It's another big Thursday Night Football game, this time between the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns.
We've got a market report on the game from South Point director Chris Andrews and best bets from Adam Burke and Dave Tuley as Week 7 kicks off.
Denver Broncos at Cleveland Browns (-2, 41)
Market report from Chris Andrews: Before the news of Baker Mayfield’s injury scratch, I had opened Cleveland -4 with a total of 43. Sharps took Denver + 4. I dropped to 3.5 quickly knowing that the Browns were dealing with multiple key injuries. The South Point was the first sportsbook to drop to 3 because I wanted to stay ahead of any injury reaction. A bettor laid Cleveland -3.
Then, news broke about Case Keenum getting the start at QB for the Browns. I dropped the line to Cleveland -2, and the Over/Under to 41. There wasn’t much initial betting at the new prices. Denver just suffered three bad losses to Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Las Vegas, while Keenum will be leading a M*A*S*H unit. I don’t have a sense, yet, of how the public will play this high-profile TV game between now and kickoff.
Tuley: This Thursday night matchup looked a lot more appealing a few short weeks ago. Since then, the Broncos’ 3-0 start has been exposed as resulting from a soft early schedule. Meanwhile, the Browns have been decimated with injuries.
The advance line for this game last week was Browns -6, and that’s where it reopened Sunday, but it got bet down right away as more reports of Cleveland’s walking wounded came in after its 37-14 loss to the Cardinals. The line was mostly around Browns -4 to -4.5 on Monday as it appeared Mayfield would be able to play. However, there were doubts and we advised taking the Broncos + 3.5 in Point Spread Weekly on Wednesday as we felt the Browns were starting to resemble the teams that the Broncos had been able to handle earlier in the season than the AFC North contender that they are when healthy.
Denver QB Teddy Bridgewater has been gold for backers his whole career (38-13 ATS), especially as a road underdog, so it looked like a great spot to take the Broncos and the points. But on Wednesday, it was announced Mayfield wouldn’t start after all and the Browns would go with Case Keenum. The line has dropped to Browns -2.
So, it’s not as strong of a bet to take the Broncos with the reduced points now, but they’re still a prime six-point teaser as you can take them through the key numbers of 3 and 7 to + 8. There aren’t as many advantage teasers (or “Wong teasers” for old-school bettors) this week compared to recent weeks, but the top candidates to use with the Broncos + 8 would be Packers teased down from -8.5 to -2.5 vs. Washington and the Dolphins teased up from + 2.5 to + 8.5 vs. the Falcons.
Pick: Broncos in teasers
Burke: The news on the injury front for the Browns is bad -- and everybody knows it. This line has crashed since Sunday night and Cleveland’s injuries sure seem to carry a lot more weight than Denver’s, as the Broncos will be without some key linebackers, including Baron Browning and Alexander Johnson. They’re already without Josey Jewell for the rest of the season and now Johnson joins him on IR.
When the Browns have had offensive line injuries, Kevin Stefanski has defaulted to passing the football. Even though it will be Keenum at quarterback here, I’m expecting the same thing. I’m not sure we’ll see a lot of D’Ernest Johnson carries in this game. I think we’re more likely to see a lot of quick throws from Keenum in an attempt to expose the second level of the Denver defense, which is obviously light on linebackers. The two worked together extensively in Minnesota when Stefanski was Keenum’s QB coach and the veteran signal caller has been around this particular playbook as the backup the last two seasons.
I’m guessing we see a lot of WR screens and quick outs to the tight ends, trying to use the short pass 4-5 yards at a time as a modified form of the running game.
Player props are unfortunately limited for this game at time of publication, as I could see a guy like Harrison Bryant, who Keenum has probably worked a ton with in practice, being part of the equation here. Same with Austin Hooper, who had 70 targets last season, but only has 19 so far this campaign. Bryant is 40-1 to score the first touchdown. I’ve made worse bets.
My guess is that the game is in Keenum’s hands with screens, swings, outs and maybe the occasional deep shot, all of which the Raiders did pretty successfully last week against Denver.
Pick: Keenum Over 19.5 Completions (-105)