Today's free pick: What will happen when two loveable losers collide this Sunday in the Rust Belt? The betting lines say a win for the Buffalo Bills... They’re laying three points to the eternally hapless Cleveland Browns.
SBR NFL Feature: September 21
Bills vs. Browns
You won’t find more loyal
football fans than those in Buffalo and Cleveland. The NFL is about as
lunchpail as professional sports is allowed to be anymore, born in industrial
towns like Canton and Rochester and still thriving 100 years later across the
Northeast. Okay, “thriving” may be a bit of a stretch. The Bills have had one
winning season in the 2000s. The Browns have had two.
The Paucity of Hope
That “hope and change” thing
hasn’t done very well for either of these franchises. The Browns have employed
five head coaches and nine No. 1 quarterbacks since rejoining the NFL in 1999.
The Bills: five coaches and eight QBs over the same span. Guess they should
have stuck with Doug Flutie, huh?
The Browns are in the bigger state of flux at the
moment. They’ve just had a major ownership change; pending league approval,
truck-stop magnate and former Pittsburgh Steelers minority owner Jimmy Haslam
III will buy the team from Randy Lerner for $1 billion. That means team
president Mike Holmgren, GM Tom Heckert, Jr. and head coach Pat Shurmur are
lame ducks walking.
Well, as they say: Buy low, sell high. Holmgren may
have lost the respect he earned while leading the Green Bay Packers and the
Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl. But his strength is working with quarterbacks,
and this is Holmgren’s first opportunity since taking over the Browns in 2010
to groom a serious QB prospect – no offense, Colt McCoy.
Weeden Needs No Education
Brandon Weeden was the fourth quarterback taken in
the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, but he’s the real deal, with pure
mechanics and plenty of size at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds. He’s also about to
turn 29. Weeden was a minor-league pitching prospect before enrolling at
So, is Weeden the next Kurt Warner or the next
Chris Weinke? His Week 2 performance was certainly Warner-like, except for the
lack of interceptions and concussions: 26-of-37 for 322 yards and a pair of touchdowns
in a 34-27 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals (–7 at home). Said push makes
Cleveland 0-2 SU and 1-0-1 ATS on the season.
Weeden has plenty of room to grow. Cleveland’s
offensive line is healthy and stronger this year with second-round pick
Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle. And Schwartz helped spring Cleveland’s other
first-round pick, RB Trent Richardson, for 109 yards (5.7 yards per carry) and
a TD against Cincinnati.
Schwartz will be lined up against former No.
1-overall pick Mario Williams on Sunday. But what has happened to our hero?
Williams has just three tackles and zero sacks after two games as a Buffalo
Bill. Maybe it’s because he’s making the transition to left end in a 4-3 system
rather than the 3-4 he was used to in Houston. Or maybe it’s because he’s 27
and ended the last two NFL seasons on injured reserve.
Then again, the entire Bills front seven is
switching once more to the 4-3. This is their first year under defensive
co-ordinator Dave Wannstedt, who was their linebackers’ coach in 2011. The
results against the run have improved, but the Bills are still awful against
the pass, ranking No. 27 overall in efficiency after two weeks. The OVER has
cashed in twice for Buffalo on a record of 1-1 SU and ATS.
With the pointspread sitting stubbornly on that
magic number three, and with Cleveland starting to get things right, I like the
Browns on the moneyline in this situation. They’ve moved from +130 to +125
since I started writing this article, so I must not be the only one. The
consensus numbers show 95 percent support for Cleveland at +130 and 64 percent
at +125. As always, shop around and see what prices you can get.
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