NFL Betting Preview Week 15: Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns

Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns
FirstEnergy Field – Cleveland, Ohio

Sunday, December 15, 2013, 1:00 pm Eastern, TV: Fox, NFL Sunday Ticket
Opening Line: Chicago -1
Current Line: Cleveland Pick
Opening Total: 44 
Current Total: 43 1/2
Opening Money Line: Bears -120 / Browns +100
Current Money Line: Browns -115 / Bears +105

Bears-Browns NFL Preview
Jay Cutler returns to the bears after missing the last 4 games with an ankle injury. The Bears face a must win game at Cleveland Sunday.

The 7-6 Chicago Bears are tied with the Detroit Lions for first place in the NFC North. However, Detroit beat Chicago twice so the Lions hold the tiebreaker. The Bears are 2 games behind the 9-4 Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers for the two wild card spots. The path to the division is much clearer for Chicago. However, the Bears must take care of business as they travel to the 4-9 Cleveland Browns Sunday. Cleveland is still technically alive for the playoffs but they are behind 9 other teams for one spot. The Browns will be eliminated with one more loss or a win by either Miami or Baltimore.

Since 2001, Chicago leads the series 2-1 against Cleveland. The Bears won the last meeting 30-6 in 2009 in Chicago. Chicago hasn’t played in Cleveland since 2005.

Chicago is coached by Marc Trestman. The Bears have home wins over the Cincinnati Bengals 24-21, Minnesota Vikings 31-30, New York Giants 27-21, Baltimore Ravens 23-20 in overtime, and last Monday against the Dallas Cowboys 45-28, along with road wins at the Pittsburgh Steelers 40-23 and Green Bay Packers 27-20. The Bears have home losses to the New Orleans Saints 26-18 and Detroit Lions 21-19, along with road losses at the Lions 40-32, Washington Redskins 45-41, St. Louis Rams 42-21 and Vikings 23-20 in overtime. The win against the Cowboys snapped a two game losing streak for Chicago. The Bears are 3-9-1 ATS and the total is 9-4 this season. Chicago was a 1.5 point favorite against Dallas last week and the total was 49.

Dallas took the opening drive against Chicago and scored a touchdown. Chicago tied it up late in the first quarter at 7-7. The Bears would take control of the game in the second quarter and  take a 24-14 lead into halftime. Chicago would expand the lead to 42-14 by the fourth quarter. The Cowboys would add a couple of late touchdowns to make the final 45-28, but it was too little too late. Dallas had 328 total yards including 198 rushing yards. Chicago had   490 total yards including 341 passing yards. Neither team had a turnover, but the Cowboys had 50 penalty yards.

Chicago is outscoring teams 28.3-27.7 this season. The Bears are #2 in scoring and #28 in points allowed. On offense, Chicago is averaging 390.4 yards per game including 277.5 passing and 112.8 rushing yards. The Bears are 35 in total offense and #7 in passing. On defense, Chicago is allowing 381.5 yards per game including 224.5 passing and 157 rushing yards. The Bears are #10 in pass defense, last in rush defense and #28 in total defense. Chicago is +7 in turnovers. The Bears are 70/169 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 74/176. Chicago has forced 26 sacks and allowed 22 this season. The Bears average 48 penalty yards per game and opponents average 41. Chicago has six defensive/special teams touchdowns and has allowed 5 this season.

Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler injured his ankle against Washington earlier in the season. Three weeks later he came back against the Lions, but had to be taken out of the game in the second half. He missed the last 4 games, but he will start against Cleveland. Many fans and experts thought the Bears should have stuck with veteran Josh McCown who has done really well while Cutler was injured. Cutler has completed 63% of his passes for 1,908 yards with 13 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, along with 18 carries for 92 yards. He has been sacked 11 times. McCown has completed 66.8% of his passes for 1,809 yards with 13 touchdowns and one interception, along with 12 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown. He has also been sacked 11 times this season.

Running back Matt Forte has 234 carries for 1,073 yards with 7 touchdowns, along with 65 catches, 518 yards and 2 touchdowns. Michael Bush has 51 carries for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 4 catches, 48 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey has 75 catches for 1,193 yards and 6 touchdowns, along with 15 carries for 108 rushing yards. Brandon Marshall has 84 catches, 1,090 yards and 9 touchdowns. Tight end Martellus Bennett has 53 catches for 588 yards and 5 touchdowns. Earl Bennett has 26 catches for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns. Devin Hester has a punt return for a touchdown. The defense has been decimated by injuries and has six players listed as out or on injured reserve, including such stars as LB Lance Briggs, CB Charles Tillman and DT Henry Melton.

Cleveland is coached by Rob Chudzinski. The Browns have lost 4 straight games and 7 of their last 8. Cleveland has home wins over the Bengals 17-6, Buffalo Bills 37-24, and Ravens 24-18, along with a road win at the Vikings 31-27. The Browns have home losses to the Miami Dolphins 23-10, Lions 31-17, Steelers 27-11, and Jacksonville Jaguars 32-28, along with road losses to the Ravens 14-6, Packers 31-13, Kansas City Chiefs 23-17, Bengals 41-20, and last week at the New England Patriots 27-26. Cleveland is 6-7 ATS and the total is 8-5 this season. The Browns were 9.5 point underdogs at the Patriots last week and the total was 47.5.

The Browns kicked two first half field goals to take a 6-0 lead into halftime. The Browns would expand the lead to 12-0 in the second half  with a touchdown but missed a two point conversion. After a New England field goal, Cleveland took a 19-3 lead. The Patriots scored late in the third to make it 19-11 after making a two point conversion.

Cleveland took a 26-14 lead with 2:39 left. New England scored with 1:01 left and recovered the onside kick with the score 26-21. The Patriots would score the go ahead touchdown with 31 seconds left, but missed the two point conversion to make it 27-26. The Browns missed a 58 yard field goal as time expired. It was the second straight heartbreaking loss for Cleveland, after Jacksonville beat them on a last second touchdown the week before. The Browns had 494 total yards including 386 total yards. The Patriots had 484 total yards including 397 passing yards. New England had 2 turnovers. Cleveland had 7 penalties for 75 yards, and the Patriots had 6 for 41 yards.

Cleveland is being outscored 25-20 this season. The Browns are #19 in points allowed and #27 in scoring. Cleveland is averaging 344.7 yards per game on offense including 260.4 passing and 84.3 rushing yards. The Browns are #10 in passing , #28 in rushing and #15 in total offense. On defense, Cleveland is allowing  320.4 yards per game including 222.4 passing and 98 rushing yards. The Browns are #8 or better in all three categories. Cleveland is -7 in turnovers. The Browns are 82/227 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 87/208. Cleveland has forced 37 sacks and allowed 43 this season. The Browns have 3 defensive/special teams touchdowns and have allowed 3 as well. Cleveland averages 60 penalty yards per game and opponents average 50.

The Browns have used three quarterbacks this season. Brandon Weeden started the season but was replaced by Brian Hoyer. Hoyer tore his ACL after starting a few games. He was replaced by Jason Campbell. Campbell has been reliable when healthy but he has battled some nagging injuries. Weeden is probable with a concussion, but Campbell will start. Weeden has completed 52.8% of his passes for 1,731 yards with 9 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, along with 44 rushing yards. He has been sacked 27 times. Campbell has completed 58.9% of his passes for 1,324 yards with 9 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, plus 63 rushing yards. He has been sacked 10 times this season. Hoyer threw for 615 yards with 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions before the injury.

Running back Willis McGahee has 138 carries for 377 rushing yards and the only two rushing touchdowns for the Browns this season, along with  8 catches. He is out Sunday with an upper body injury. Chris Ogbonnaya has 42 carries for 224 yards, along with 41 catches for 291 yards and 2 touchdowns. Running back Trent Richardson was traded to the Colts earlier in the season. Fozzy Whitaker has 28 carries for 79 yards, along with 17 catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. Ogbonnaya and Whittaker will get more carries without McGahee playing.

Receiver Josh Gordon has 71 catches for 1,400 yards with 9 touchdowns, along with 4 carries for 66 yards. Tight end Jordan Cameron has 72 catches for 825 yards and 7 touchdowns. He is probable with injured ribs. Greg Little has 35 catches for 384 yards and 2 touchdowns. Davone Bess has 41 catches, 353 yards and 2 touchdowns. Gary Barnidge has 10 catches for  87 yards and 2 touchdowns. Travis Benjamin had a punt return for a touchdown but he is out for the season with a knee injury. Two tight ends and four wide receivers are listed on the injury report. A total of 28 players are on the injury report for the Browns including 11 defensive players and 6 offensive linemen.

Chicago is 2-5 ATS on grass, 1-3-1 in week 15, 5-15-1 overall, 2-7 after allowing more than 150 rushing yards, and in December, 1-4 against teams with losing home records, and in road games, 1-6 after passing for 250 yards or more, 0-4 after a straight up win, 0-5 against teams with losing records, after gaining more than 350 total yards and after a straight up win of 14 points or more, and 0-6 after a cover, and 0-7 after allowing 150 passing yards or less.

Cleveland is 16-5 ATS after passing for 250 yards or more, 7-3-1 against teams with losing road records, and 1-4 in December.

Chicago is last in the league against the run, but that shouldn’t be a problem against Cleveland who struggles to run the ball. Cleveland has a good defense, but I still think Chicago can move the ball especially through the air. Chicago wins a close game on the road.

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