NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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Sprocket Hunting
by Dennis Ranahan

Long range forecasts call for severe weather soon to hit the east, but not before the National Football League enjoys near perfect playing conditions at most of their outdoor sites for Week Five. The exceptions to the nice weather include Kansas City, where today at Arrowhead Stadium the Chiefs entertain the Jacksonville Jaguars. Some scattered Thunderstorms could also be experienced in New Jersey, where the New York Jets host the Denver Broncos, and in Houston, where the Texans host the Dallas Cowboys tonight.

Some rain will fall in Seattle, where the Seahawks look to end the Los Angeles Rams perfect season.

Two teams are undefeated after four weeks of play in the NFL, the Chiefs and Rams. Both teams have tough games today, the Rams against a division opponent on the road while carrying the load of a point spread higher than seven points, and the Chiefs against perhaps the best defense in football.

This is the next test for second-year signal caller Patrick Mahomes, he has passed every other test of his professional career and now has a lifetime record as a starter in the NFL of 5-0 … he beat Denver not only last Monday night but also to close out the 2017 regular season in his only professional start before this year.

When a top defense meets a top offense, as we have in the Jaguars visit to Kansas City, the edge most often goes with the better defense. That would point to Jacksonville plus the three points on the spread today in Kansas City. But, with Mahomes at quarterback, the Chiefs could be the rulebreaker. Kansas City is the only team in the NFL with a perfect 4-0 point spread record.

One team that had disappointed their backers in recent years is the Cleveland Browns. Winning only once in the prior two seasons straight-up, even with generous point spreads the Browns record against the line was a bankroll eating, 7-24-1. In the first four weeks of this season, the Browns have reversed that trend while beating the point spread three of four weeks with their only loss an overtime defeat last Sunday in Oakland where while getting 2½ points on the line they lost by 3.

Today, the Browns host the Baltimore Ravens, who have three straight-up wins in the first four weeks including a division conquest over what many would consider their main competition in the AFC North, the Pittsburgh Steelers. That win, last Sunday night, came on the road and allowed the Ravens to push the Steelers down in an attempt to wrestle the title away from Mike Tomlin’s team, and win it for themselves, for the first time since their Super Bowl season in 2012.

The Ravens chances of winning the division also appear to be challenged by the Cincinnati Bengals, who won the AFC North three years ago and like Baltimore, bring a 3-1 record into today’s action.

Cleveland’s success this year has been pinned to a few primary factors. First, they are improved on both sides of the ball from a personnelle perspective, and rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield has pumped life into an otherwise pedestrian offense. Finally, they are the Browns, and even if they are improved opponents have trouble harnessing the motivation to fear the Browns, and fear is the greatest motivator of all.

If the Ravens don’t fear the Browns, and they just beat the Steelers, I don’t see a sprocket to generate a big effort out of Baltimore today. With a third straight road game scheduled next week against the first place Tennessee Titans, one could not fault the Ravens if they are caught looking past the Browns.

This appears to be a perfect spot for the Cleveland surge to continue, even against a team as highly regarded as the Ravens.

The public sees it exactly different.

Their third most favorite play of the week is the Ravens (-3) over the Browns. The only teams the public likes more than Baltimore are the two undefeated teams, the Kansas City Chiefs (-3) over the Jaguars and the Rams (-7) over the Seattle Seahawks.

As for the four money rated selections from this site, those picks are now posted and if a Bullet Play develops in the final hour leading up to the first kickoff, that game will be added to the list of selections at 9:45 a.m. Pacific Time.