Week 7 of the NFL season gets rolling in Cleveland on Thursday when the Browns play host to the Broncos. With Wednesday’s news that Baker Mayfield has been ruled out with an injury to his non-throwing left shoulder and will be replaced by Case Keenum, the betting line has been adjusted on oddsboards.
The early Wednesday weather forecast calls for a 14% to 21% chance of rain and winds in the high teens.
Denver Broncos (3-3 SU and ATS) at Cleveland Browns (3-3 SU and ATS)
Time: 8:20 p.m. ET (8:20 p.m ET, Fox, NFL Network)
Line: The Browns opened as high as -6 in Las Vegas on Sunday night, but there’s been steady movement toward the road underdog during early wagering. When Mayfield was ruled out Wednesday, the line moved from Cleveland -3.5 to -2.5 on some oddsboards. Denver is a play at +3.5. With the line below a field goal, it’s a stay away.
The skinny: Two injury-riddled teams (aren’t they all?) that suffered one-sided thumpings as home favorites last week need a victory here to remain relevant in their division races.
Facts: Cleveland, two games behind Baltimore in the AFC North, will be down to its third- and fourth-string RBs now that Kareem Hunt has been put on IR (calf). Nick Chubb (calf) already was out, missing last week’s beat-down vs. Arizona, 37-14. Keenum, Mayfield’s backup, hasn’t done much since his Minneapolis Miracle win in the 2017-18 postseason, going 7-17 as a starter since then (including 6-10 with Denver in 2018).
The Broncos, who have lost three straight, also have an ailing QB in Teddy Bridgewater (probable, foot stepped on). In Denver’s 34-24 loss to Vegas last week, he threw three interceptions in a game for the first time since his second career start seven years ago. Cleveland’s defense has allowed foes to go 9-for-9 scoring TDs on first-and-goal possessions. Denver, though, has converted on only six of 12 close-range situations.
Analysis: Keenum could be operating without Cleveland’s two usual starters at tackle yet again (both questionable) and without his top two RBs for sure. And minus a solid ground game, Cleveland isn’t likely to thrive through the air with a backup QB going against the fourth-rated pass defense. Oh, and Browns WR O.J. Beckham Jr., their most-targeted receiver last week, also is hurting (questionable, shoulder). And as for that Browns defense, it wasn’t able to get off the field for long stretches last week vs. Arizona, allowing the Cardinals to have a pair of TD drives that included seven first downs each.
Denver isn’t any great shakes, either, yielding five sacks twice the past three weeks, but WR Courtland Sutton has excelled the past two games, and unlike the Browns, the Broncos have a relatively healthy backfield with Melvin Gordon (4.7 a carry) and rookie Javonte Williams (4.6). That ground game could be the difference in potentially wet conditions.
Broncos at Browns Pick
Broncos 27, Browns 21
Last week: 8-6 ATS; 10-4 SU
Season total: 53-39-2 (.576) ATS; 63-31 (.670) SU