NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns
For my Sunday preview in Week 13, I went with an NFC North team (Chicago) against one of the NFL's worst teams (San Francisco) and hit on my top recommendation for that one, the under on a small total. Let's stick with that NFC North vs. Worst theme this Sunday as the Green Bay Packers visit the Cleveland Browns in what sure feels like one of the biggest trap games of the season. More on that shortly.
I'm sure there's nothing I can tell you that you don't already know about the Browns (0-12), otherwise known as the Factory of Sadness. Not only are they the NFL's only winless team, but they are the only one with fewer than two victories. Thus, it's practically a lock at this point that Cleveland will pick No. 1 overall in back-to-back drafts.
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The last team to do that - assuming the Browns don't trade out, and I can't see anyway possible they do because the fan base would revolt by passing on another potential franchise quarterback - was these Browns in 1999-2000 when they blew it both years by taking Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch and Penn State defensive end Courtney Brown. It would be the fifth time overall the Browns would pick first, which would tie Tampa Bay for the third-most ever. The Rams and Colts both have done it seven times.
Green Bay (6-6) won't catch Minnesota (10-2) in the NFC North, so it's wild card or bust. I believe it will take 10 wins in the NFC for a wild-card spot so clearly the Packers need to win out. They currently sit ninth in the conference. The first three teams immediately ahead of them are Detroit (6-6), Atlanta (7-5) and Carolina (8-4). The Packers currently lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Lions but go to Detroit in Week 17. They go to Charlotte next Sunday. Atlanta beat Green Bay in Week 2.
Packers at Browns Betting Story Lines
So why do I think this is a potential mega-trap for the Packers? For one, they come off a season-saving 26-20 overtime win over Tampa Bay. Not often you win when your quarterback throws for 84 yards and a pick, but that's what Brett Hundley did. The former UCLA star did have two nice runs in overtime that set up Aaron Jones' winning 20-yard TD run. That was Jones' only carry of the game as he had missed the previous couple of weeks with a knee injury and still wasn't 100 percent. Fellow rookie Jamaal Williams has really played well in Jones' spot and rushed for 113 yards and a TD on 21 carries. Green Bay looks set in the backfield for a few years (Ty Montgomery is out for the season).
It goes without saying that Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers is not just one of the best quarterbacks of his era but all-time. He has returned to practice off his broken collarbone and would be eligible to play next week in that much tougher game at Carolina. It's going to be human nature for the guys on the Packers to perhaps look toward their savior's return and past a winless Browns team. Shoot, I wouldn't want to face this Packers team with that good running game all of a sudden and a healthy Rodgers in the postseason. I'm sure Mike McCarthy is hammering the point home to keep the focus on this Sunday, but it's going to be tough.
This might well be Cleveland's last best chance for its only win. Next week it faces Baltimore, which has to win every time out to push for a wild-card spot. Week 16, the Browns go to Chicago. Why would anyone think Cleveland could win a road game? It hasn't since Week 5 of the 2015 season in Baltimore. Then Week 17, the Browns visit the Steelers, who might be resting all their key guys by then. They did that last year too and still beat Cleveland.
I do believe an argument can be made that this is the worst two-year stretch of any franchise ever with the 1-27 record. Most NFL experts say the expansion 1976 Buccaneers were the worst one-year club ever, but at least they won two games the following season. The Browns have lost 29 straight Sunday games, the longest streak of its kind in NFL history. There's just no chance at this point that Coach Hue Jackson can return. I doubt he even wants to.
There were two bright spots for Cleveland in last Sunday's 19-10 loss at the Chargers - the team the Browns beat late last season (on a Saturday). For one, it was a single-digit loss, which hadn't happened for Cleveland since Week 7 and only has a few times all year. Second, it was the return of former Pro Bowl receiver Josh Gordon for the first time since late in the 2014 season. I hope that guy stays clean because he's so talented. Gordon caught four passes for 85 yards. He should have had many more catches and yards with 13 targets, but rookie QB DeShone Kizer simply isn't very accurate.
Packers at Browns Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , the Packers are 3-point favorites (-120) with a total of 40.5. On the moneyline, Green Bay is -170 and Cleveland +150. On the alternate lines, the Packers are -4 (+113), -3.5 (+105) and -2.5 (-145). Green Bay is 6-6 against the spread (3-2 on road) and 8-4 "over/under" (4-1 on road). Cleveland is 3-9 ATS (2-4 at home) and 5-7 O/U (1-5 at home).
The Packers are 5-1 ATS in their past six road games vs. teams with a losing home record. The Browns are 17-35-1 ATS in their past 53 after a loss. But, hey, they have covered four of their past five in Week 14! The over is 10-3 in Green Bay's past 13 after a win. The under is 20-8 in Cleveland's past 28 at home. The Pack are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.
Packers at Browns Betting Prediction
First meeting since 2013, a 31-13 Packers home win. That was Rodgers vs. Brandon Weeden. Meanwhile, the Packers are 6-4 at the Browns all-time, including wins in three of the last four. I'm going to presume that the Packers players can keep their eyes on the present and not Rodgers' return - because a loss here basically ruins his return. Give the 2.5 points and go under.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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