A strange thing happened when the Cleveland Browns turned to a rookie quarterback who has played just 18 snaps in 13 games.
The betting line kept moving the Browns’ way.
The Cincinnati Bengals started as 1.5-point favorites at Vegas casinos like the Wynn and the MGM/Mirage properties and 1-point favorites at other spots like William Hill, Westgate and the Caesars properties, according to VegasInsider.com. After Johnny Manziel was announced as Cleveland’s starting quarterback, the line started to move and as of Friday afternoon it was at Browns minus-1 just about everywhere (William Hill has it at a pick ’em).
That’s a lot of respect for Manziel. Or some disrespect for Brian Hoyer, I suppose.
We don’t know what Manziel is going to do, and I don’t think the line move is justified. It’s possible he comes in and saves the day, and it’s also possible that he’s not ready to run an NFL offense and the reasons the Browns barely used him until this point will manifest themselves against a Bengals team that is 8-4-1. Not to mention he’s facing a Bengals team that wants to make amends for a terrible home loss to the Browns earlier this season.
I like Manziel, I think he can be an effective player, but I don’t think that will be the case on Sunday. I’ll gladly take the Bengals and the point, which is the line on the Yahoo Pro Football Pick ’em (which is what we use here), but one way or another it’ll be interesting to watch. And if the people moving the line are right and Manziel makes that kind of splash, the Johnny Football hype is going to be out of control.
Here are the rest of the Week 15 picks:
Cardinals (+4.5) over Rams (picked Thursday): This line got up to at least six points by kickoff. The only people happier than Bruce Arians and his coaching staff with that effort on Thursday night were the folks who run the sports books in Las Vegas.
Steelers (-2.5) over Falcons: I hate picking Steelers games.
Bills (+4.5) over Packers: I think the Bills will give Green Bay all it can handle. Packers aren’t the same team on the road, and the Bills’ defense is impressive. I think the Packers win but it’s close.
Colts (-6.5) over Texans: The Texans have never won at Indianapolis. They’re 0-12, and 4-8 against the spread according to OddsShark.com. I don’t see that changing. The Colts score a ton at home.
Chiefs (-10) over Raiders: We saw what happened the last time the Raiders went on the road after a home win.
Dolphins (+7.5) over Patriots: I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots blew them out, but we saw in Week 1 that the Dolphins aren’t scared of New England, they need this game bad, and at very least it’ll be their best effort.
Redskins (+6.5) over Giants: I don’t know, I just don’t love the idea of laying this many points with the Giants against anyone.
Buccaneers (+3) over Panthers: I think this Lovie Smith-led team could lose to anyone, in any situation, but I still can’t take a team that was on a 2-8-1 run with Cam Newton, and now have to play without him.
Ravens (-14) over Jaguars: I almost never take a favorite laying this many points, but this is just a perfect storm. I don’t see the Jaguars scoring very much. If at all.
Titans (+2.5) over Jets: Jake Locker, who gets to start this week because Zach Mettenberger is injured, has played well in spurts. He just can’t stay healthy. If he stays upright for four quarters, maybe the Titans can win this one. Stay tuned.
Chargers (+4) over Broncos: I think San Diego wins this one. It’s not a good spot for the Broncos, and their new grind-it-out style keeps games close. The Chargers generally play the Broncos pretty well, too.
Vikings (+7.5) over Lions: Did you realize Minnesota has covered in six of its last seven games, according to OddsShark.com’s logs? They’re not great yet, but they’re not an easy out, either.
49ers (+10) over Seahawks: The 49ers haven’t been double-digits underdogs since Oct. 2, 2011, according to OddsShark.com. They won that game against the Eagles 24-23. These are two teams going in opposite directions but I get the sense that the 49ers have one more fight left in them this season, and this is it.
Eagles (-3.5) over Cowboys: I don’t see a real reason to pick against the Eagles at home in this rematch. And then get ready for people to start realizing that the Cowboys are hurtling toward becoming an 11-win team … and getting left out of the playoffs. That might get just a little bit of attention if it happens.
Bears (+3) over Saints: Don’t love either side, but I guess I like the Saints on the road in cold weather even less than the reeling Bears.
Last week: 10-5-1
Season to date: 105-101-1
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