Free NFL Picks: Cleveland at New Orleans 10-24-2010

October 21, 2010


Cleveland Browns at New Orleans Saints

Sunday October 24th, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Line: New Orleans -14


Barring a few exceptions, the Saints and the Browns have been involved in close battles all season long. Unfortunately for the 1-5 Browns, they have been on the losing end of most of those battles. The defending champion New Orleans Saints finally ran up the score on someone as they defeated Tampa Bay by 25 points. 14 points is a huge spread regardless of the teams involved. For two teams that have been typically involved in tight games, a two score spread may even seem illogical.

Keys to the Game:

  • Colt McCoy is facing a defense that only gives up 195.5 yards a game. McCoy isn’t blessed with a number of different weapons to get the ball to and the Browns have a sub-par ground game. McCoy held his own against the Steelers last week, which was surprising given that it was his first game. It will be interesting to see how he builds on that performance. Despite throwing two picks, he looked poised and confident. The Saints will still seek to rattle McCoy by sending looks he has not seen before. As a rookie quarterback, blitzes are more difficult to recognize. For that reason, the Saints should be less conservative when they dial up the pressure.
  • The Saints have to run the ball well to be successful. Chris Ivory came in to replace the injured Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush. He ran all over Tampa Bay’s defense and broke for 158 yards. This opened up the passing game and allowed Drew Brees to face a defense that was playing honest. Although the strength of the Saints offense has always been their passing attack. What has gone unnoticed in the past is the fact the Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas always had to be accounted for in the passing attack. The absence of both Bush and Thomas has allowed defenses the freedom to completely ignore the run game. This notion had crippling results for the Bucs last Sunday. The Browns won’t ignore Ivory, though they are not a stout run defense to begin with. The Saints still need a few more weeks of consistent running from Ivory to prove they can get it done on the ground with their top two rushers on the sideline.
  • Peyton Hillis needs to continue to play hurt to give the Browns a shot at winning. Hillis is having a breakout year, though a hamstring is keeping him from being at full strength. Hillis posted two huge days with 144 and 102 yards on the ground before encountering the injury. In the past two games, he has been held in check, but will look to power through his hamstring this week against a middle of the road run defense. Luckily for Hillis, the Browns have a week eight bye week, so there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Hamstring injuries can linger throughout the entire season, so the Browns don’t want to overdo it this week by feeding Hillis too many carries. There has to be a balance between being effective and playing it safe. It will be interesting to see how they utilize Hillis, but you can expect to see him on the bench if this game gets out of hand.
  • Marques Colston has to start finding the end zone. Fantasy owners around the world might be organizing a revolt of some kind as we speak. Colston Has 30 catches this season, but has been held out of the end zone. The lack of a run game has allowed teams to double up on Colston in nickle packages. As a result, Lance Moore has already scored four times this year. Colston has been getting the catches and the yards. He is a huge possession receiver, but he needs to start getting the ball in the red zone. He is too valuable of an asset to not be utilized in clutch situations. Brees to Colston touchdowns used to be all the rage. The Browns have a young defensive backfield that will struggle to find a way to cover all of the Saints receivers, especially when they go to their four and five wide sets.

Wrap Up:

The Browns haven’t won one game on the road this season, but they have only lost won game by 14 or more points all season long. The Steelers are one of the best teams in the NFL. The Browns will score more than the ten points they put up against the Steelers last week. While the Saints have an explosive offense, I just don’t know if they are going to destroy the Browns like they destroyed the Bucs last week. Ivory isn’t going to sneak up on the Browns this week. If Hillis’ hamstring holds up, I say the Browns keep it within ten or so.

Free NFL Pick: Cleveland +14

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