BetOnline customers who follow NFL betting understand that teams are going to suffer injuries during the season. But what is happening with the Cleveland Browns, particularly on the offensive side, is kind of unusual.
They will take a skeleton crew into their game on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos. The kickoff is at 8:20 PM ET, and the NFL Network will televise, with availability on Amazon Prime as well.
The Browns have been hammered on defense in the last two losses to the Los Angeles Chargers and Arizona Cardinals, and that's a big concern because they'll have less of a chance to respond offensively with the personnel they'll be missing.
Baker Mayfield will be sitting with a shoulder injury (albeit to his non-throwing shoulder), which means that Case Keenum will be dragged out of moth balls for this start. Keenum is a well-recycled backup who did find success when he was a starter with the Minnesota Vikings for one season.
All this is okay if he's got protection and skill position players. But that doesn't appear to be the case. The Browns were missing running back Nick Chubb last week against the Cards and were held to 73 yards on the ground. That's significant when you lead the entire NFL in rushing yards.
Now they will have to go without Kareem Hunt as well, leaving things to D'Ernest Johnson and others who have had little playing time. What does that do to the running attack? On top of this, right tackle Jack Conklin is not available either.
There's more, which we'll go into in a moment.
Here are the NFL betting odds on Thursday night's game, according to the folks at BetOnline:
Cleveland Browns -1.5 (-112)
Denver Broncos +1.5 (-108)
Over 39.5 points -110
Under 39.5 points -110
Keenum's blind side can be protected by left tackle Jedrick Wells, who's come back from injury. And Jarvis Landry is most likely going to play, which gives him a wide receiver who is more than serviceable. But Odell Beckham is a huge question mark with a shoulder ailment. he had five catches for 79 yards in the 37-14 loss on Sunday to Arizona.
Keenum's biggest concern is the presence of Von Miller, who has flat-out guaranteed that he is going to be dominant. And the likelihood is that he'll be putting the pressure on Wells. If Cleveland can't get anything from the ground game, it could be an opportunity to tee off.
Speaking of pressure, the Browns ought to be able to get some on Teddy Bridgewater, who sustained no less than 17 hits on Sunday against the Raiders. It's no secret that Vic Fangio is very worried about his offensive line, and the Browns, primarily due to the presence of Myles Garrett, have the ability to get a pass rush without blitzing.
You have to worry, if you're a Denver fan, how good your team really is. They looked dominant at times during the preseason, and got out of the gate at 3-0. But beating the Giants, Jets and Jacksonville is not a tremendous barometer. Double-digit defeats at he hands of Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Las Vegas don't give anybody confidence.
So what to do here? Well, if either of these teams has a chance to do something on the ground, it's probably the Broncos, with Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams. Fundamentally, Denver probably brings an edge of sorts with Bridgewater, but not all that much.
Ultimately, we see at least one offense here which is going to be out of rhythm. While we could conceivably back the Broncos in a small way, we're more bullish on the UNDER.
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