Free NFL Pick: Carolina at Cleveland 11-28-2010

November 27, 2010

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Carolina Panthers at Cleveland Browns

Sunday November 28th, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Line: Cleveland -9

Overview:

Very few people will be watching the 1-9 Carolina Panthers take on the 3-7 Cleveland Browns. As poor as these two teams are, this is a very intriguing betting matchup. The Browns are favored by nine points, which is almost a sure fire lock regardless of who they play.

The fact that they are playing the worst team in the NFL makes it more challenging to put money on their opponent. The Browns took out New Orleans and New England by double digit margins. Is it so absurd to think they could do the same to a team like Carolina?

Keys to the Game:

  • Peyton Hillis has to have a huge game. Hillis is no stranger to taking over football games. While he has well over 1000 yards from scrimmage this year, Hillis had a dismal rushing performance last week that resulted in a loss against Jacksonville. The Browns tried tirelessly to get something going on the ground, but Hillis struggled on the ground. Even so, he dominated catching the ball out of the backfield, hauling in six passes, including one for 47 yards. The Browns rely heavily on Hillis to move the ball down the field. They may be in luck this week, as the Panthers defense has played with little ambition this season.
  • The Panthers defense lost their two best players. Julius Peppers left to free agency, a decision that should cost someone their job. The lack of a dominant pass rusher at defensive end in a 4-3 has resulted in a lack of a pass rush in general. Nobody has filled the Peppers void and the team will need to address the problem during free agency. Although losing Peppers was a huge blow, the loss of John Beason this season is the most damaging to the defense. Beason is a Pro Bowl talent on defense. Without their signal caller and quarterback of the defense, the Panthers have no identity or sense of urgency on that side of the ball.
  • Josh Cribbs is Mr. Everything for the Browns. While Hillis is the most important part of the offense, Cribbs is hands down the most versatile. The Wildcat back/receiver/special teams monster dislocated three of his toes and is listed as questionable this week. While Cribbs is expected to play in a limited capacity, he has played in a limited capacity all season. He is now in a position where he can do a little bit of everything without doing everything entirely. His returns have not been as explosive as last year, but teams still know they have to be extra careful when they kick the ball to him. It will be interesting to see how he is recovers from his toe injuries, as a toe injury of any kind should never be seen as trivial.

Key Matchup

Jimmy Clausen Vs. Jake Delhomme

  • Jimmy Clausen could very well be the future of the Carolina Panthers. He has struggled this year, but in that offense, there are few young quarterbacks that could succeed. His line is splotchy and he has limited weapons around him. The Panthers don’t seem sold on Clausen as their quarterback of the present, but Clausen gives them the best chance to win.
  • Jake Delhomme is a step down from Colt McCoy. While Delhomme might have the experience, McCoy has the intangibles. The Browns respond to McCoy and how the huddle feels about their quarterback directly affects their play on the field. Delhomme will be facing his former team, but will that be enough to turn around his terrible 2010 performance? Delhomme is throwing four times more picks than touchdowns. While the Panthers aren’t exactly the ’85 Bears,Delhomme can’t be careless with the ball. If one quarterback grossly outperforms the other, this matchup will dictate who wins the game.

Wrap Up:

The Cleveland Browns haven’t taken a huge step backwards. They lost a couple of games consecutively, but that has to be expected. The Browns showed flashes of brilliance this season, but they aren’t a playoff team this year. Expecting them to compete week in and week out is asking too much. The Jaguars are not a bad team and the Browns can’t afford to sulk over such a loss.

The Panthers are the worst team in the NFL. They are missing most of their best players and have zero leadership on either side of the ball. While it is very hard for me to pick them, I can’t help but see that Cleveland -9 spread as being out of reach for the Browns. The Browns should win -barring a Jake Delhomme meltdown- but betting on them to blow anyone away doesn’t seem as safe as the alternative.

Free NFL Pick: Carolina +9


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