Browns at Saints NFL Pick for September 16
In Week 1, the Cleveland Browns did something they hadn’t done in nearly 2 years: not lose. The Browns had plenty of chances to actually pull out a win last week at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but just about every Browns fan you talk to would presumably tell you that they are happy to settle for a tie. The Steelers have Super Bowl aspirations, and the fact that the Browns were able to match them in Week 1 has to feel good after a winless 2017 campaign.
Things won’t get any easier for Hue Jackson’s boys in Week 2, as the Browns will have to hit the road to take on a New Orleans Saints team that can’t be too happy. The Saints have been tabbed by many as a Super Bowl contender this season, but last week they let the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers come into their barn and put 48 points on the board. The Saints scored 40 themselves, but few had New Orleans pegged for an 0-1 start with Tampa Bay on the schedule in Week 1. A second consecutive home loss at the hands of the Browns would certainly cause an all-out panic down in the Big Easy.
The Saints’ offense wasn’t the problem last week. Drew Brees was stellar, completing 37 of his 45 throws for 439 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Both Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara topped 100 yards receiving, while Kamara scored 3 total touchdowns in the loss. Thomas also found the end zone on his way to a whopping 16 receptions for 180 yards.
The problem was the defense made Ryan Fitzpatrick look like Aaron Rodgers. Fitzpatrick topped 400 yards himself and threw 4 touchdowns while rushing for another. Both Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson topped 140 yards receiving, which was shocking considering the Saints had one of the best defenses in all of football last season.
I have no clue what happened to this team against the Buccaneers. Perhaps they figured the Bucs would be terrible, just like everybody else, and that they could win the game without giving a maximum effort. The Bucs showed that you can’t do that in this league, so I would assume the Saints will enter this one with a renewed focus.
There is no reason to believe the Saints’ defense has suddenly gone back to being terrible. New Orleans had a turnover differential of plus-7 last season, which was a top-10 mark in all of football. I think we see a far better showing out of this unit this season.
The Browns got their aforementioned tie against the Steelers thanks more to their defense than their offense. The Browns induced a whopping 6 turnovers by Pittsburgh in Week 1, 3 of which were Ben Roethlisberger interceptions. The Steelers still gained 472 yards of total offense, but the turnovers at inopportune times limited them to just 3 scores in the game.
The sloppy conditions in that game helped contribute to the terrible offensive play on both sides, and this week in the Superdome the Cleveland defense won’t have that weather advantage. Things could get dicey in a hurry for them against the high-octane, up-tempo Saints attack.
The Browns’ offense was a work-in-progress, but the aforementioned weather issues helped stymie much offensive production in Week 1. Tyrod Taylor completed just 15 of his 40 throws against Pittsburgh, but he did contribute another 77 rushing yards with a touchdown on the ground. He was also sacked 7 times in the game. Jarvis Landry led the way with 7 catches for Cleveland, but no other Brown had more than 3 receptions.
I think this game has offensive fireworks written all over it. We know the Saints have one of the best offenses in the league, but I think the Browns will eventually emerge as a solid offense themselves. “Good” and “offense” aren’t terms we often associate with the Browns, especially when spoken consecutively, but they are definitely due for a decent season with some of the upgrades they’ve made on that side of the ball. I think Taylor is far better than the quarterback we saw struggle his way through Week 1, and having a guy of Landry’s caliber around makes things a lot easier for any quarterback.
As for the Saints, we know what to expect here. With Mark Ingram still suspended, the offense is going to revolve around Alvin Kamara. Kamara finished with a whopping 141 yards from scrimmage last week, and in his last 6 home games he has amassed 714 total yards with 9 touchdowns. He’s young, but it’s fair to say that he’s one of the more versatile and dangerous offensive weapons in the game.
I think the way to attack this game from a betting point of view is with the implied total. The total of 49 here is one of the higher marks in the league, but we just saw one team come into New Orleans and score 48 by themselves. While I do think the Saints put forth a better defensive effort this week, the issues they had last week aren’t issues that tend to correct themselves within the span of 7 days.
The Saints are also 9 1/2 point favorites, per the odds. I do think they cover that spread, so I’m fine with advocating for that option here. The over on 49 looks like the best play, but if you wanted to parlay that with a Saints cover I wouldn’t fight you..
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