Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland Browns (+3.5)
What to do with the Cleveland Browns? Once 6-3 and with an opportunity to grab the reigns of the crowded AFC North, the Browns have dropped two of their last three games and made the change from quarterback Brian Hoyer to rookie Johnny Manziel. Still, the question is valid – what to do with the Cleveland Browns?
The vague cloud that hovers over this game, obscuring our analysis, does not necessarily render any assessment useless. Rather, it forces us to look elsewhere for the answers. Rather than compare the Browns’ defense to the Colts’ offense, we look strictly at the numbers provided to us.
When the opening line for this game came out, there was no resolution as to the Browns’ starting quarterback this week. Yet, even with a blank space under center, the Colts were giving only three-and-a-half points. This number is by design. Johnny Manziel is such a polarizing figure that the low spread leaves opposers of Manziel flocking to the Colts. Those who support Manziel had yet to receive confirmation of his status for the game, and therefore were reluctant to back the Browns. Without a clear-cut direction, the ‘safe’ pick was the Colts.
If you have read this column more than once, you know where we are going with this.
The spread — opening with uncertainty and remaining steady even with the announcement of Hoyer as this week’s starter — tell the only story we intend to read. Indianapolis wins by a field goal. Cleveland beats the spread.