The Denver Broncos are making some noise this season in their first stint with Peyton Manning under center. In fact, many pundits have the Broncos winning it all with the new and improved offense they have brought to the table. The defense sits near the top of the league as well, so this is a well rounded squad that does have the talent to go deep in the playoffs. They look like a well oiled machine with one of the best leading them at the quarterback position. Manning doesn’t have the zip on his ball like he used to, but his pin-point accuracy has carried this team. The Cleveland Browns, what is there to stay about this bunch? After drafting the 28 year old Brandon Weeden out of Oklahoma State, it was imperative that Weeden stepped in and produced immediately. Weeden is producing like a rookie, but the problem is, there isn’t much time for him to mature into a game changer considering his age. Weeden will have the opportunity to garner some attention if he is able to perform well against the Broncos.
Weeden is going to need to be on top of his game, perhaps put forth his best performance of the year if they are going to secure a straight up victory in Denver. The Broncos not only have a potent offense, but the defense is extremely talented as well. Like a fine wine, cornerback Champ Bailey continues to get better as he gets older. Not only he is a major presence on the field with his talent, with 60 tackles and 2 interceptions this season, but he is also a leader that demands excellence every play. The Broncos added another talented defender when they drafted linebacker Von Miller a couple of years ago. Miller has become the centerpiece of the defense anchoring the core of the unit. Miller has an incredible 60 tackles to go along with an incredible 6 fumbles forced and 16 sacks. He only trails defensive ends Aldon Smith and J.J. Watt for the sack lead. The defense is solid all around though, not just these two standouts. The defense is 4th in the NFL with regards to total defense, allowing only 307.1 yards a game and 19.6 points. They are particularly good stopping the run, 2nd in the league for 91 yards allowed per game.
The Browns will be in for a long game if they can’t get into a rhythm early and often. The Browns, like in most years, are having trouble scoring points. Weeden has showcased moments of brilliance, followed up by garbage the following week. For instance, in week 9 against the Ravens he tossed two touchdowns, and then came back with 2 interceptions and no touchdowns against the Cowboys. His latest effort produced 244 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception against the Redskins. Those stats are pretty consistent with what Weeden has done all season long. The Browns also drafted Trent Richardson in this latest draft, and has been playing well, but in the same token, they could have had RG3. Richardson has rushed for 897 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. The offense as a whole ranks way back in the pack at 26th, averaging 319 yards a game and 20 points per game. The defense is much better than the offense, allowing 22.1 points a game, but is not nearly good enough to carry the team on their backs.
The defense, like the Browns’ offense, should have it tough in this matchup. Manning has the Broncos situated in 5th with respects to total team offense. The passing game has been chewing teams up on methodical long drives. Manning doesn’t have the arm to go deep several times a game, but he does have the short to mid-range accuracy to be successful still. It has been good enough for 29.2 points a game. The running game has been coming on of late as well with Knowshon Moreno rushing for 118 yards last week and 119 in week 14.
Browns vs. Broncos Spread and Betting Odds:
Cleveland Browns +13 (-110)
@ Denver Broncos -13 (-110)
Over 44 (-110)
Under 44 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Browns vs. Broncos Pick:
With the Browns travelling out west to play one of the best, this seems like a spot they will lay down and play dead. However, I think the Broncos are looking ahead to greater things. I don’t think the Browns are of much importance to the Broncos at the moment after clinching the AFC West last week. While the Browns have a fairly porous 5-9 record, they have stayed competitive in many of their losses. A 3 point loss to the Cowboys, 10 point to the Ravens, 4 points to the Colts. They opened the season 0-5, and the only drubbing in that stretch was a 41-27 beat down to the Giants. So, I am going to play the percentages here and take the 13 points.
The Broncos are a good team, but I don’t think they will be interested in blowing the doors off the Browns. I expect them to be looking ahead in this spot, a good chance for the Browns to keep it close. Well, close enough to cover the 13 as I see the Broncos taking this one by about 7-10 points.
PICK = Browns +13