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Cleveland Browns vs. Denver Broncos Point Spread - Pick

Cleveland Browns (5-7-1 SU, 8-5 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (6-7 SU, 6-6-1 ATS)
Week 15 NFL
Date/Time: Saturday Night Football, December 15, 2018 at 8:20PM EST
Where: Broncos Stadium at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
TV: NFL Network

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: CLE +3.5/DEN -3.5
Over/Under Total: 44.5

The Cleveland Browns come to Mile High for a week 15 AFC matchup against the Denver Broncos on Saturday Night Football. This unique Saturday matchup features two teams who are still playing hard, albeit with some inconsistent results. The Browns continue to show signs of improvement following a 26-20 win over the Panthers on Sunday—their third win in four games. Denver saw their three-game win streak come to an end with a disheartening 20-14 loss to the 49ers on Sunday. In a must-win game, they were flat and look to bounce back at home this week against the upstart Browns.

Normally when a team is out of playoff contention in a year where their head coach and offensive coordinator were sacked midseason, the outlook is pretty dreary. But all said, the Browns seem to be in the midst of a nice rebuild, showing signs of a team on the rise. Winning some games was a good start, following a long stretch of losing. One good byproduct of all the bad seasons were a bunch of high draft picks and luckily for them, they've had some success in that area. And they've held up pretty well in a rough patch, with this being their third road game in 4 weeks since coming off the bye. And Mile High is still a tough place to play, with a lot of these Cleveland youngsters having yet to play in this stadium. But overall, 5-7-1 is pretty darned good for a team that couldn't buy a win their last few seasons.

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They found their QB of the future in rookie Baker Mayfield. On Sunday, he was deathly-efficient on 18-for-22 passing. Another rookie, running back Nick Chubb, has been flashing a set of lively legs and scored another TD on Sunday. Receiver Antonio Callaway, yet another rookie, is the team's second-leading receiver behind Jarvis Landry, who caught and ran for a TD on Sunday. The youth movement is paying off and will only get better. The line might not be as good as it could be, but in keeping Mayfield out of trouble and helping spring a nice run-game, they've helped this offense make measurable gains this season.

It's therefore a bit upsetting that the potential on the Cleveland defense hasn't turned over according to plan. They rank toward the bottom in most areas. They give up a lot of yards both on the ground and through the air. Former top pick Myles Garrett, who had another sack on Sunday, is a top pass-rusher and rookie corner Denzel Ward (questionable) has made some plays, but it hasn't been enough. Damarious Randall had another pick on Sunday. They actually have a positive turnover ratio. But despite some standouts, there are too many holes through every phase of this "D" and they may have taken an overall step back this season. Still, they've delivered in some clutch spots over the past month and stopped the Panthers on Sunday, as they Carolina drove for the game-winning TD late.

It has been an up-and-down season for Denver this season. An easy team to neglect, they have a sort of dull vibe and it makes them one of the lower-key teams in the league, even after some recent success. Not everything has gone right, with a huge slump making them have to fight an uphill battle all season, but they've overcome adversity and this could be a character-building season that sets up well for some future success. After building back up to 6-6, however, it was a letdown for them to lay an egg against a bad 49ers team last Sunday.

Throwing big money at Case Keenum might have seemed goofy in some people's eyes, but however you want to cut it, he's a definite upgrade at the QB position. He can be clutch in the right spots and had a big hand in the recent success the Broncos had. Their run-game offers a ton of promise as rookie 1-2 punch Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman have added a lot of horsepower to the offense, especially Lindsay. Like their opponents this week, a lot of wise rookie draft selections paid off royally this season. The loss of firepower aerially is a big hit. Their two top receivers entering the season are both gone, with Demaryius Thomas traded and Emmanuel Sanders injured. With Courtland Sutton as the top dog, that leaves them pretty thin in the pass-catcher category. On Sunday, they didn't get on the board until halfway through the third quarter. The run-game had its moments, but neither Lindsay nor Freeman really had a good game. They are working in some different receivers and they got some catches late, with Tim Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton having some production. It just wasn't enough.

The Denver defense is not the group that won the Super Bowl not that long ago, but they're still pretty tough in the right spots. Von Miller is still there and a threat to leave an indelible imprint on any game he plays. Bradley Chubb, another valued rookie, has helped give the defense some balance, as he is a terror on the other end. This side of the ball has suffered at times this season, especially as they won just once in 7 games before getting on a nice run the past month or so. On Sunday, it was a tale of two halves, with the Broncos defense getting torched early and keeping San Fran off the board for the entire second half, with the offense just not doing their part of the heavy lifting. At the end of the day, allowing 332 yards to Nick Mullens, 210 yards to tight end George Kittle, and 90 yards on the ground to Jeff Wilson isn't a strong testament to where this "D" is entering week 15.

Neither of these teams are all that bankable. Just as you think you have a read on either of these squads, they can completely alter form. We saw this with a rampaging Denver team last week, as they suddenly fell flat against a discombobulated Niners team. And the Browns are on the way up, make no mistake, but aren't above laying an egg here and there, either. At home, I look for the Broncos to rebound this week and get the cover.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Denver Broncos minus 3.5 points. Did you know... that you could be wagering on the Browns-Broncos Saturday night game at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying -110 odds (or more) with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!

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