If you’re unfamiliar with how the market works during a normal NFL week, you probably aren’t alone. Sportsbooks post their odds sometime on Sunday night, usually right around the kickoff of the Sunday night game. From there, bad numbers are picked off almost immediately. The rest of the week is highlighted by slight movement as bettors look to find an edge or information becomes more available.
With a Thursday night game, that timeline is expedited. It’s a short week, practice and preparation is more limited and teams have less time. Bettors also have less time to wait for the market to develop and have to act quicker.
Fading the Browns
There’s no hiding the fact that the Week 6 game between the Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns was a classic face-off between the betting pros and betting Joe’s. The public loved getting the undefeated Cardinals as an underdog, but the pros backed Cleveland and caused the line to move in favor of the Browns all week. The public won that matchup with ease.
It looks to be a different story in Week 7, as the Browns opened as 5.5-point favorites at home against the Denver Broncos. In less than a full day, that line is down to just 4-points.
In hindsight, the pros were wrong about the Browns in Week 6 and it’s easy to see why. The Browns’ offense is built on their ability to run the ball down the throat of their opponents, and then off of that they call shot-plays and heavy play-action passing due to the opponents’ fear of the Browns rushing attack. One of the league’s best offensive lines facilitates both aspects of the Browns’ offense.
There’s one issue. Nick Chubb missed Week 6 due to an injury. The Browns were also without both starting tackles in Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin. We knew Baker Mayfield was playing through a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. The offense was also without Baker’s favorite target in Jarvis Landry.
What happened against the Cardinals? The Browns’ offensive line failed to hold up, and Kareem Hunt got nothing going on the ground. Outside pressure against the replacement offensive tackles allowed the Cardinals to get into the backfield all game long, forcing Mayfield into three turnovers as he consistently tried to make something happen.
Then, things got worse. Odell Beckham Jr. left the game for a significant portion of time before returning for a few snaps. Kareem Hunt suffered an ugly looking calf injury that will keep him out for several weeks. Mayfield took a sack, fumbled the ball and squirmed in pain after taking a huge hit to his injured shoulder.
With the short week, a return for Chubb, Wills, Conklin and Landry seems less likely than it would in a normal week. Hunt is now also out injured for the Browns. Beckham, the team’s No.1 receiver, is banged up. Mayfield, the franchise quarterback, is playing through a significant injury.
Don’t bet on teams’ reputations
There’s no doubting the talent on the Browns roster. They are considered one of the more dangerous teams in the AFC for a reason. They have the best running back-duo in the league, one of the league’s top offensive lines, an exciting and polarizing quarterback and a great 1-2 punch at receiver when they are healthy.
This week, however, you likely aren’t betting on those Browns.
You’re probably not betting on Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. You’re likely betting on depth running back D’Ernest Johnson and rookie scat-back Demetric Felton.
You’re probably not betting on standout tackles Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin. You’re betting on “some guy named Blake” less than a year removed from a practice squad and a defensive lineman-turned-offensive tackle rookie in James Hudson.
You’re not betting on overly confident, brash, fearless Baker Mayfield. You’re betting on a severely banged up quarterback behind a suspect offensive line without most of his top weapons.
You’re not betting on a healthy Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. You’re betting on a banged up version of those guys, or potentially replacement-level talent like Donovan Peoples-Jones and Rashard Higgins.
Betting on team reputations or the logo is a dangerous game to play. Sharp bettors can overlook the big picture and focus on the actual details. The Browns will be a shell of themselves on offense on Thursday and that’s why we’ve seen this line move so suddenly so quickly.