Prime Time has not been kind to Nostrathomas the past couple of weeks. I go into the Sunday and Monday night games with a strong record against the spread, then get my predictions beat up.
Still, Week 7 wasn’t a bad one for Nostrathomas. I went 9-5 straight-up, 7-7 against the spread and was 2-1 on my Best Bets. For the season, Nostrathomas is now 59-35 straight-up, 43-49-1 against the spread and 12-8 on Best Bets, although 5-1 on Best Bets the past two weeks.
Week 7 kicks off with the Denver Broncos visiting Cleveland to play the walking wounded, otherwise known as the Browns.
Denver Broncos vs Cleveland Browns -1.5 (Thursday Night Football; FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH)
Both of these teams charged out of the starting gates with 3-0 records and postseason dreams dancing in their heads before crashing to Earth the last three weeks. Tonight’s game will determine which one climbs back into the postseason discussion.
As injuries keep piling up for the Cleveland Browns the line keeps dropping down. This game opened at the sports books with Cleveland favored by six and has fallen to its current spread. Actually, with the Browns injury situation becoming grimmer by the day, I’m surprised this game is still on the board.
As of Thursday morning, Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield has been declared out with a non-throwing shoulder injury. Even more damaging for the Browns, their dynamic running back duo will also be sidelined. Kareem Hunt has been placed on injured reserve, speculation is that he could be out for the rest of the season, and Nick Chubb is still out with a calf injury.
Case Keenum will be starting his first game at quarterback since Week 17 of the 2019 season with Washington. Keenum completed 18 passes in 37 attempts for 206 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a passer rating of 63.6 in a 47-16 loss.
Cleveland’s running game will be placed in the hands of D’Ernest Johnson, who has flashed a couple of times in his short career. In Week 4 of the 2020 season, Johnson carried the freight in the Browns 49-38 win over the Dallas Cowboys. He finished the game with 13 carries for 95 yards and a long of 28. Johnson also had a solid week against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5, carrying eight times for 32 yards.
The one piece of good news for Cleveland is that Jarvis Landry has been activated off injured reserve and should suit up tonight. That will, at least, give Keenum one reliable wide receiver target. Currently there’s speculation that Odell Beckham Jr. might not dress for the game.
The news on the Denver Broncos side isn’t much better. Teddy Bridgewater has been listed as questionable but is expected to play. It was hoped by the Broncos that wide receiver Jerry Jeudy would be ready for tonight’s game but he will be out of action.
Statistically, it’s tough to measure these two teams with so many key players sidelined.
One telling stat is, in their first three games the Broncos outscored their opponents by an average of 25-9. In their last three, Denver has been outscored by an average of 28-17. Still, the Broncos are seventh in the NFL on defense in points allowed.
Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater started out the season fifth in the league in passer rating. Since then, he’s dropped to seventeenth. Denver has also faded when it comes to total points scored, currently 21st, and are 31st in rushing yards per attempt.
On defense though, the Broncos are still strong. They’re seventh in yards per points allowed and fourth in defensive passer rating.
For Cleveland, they’re going to be riding their defense in this game. The Browns are tenth on defense in net passing yards allowed and eleventh in points per play. Cleveland is also third in rushing yards per attempt allowed.
With their key starters in the lineup, this becomes a very winnable game for Cleveland. Still, Case Keenum is not a rookie quarterback. He’s not going to be fooled by the things that Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell will throw at him on defense.
Nostrathomas has been riding the Broncos efficient offense and dominant defense the past three weeks and has been getting burned. Cleveland may not have their big three in the lineup but they still have one of the best offensive lines in the league.
After this game, one of these teams will be back in the playoff picture and the other will continue to slide out of the race. Take the Cleveland Browns to win and cover.
Cleveland Browns 20 Denver Broncos 17