They didn’t lose last week, so that’s a plus for the Cleveland Browns. But they did extend their winless streak to 18 straight games by playing to a tie against the Steelers. And they way they forged the tie was something to be excited about. The Browns scored two touchdowns in the last half of the final quarter, and they were given a chance in overtime after Chris Boswell missed a field goal. But in typical Browns fashion, they botched that attempt, watching the potential game-winning kick get blocked. The Browns look to remain unbeaten this season when they face the New Orleans Saints in a Week 2 matchup.
This contest in Week 2 of the regular season will go down Sunday, September 16, 2018, at 1 p.m. ET inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
NFL Opening Odds at BookMaker.eu
Cleveland Browns +8
New Orleans Saints -8
Are the Browns making believers out of people? The line dropped a point after hitting the board at Saints -9, but the home team is still getting most of the early action with over 70 percent of the bets favoring the Saints. The Saints were stunned last week as 10-point home chalk, losing the game outright. Both teams cashed the over in their matchups and the total has spiked from an opening 47.5 to its current 50.
Matchup to Watch
After getting gouged by Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneers in the opener, the Saints defense looked like the squad that finished dead last in the NFL two years ago. There were too many big plays and too much time for Fitz to throw the ball. Maybe the Saints relaxed a bit after not having to face Jameis Winston and didn’t take the Bucs seriously. That should have sunk in after the first of his four scoring passes that sailed 58 yards to DeSean Jackson.
The Saints made tremendous strides defensively last season and finished ranked in the middle of the pack, which was a huge improvement from previous seasons. It took a few games for the group to get going, however, after they were pummeled for 69 points and over 1,000 total yards. The group should have success against a Browns team that managed 150 passing yards while allowing seven sacks.
Player to Watch
Tyrod Taylor did something no Browns quarterback was able to accomplish last season – he didn’t lose. He didn’t help the cause either by throwing for 197 yards on 15 of 40 passing. The conditions were awful wit the game played in a constant downpour, but that didn’t hinder his counterpart Ben Roethlisberger, who completed 56 percent of his throws for 335 yards.
Constantly harassed by the Steelers front, Taylor was sacked seven times and when he was able to escape the pocket he ran for 77 yards. He accounted for two touchdowns, one passing and one rushing, but the Browns did little offensively. Hue Jackson is sticking with Taylor as his starter, but how many more 15 of 40 games will it take before Baker Mayfield gets the call?
A major reason for the Browns dysfunction last season was their inability to hold onto the football and create turnovers on the other side. Cleveland was last in turnover differential by a wide margin in 2017, giving the ball away a whopping 41 times while only having 13 takeaways, and they didn’t have a positive margin in any of their games.
When you force six turnovers in a contest, you should be in a position to win. The Browns had that many in the opener, nearly half their total from 2017, and they didn’t lose. Unfortunately they didn’t win either. Rookie Denzel Ward had a pair of interceptions in his first game and Joe Schobert recovered two fumbles to give the Browns six takeaways and a NFL-high plus-5 margin after the opening week.
Free ATS Pick
The defense looked improved but it was much of the same on the offensive end for the Browns. They struggled to move the ball consistently and failed to get a win despite forcing six Steelers turnovers. Taylor didn’t get much help from a line that allowed constant pressure, and the Saints need to get to the quarterback after allowing Ryan Fitzpatrick to tear them apart.
Cleveland is better and they will break that winless streak at some point. However, the Saints got a wakeup call last week and I expect them to be more aggressive against the Browns. Taylor will be in trouble again and the Saints won’t allow the big plays that doomed them against the Bucs. Drew Brees and the offense looked sharp and they will do enough to get a win, however I like the Browns to cover the spread.
NFL Betting Odds: Saints 31, Browns 24
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