Free NFL Pick: Cleveland at Buffalo 12-12-2010

December 10, 2010

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Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills

Sunday December 12th, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Line: Buffalo -1

Overview:

The 5-7 Browns and the 2-10 Bills are two of the most confusing teams in the NFL. Each team has been involved in games they were projected to be blown out in, yet it is difficult to feel confident in either side. It is hard to get a handle on the Browns, who were 14 point underdogs against the Saints and won outright by 13 points. That same Browns team lost to Jacksonville and squecked past the worst team in the NFL, the Carolina Panthers.

The Bills are in a similar situation. Since their bye week, they have taken Baltimore and Kansas City to overtime on the road. They also went in to overtime against the Steelers at home, though all three games resulted in a loss. It looks like they could be on the cusp of being a solid football team, but after they lost by 28 to the flawed Vikings last week, it is easy to rethink everything.

Keys to the Game:

  • Peyton Hillis could best his 187 yard performance against the Patriots earlier this season. Let’s take a look at the Bills’ last four games. Adrian Peterson posted 109 yards and three touchdowns, Rashard Mendenhall ran for 151 yards, and Cedric Benson ran for 124 yards. Hillis, who has already rushed for over 100 yards four times this season, is much more physical than the Bills. The Bills make it clear every week that they need to draft for the defensive side of the ball.
  • The Bills need Ryan Fitzpatrick at his very best. It is clear that since Buffalo’s defense is probably going to drop the ball, the Bills are going to need to win in a shootout. Fitzpatrick is a mobile quarterback and while Buffalo’s offensive line is struggling, he can generate more time by getting outside the pocket against a Browns defense that lakes supreme team speed. Whether the Bills win or lose does not have a direct correlation with the play of Fitzpatrick, but they have a much better shot at covering if he gets going, especially when it comes to getting the ball in the hands of Steve Johnson.
  • Steve Johnson has the ability to take over games. Last week, he was completely bottled up by the Dolphins and Fitzpatrick looked uncomfortable the entire game. The Browns have youth in their secondary and don’t have nearly the pass rush the Dolphins present. Steve Johnson has become a legitimate threat and should get back on track this week.
  • Jake Delhomme improved his touchdown to interception ratio to two to six. That wasn’t a typo, I meant improved. Delhomme has looked terrible this season, but looked almost like a real NFL quarterback last Sunday, when he threw for over 200 yards and did not throw an interception. It is unclear how his recent play will hold up, but  the Bills don’t present problems for many teams with their secondary. While Jairus Byrd is not likely to be picked on, he is the only guy Delhomme should think twice before throwing at.

Key Matchup:

Fred Jackson Vs. Browns’ run defense

  • Fred Jackson is on a steady decline after having three huge games, including one against the Pittsburgh Steelers. C.J. Spiller is back in the lineup, which will take away from some of the carries. Spiller has been a disappointment this season and will remain the second option in Buffalo for the time being.
  • Jackson faces a Browns defense who give up nearly 120 yards a game. Jackson could easily get back on track this week and carve up the Browns shaky run defense. While this may not be the biggest matchup in the game, Jackson is the X factor. Peyton Hillis is expected to have a huge day and Steve Johnson could easily put up big numbers. If Jackson succeeds or the Browns defense steps it up, it changes the schematics of the flow of the game.

Wrap Up:

Whenever I believe betting is ‘too easy’ and find it difficult to understand a given spread, Vegas usually ends up being smarter than I am (go figure). The Bills have only beaten the Lions at home and face a Browns team that has beaten the Saints on the road and are on a two game win streak. The Bills might keep it close, but Buffalo usually finds a way to lose, even if victory is right in their hands (sorry Steve Johnson).

Free NFL Pick: Cleveland +1


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