When a new coach is in place and the roster is stocked with more draft picks, Cleveland will start to see results in the win column. But at least the Browns have a franchise quarterback, which is more than several NFL teams can say. Baker Mayfield will be the real deal.
The other four teams that grabbed quarterbacks in the first round this year still have no idea if they found the right guy.
Mayfield’s numbers (60 percent completions, 10 touchdowns, seven interceptions) are not a lot to brag about, but he’s got the tools and intangibles to be a winner in the league. The New York Jets should be OK with Sam Darnold, but he has thrown 14 interceptions and has a long way to go to be better than OK. Arizona’s Josh Rosen, Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson each have a much longer way to go.
In recent weeks, Mayfield has been outgunned by Patrick Mahomes, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers in double-digit losses. Next up is Matt Ryan, who’s having an outstanding statistical season for the mediocre Falcons (4-4).
Since opening the season 2-2-1, tying Pittsburgh and beating Baltimore as home underdogs, the Browns have dropped four in a row and their defense has taken steps in the wrong direction. Cleveland ranks 30th in total defense (424 yards per game) and 28th in scoring (27.4 points per game). Atlanta’s defense is no better, ranking 28th in yards (412.8) and 29th in scoring (28.3).
The Falcons are 4-8 against the spread as road favorites under coach Dan Quinn, who’s 0-5 ATS when laying six points or more on the road. On a cold day in Cleveland, I’ll take Mayfield and the Browns as 6-point ‘dogs.
Four more ugly 'dogs for Week 10 (home team in CAPS):
* BENGALS (plus-6) over Saints:
The narrative about the Saints being vulnerable on the road is stale because they are 16-5 ATS in their past 21 away from the Superdome. Situational handicapping shows this trip to Cincinnati should be a flat spot. After seven straight wins and six covers in a row, New Orleans has replaced the Rams as the NFL’s hottest team. Drew Brees leads the league in completion percentage (76.3) and has 18 touchdown passes with only one interception in 279 attempts. New Orleans ranks No. 2 in scoring offense (34.9 points per game) as coach Sean Payton piles more work on second-year running back Alvin Kamara. Few coach-quarterback combos inspire less confidence than the Marvin Lewis-Andy Dalton duo. The Bengals rank a respectable No. 10 in scoring offense, yet it’s important to note Dalton will be without wide receiver A.J. Green because of a foot injury. The spot is much better for Cincinnati, which is off a bye, but the Saints are the much better team.
* Lions (plus-7) over BEARS:
It’s still tough to trust Mitchell Trubisky or believe in the Bears in the role of big favorites. In their past five trips to Chicago, the Lions are 4-1 straight up with the games decided by margins of 3, 3, 4, 6 and 2 points. Matthew Stafford and the Detroit run defense should be good enough to keep the trend of tight games going.
* Cardinals (plus-16) over CHIEFS:
When this line was posted at an eye-opening 17, a bet on Arizona was in order. The inflated number has dropped to make it a little more difficult to play the Cardinals, who are 2-6 with a -89 point differential. Josh Rosen has been picked off six times and sacked 16 times. The Cardinals are not using running back David Johnson enough, and Larry Fitzgerald has only two touchdown catches. Kansas City has improved to 20th in scoring defense (25.1) and remains No. 1 in scoring offense (36.3). Patrick Mahomes has completed 66.2 percent of his passes with a league-high 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Mahomes might get cooled off during the second half of the season, either by bad weather or better defensive game plans. Arizona does rank No. 7 in pass defense, and Patrick Peterson is an elite cover cornerback. Take the points and pray.
* Giants (plus-3½) over 49ERS:
In his first NFL start, San Francisco’s Nick Mullens ripped the Raiders, who do not really have an NFL-caliber defense. New York’s defense is not a lot better. But the Giants do boast the top two playmakers on the field — rookie running back Saquon Barkley and wideout Odell Beckham Jr. — and Eli Manning is under pressure to deliver. The Giants have covered their past three on the road, and the Westgate is the first book to move this number to 3½, and that number makes this a play.
Last week: 2-3 against the spread