Even rescheduling the Cleveland Browns home game against the Las Vegas Raiders from Saturday to Monday was not enough time for the Browns to bring back either of the quarterbacks that have spent the season on their depth chart. Both starter Baker Mayfield and backup Case Keenum remain unavailable on the reserve/ COVID list.
What does that leave the Browns with tonight to line up behind center?
Okay, before you say who, know that Mullens is not untested in National Football League wars. As a member of the San Francisco 49ers, he made his NFL debut in 2018 against the Raiders and led his team to a 34-3 victory. He has appeared in 19 NFL games with 16 starts to his credit and has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions.
Still, all things being equal, the Browns would be starting Mayfield tonight if they could … or even Keenum in the starter’s absence.
Because of the uncertainty of who would be available for the Browns tonight the linemakers have had a particularly tough time setting a reliable point spread on this game. The opening line on this contest was set at Cleveland by 6½ points, a number that was first shifted midweek to Las Vegas favored by a point when it was clear Mayfield would not be available by the original scheduled date of last Saturday.
When the public learned Mayfield was out, the spread shifted two more points, with the Raiders advancing to a 3 point favorite. Three times this week the books have surrendered that they didn’t know what they were dealing with and took the game off the board.
Then, the league accommodated the Browns request to shift the playing date to allow them to get some key players back, and the books posted a line that had Cleveland again the favorite, this time by 3 points. When it was revealed early today that Mayfield and Keenum would not be activated for the game the line took another about face, with the number currently favoring the Raiders by 3 points.
Somebody could be sitting on a huge middle in this game with the Raiders plus 6½ points and the Browns plus 3 points.
The books aren’t happy.
You gotta love that.
In the regularly scheduled Monday Night Football game, the Chicago Bears are hosting the Minnesota Vikings. This is another game that has had a dramatic point spread shift. The Vikings opened as a 3½ point road favorite and have been wagered up to 6½ points. That wide of a spread shift most often is generated by a starting quarterback injury.
Yet, Chicago signal caller Justin Fields has had a full week of practice and according to every report I have access to is going to start tonight. If that is the case, we are left with a couple other explanations on why this spread has shifted three points. Either, someone in the know for the guys setting lines are aware of something I'm not, or both the wise guys and public are significantly invested in the Vikings prospects.
It is clear the books are fishing for Chicago money, which cools me on a possible play on the home underdog Bears. It is also clear that the spread shift is too severe for me to recommend we blindly follow the move with a Vikings wager. I don’t bet into situations when a line move is not one I understand.
I don’t make sense of the Vikings move, but I do understand the Browns pinball spread shifts and like ending up with the home team getting points with a motivated Cleveland defense looking to compensate for the loss of their starting quarterback.
The Browns, with a win tonight, move into first place in the AFC North Division. A loss, drops them to the cellar.
I like their chances to move to the top and I also think the books have shifted this line enough that even they have ended up with the wrong team favored.
Qoxhi Picks: Cleveland Browns (+3) over Las Vegas Raiders