Free NFL Picks: Browns at Bills Betting Odds and Sunday Predictions
by Jason Sharpe - 12/10/2010
Two of the more improved teams in the NFL over the course of the last month go head to head here as the Cleveland Browns (5-7 overall and 5-7 ATS) head into cold and snowy New York to take on the Buffalo Bills (2-10 overall and 6-5-1 ATS). The Bills come into this game a one-point favorite with the total in the game at 39.5 points.
After getting off to a 1-5 start to begin the season, the Cleveland Browns have really turned things around of late, winning four of their last six games. Probably the most impressive thing to come out of this stretch of solid football for Cleveland is who the Browns have played in those past six contests.
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Cleveland was the underdog in five of those six games as they beat the Saints, Patriots, Panthers and Dolphins in their four wins while losing a hard fought battle to the Jets in overtime. Their other loss was by just four points to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Browns finished last season as one of the hottest teams in the NFL and did so behind a very strong rushing attack. Their running game averaged 130 yards per contest and finished eighth overall in the 2009 season. The Browns got off to a slow start running the football this year, but that all changed six weeks ago as Cleveland got back to what worked so well for them late last year. The Browns have averaged 125 yards per game on the ground over their past six weeks of play.
The key to the Browns success on offense is having a very conservative game plan. Though the Browns have had to use three different starting quarterbacks so far this season, all three have been asked to do the exact same thing: hit a high percentage of short, safe passes and not turn the football over. The Browns quarterbacks have done a good job at that as they have completed a very solid 63 percent of their passes on the season, ranking Cleveland 12th in the NFL for the year.
The Browns are the only team in the AFC to have thrown less than 10 touchdown passes this season (nine overall), but their conservative style of play has also led to a very strong plus-seven turnover differential on the year.
This isn’t a pretty team to watch play, but it’s the way the Cleveland Browns decided to build their football team. This strategy worked late last year and it also looks like it’s working again late in the season this year with the Browns having covered five straight games in the month of December
The Browns conservative style of play also helps them do a good job with not beating themselves and especially against the teams the Browns feel they should beat. Cleveland has gone an unbelievable 15-2 ATS on the road in games against teams with losing home records.
The Buffalo Bills also come into this game playing their best stretch of football this year, having failed too cover the spread in only one of their last seven games overall. The unfortunate thing for the Bills during this higher level of play is they have still only managed to win just two of those seven games along the way. In fact, the Bills have lost an incredible three games in overtime this season and four games overall by just a field goal.
The one big positive for the Bills of late has come on the defensive side of the football as Buffalo has gone from allowing 34 points or more in five straight games to now giving up an average of just 23 points per contest over the past six weeks.
The offense has been one area of the game that has actually helped the Bills defense of late as Buffalo has run the ball effectively this season at 4.4 yards per carry, placing them in the Top 10 in the NFL overall. By running the ball well Buffalo has been able to keep the other team’s offense off the field.
There could be some big problems this week for the Bills running game as they have lost both of their top two centers for the game and the entire season due to injuries. Ask just about anyone in the NFL and they will tell you that losing your center can be a huge loss to an offense as he is usually the captain of the offensive line and the one player responsible for making a lot of calls in the blocking schemes, etc... It’s probably something you won’t read or hear much about in this game, especially when you compare this injury to losing a quarterback or running back. However, losing a center (or two for that matter) can be as important to an offense as any other impact player on that unit.
On the defensive side of the football the Bills don’t match well with what the Cleveland Browns would like to do as the Bills allow 171 yards rushing per game, which is the highest amount of rushing yards per game in the NFL. Teams know the Bills struggle when going up against the run, and because of this the opposition averages 36 carries per game against Buffalo, also the highest amount in the NFL.
The weather will also play a huge factor in this game as the forecast is calling for rain and snow showers with gusty winds and a wind chill of just 25 degrees at kickoff. The bad weather will make throwing the football even harder for both teams and probably play even more into the Browns favor here in this game. December football in Buffalo is always tough on the offenses as five of the last six December games in Buffalo have gone ‘under’ the total. The Browns love this type of football late in the season and will look to keep things simple here. All of this fits right into what Cleveland has done well in the past, as the Browns have only gone ‘over’ in three of their last 16 December games.
With the running game being so important in this type of weather and the Bills missing both of their two top centers in this game, things don’t look very good for the Bills here. You combine all of that with the problems that Buffalo has with stopping the run and I feel the Bills will fall just short again and lose another one by three points in what should be a very low-scoring affair. I will go with Cleveland winning this one 16-13.
Jason Sharpe is one of the top NFL handicappers in the country. He is already off to a 1-0 start for Week 14 and he has seven picks on a card that he calls his favorite of the year for NFL picks. This week only all NFL packages are half price so you call get his full NFL package for just $49!
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