimore Ravens next week in a game that could determine first place in the AFC North.
Following Bailey Zappe’s first NFL start at quarterback, New England travels to north Ohio as a narrow underdog: Caesars Sportsbook favors Cleveland by 2.5 points and figures the game’s over/under total at 43½.
Let’s take a closer look at the odds and trends:
New England Patriots at Cleveland Browns
Time/TV: 1 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS
Point spread (from Caesars Sportsbook): Browns -2½
Money line: Browns -140, Patriots +118
Analysis: The Browns’ approach to this game should be fairly straightforward given the rushing performance of both teams through the first five weeks. Cleveland leads the NFL with 962 yards rushing, while the Patriots’ defense has given up the 22nd-most. Though the Browns should be able to get steady production out of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, it’s worth noting New England has only given up two touchdowns on the ground.
Finding a betting angle on this game turns tricky because we don’t know which quarterback the Patriots elect to start. Mac Jones has practiced in a limited fashion all week while nursing an ankle injury that forced him to sit out last Sunday and could very well be a game-time decision.
Although the aforementioned Zappe did secure his first victory as an NFL starter a week ago, the result for New England came largely on the heels of its defense. The Patriots also lost one of their key tailbacks to injury in Damien Harris, though they successfully relied almost exclusively on Rhamondre Stevenson afterward in a home shutout of the Lions.
Cleveland already has had a series of disappointing outcomes, losing as favorites to both the Jets and Falcons in addition to last week’s agonizing defeat to the Chargers after entering the fourth quarter as live favorites. In light of those finishes and the forthcoming decision on New England’s quarterback, picking the point total rather than the spread or outright winner could be the more reliable decision for a wager.
The under has successfully cashed in 14 of the Patriots’ past 16 games on the road against teams with losing records at home. If each team elects to rely on its run game against sub-par rushing defenses rather than operate through the uncertainty of their respective quarterbacks, the game clock will tick down more rapidly than usual. Thus, the afternoon should end with 43 or less combined points.
Prediction: Browns 23, Patriots 17