The Cleveland Browns have been playing as well as any team in the NFL over the past month. They look to continue their good play when they travel to Jacksonville, Florida to take on the Jaguars. The Jags started as 3 point home favorites, but the wiseguys have pulled that down. Some sites are now posting the game as a pick, but most have the Jags as a 1 or 1 ½ point favorite. Consider following the sharps in this game. The Browns have been competing against stiff competition, while the Jags have been painfully inconsistent.
The technical numbers recommend fading the Jags and backing the Browns. Against the spread over the past three seasons, Jacksonville is a miserable 2-12 as a favorite, 6-15 at home, 0-5 against the AFC North, 7-13 when the line is +/- 3 points, and 2-12 off a division game. Cleveland, on the other hand, is 18-14 as an underdog, 11-8 on the road, 2-2 against the AFC South, 10-8 against teams with a winning record, and 3-2 as a road underdog of 3 points or less. In this situation, the Browns have a strong advantage.
More than the numbers, though, Cleveland has played some good football. Many people questioned Eric Mangini’s decision to throw Colt McCoy into the fire, but McCoy has responded well. Peyton Hillis has been running the football like a franchise player, and the defense gets better every week.
The Browns have played through one of the League’s toughest schedules. Their last seven games have been against Baltimore, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, New England, and the New York Jets – that is a murderer’s row. Cleveland managed to go 3-4 straight up and 4-3 against the spread. McCoy started against the Steelers and the games thereafter, going 2-2 straight up and ats. Importantly, McCoy has led his team to wins at New Orleans and against the Patriots at home. Considering how poor Cleveland was last year, this team is playing remarkably better. Having Mike Holmgren in the front office must be paying dividends.
Jacksonville has had another rollercoaster season. Some weeks they’ll be up and play well, other weeks they’ll be down and play poorly. They managed to hold on last week against the Texans. Jacksonville got out to a nice lead, then let Houston back into the game, and ultimately won with a Hail Mary on the last play of the game.
The Jags have a potentially dangerous team. Maurice Jones-Drew, as everyone knows, is a great running back. David Garrard has the ability to make plays. But Garrard truly embodies the m.o. of the Jaguars – although he has the talent to be a threat, inconsistent play has kept Garrard and his team from being among the League’s elite.
The wiseguys have brought the line down from 3 points to a pick at some sites, which means they’re really liking the Browns in this match up. Colt McCoy seems to have a good grasp of what Mangini wants to accomplish, and Peyton Hillis is a quality go-to-guy. Consider backing the Browns and see if you can find a number as close to the opening line as possible.
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