***SUBMIT CHEDDAR PICKS WEDNESDAY’S POST PLEASE, THANKS.***
In our friendly Cheddar Bay Pickstravaganza, we (or at least I) tend to tie ourselves up in knots with research to validate the pick of the week. In thinking about tonight’s Bills at Browns game, it occurred to me that there’s no team I have more research on than the Browns. So if I’m thinking the Browns a good bet to beat the Bills by more than four points, I gotta trust my eyes. It’s unlikely that I’ll be as expert in the BallSt +5.5 @UVA matchup. I can’t worry that a lot of other guys in this group have the same pick tonight.
So let’s take this on. Here’s why I like the Browns tonight.
1. Still an unknown team (nationally).
Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon might have some cachet in fantasy circles. But Craig Robertson and Buster Skrine and Mitchell Schwartz are unknowns. Do you think Phil Taylor or Alex Mack or Jabaal Sheard are known quantities outside of NEO? No way. To the rest of the country, the Browns are Joe Thomas and Joe Haden. Maybe there’s some respect for the FAs Bryant and Kruger but not so much for the talent on the team coming into the season. As a result, the Browns are good value. For now.
But while we’re on the subject of Joe Haden…
2. Joe Haden has moved to elite.
It’s one thing to look at some stats and say shit like ‘Oh wow, AJ Green only had 51 yards on seven catches so Haden must be really good.’ And while that’s true, what I’m seeing is more. I’m seeing him daring QB just to try to throw his way. Hell, I’m seeing him daring teams to RUN his way… his tackling has been intimidating this year. But what I’m REALLY seeing is him inspiring his mates in the secondary. They’re ALL playing strong; they’re all bringing Haden swag to their games. The weakest part of the Browns roster is playing great and to my eye, it’s due to Haden’s play and his leadership.
3. Competent QB play is, in fact, good-to-very-good QB play.
I well remember when Drew Bledsoe was knocked out of the game in 2001 and Tom Brady took his place. Bledsoe had the gun and the pedigree but was prone to staring down receivers and jamming throws were they shouldn’t go. Bad turnovers. Did not inspire confidence in teammates and so not a great leader. Enter Brady and he didn’t do anything spectacularly well. Just ran through his progressions quickly and pretty much always found the open receiver. Got rid of the quickly and accurately. Poised in the pocket. There weren’t any Manning-esque line-audible shenanigans then. Brady was simply a competent practitioner of quarterbacking. That’s what I’m seeing in Hoyer so far. Nothing flashy but poised and competent. Competent QB-ing is vastly underrated in my opinion.
4. Finally. An opposing QB whose reaction to a big NFL pass rush is unknown.
Bills start rookie QB EJ Manuel… I like how Manuel has looked for the Bills, but I was very anti-Manuel out of FSU because I thought him a turnover machine. Consensus ‘best guard in NFL’ Andy Levitre has been replaced with ‘now-with-his-third-team’ Colin Brown.* Manuel’s most talented weapons are out or injured (Spiller, Jackson). Stevie Johnson is good yes, but see point #2 above. If ever there was a game for the Ray Horton Aggressive Attacking Defense to show its full flower, this is it.
5. About those RB injuries…
The Bills are second in the league in rushing yards; the Browns are 4th best in rush defense. The Browns are healthy. The Bills are not healthy. That leaves Manuel to honcho a passing attack currently ranked 28th and, again, see point #2 above.
It’s just a horrible matchup for the Bills and it seems likely that the stadium will be very fired up tonight. I gotta use my essaypick early and on the home team.
As long as I’m putting my essaypick here (and will also post in the Cheddar Bay open thread), here’s the rest of this week’s picks.
WKU -7 @ULM. Kolton Browning out for season and ULM’s been fairly horrendous even with him. (Beating Wake/Grobe impresses Kanick not.) WKU’s loss to SALA doesn’t look too too bad either; SALA’s a team to watch this year.
@FSU -15 UMD. Over-reaction line. FSU sleep walked past BC in Chestnut Hill last week.. but this game is in Tallahassee. Maybe the gulf heat beats the opposing teams but all I know is FSU scores over 50 in Tallahassee.
@UTEP PK LaTech. This isn’t last year’s LaTech team. Dykes left the cupboard bare. Which LaTech loss is worse.. Tulane at home? At Kansas? Neutral field 3 TD loss to Army? Also.. UTEP can score points. LaTech not so much.
Panthers -2.5 @Cards. Panthers have a bye week and everyone forgets them.
@NU +7 OSU. (All-play.) Touchdown is just a lot to give NU at home on college gameday in Evanston for the first time in forever. Fitzgerald has had two weeks.
The rest: UCLA, USU, Iowa, UBuff, BallSt, Ill, Rut, TTU, PSU, CMU, Troy, UTSA, FAU, Clem, NCST, UNT, Rice, Mich, NIU, ECU, Wazzu, FIU, Mem, OleMiss, UTEP, Titans, Pats, Colts, Lions, Bears, and Texas St. (last team out** of Cheddar picks).
* Bills o-line is not horrible, I especially like their center, Eric Wood. But it’s not as good as it was last year, that’s all I’m saying.
** Texas St. +11 @ULL. The ‘is this line right’ game. Much as I think Terrance Broadway is fun; and beating Akron is good, I guess… …. I mean…. we all saw that Texas State just smashed Wyoming by 3 TDs last week, right?