Cleveland Browns (0-3 SU, 1-2 ATS) vs. Washington Redskins (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS)
Week 4 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, October 2, 2016 at 1PM EST
Where: FedExField, Landover, Maryland
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: CLE +8/WAS -8
Over/Under Total: 45.5
The Cleveland Browns come to FedEx Field to face the Washington Redskins on Sunday. Cleveland came up short again on Sunday, losing in overtime to Miami, 30-24. Still, there were signs of progress (it's all relative) on Sunday that they can build on for this game and beyond. The Redskins were able to put a stop to an 0-2 start to the season with a gutty 29-27 home win over the New York Giants, as they finally showed signs of last season's division-winning form after a ragged start to the season.
Key among the areas of promise shown by Washington on Sunday was the performance of Kirk Cousins. After a very uneven beginning to the season, he was able to get this offense moving with a pair of TD throws. He threw for 295 yards and started to shake off whatever funk was plaguing him in games one and two. Deep into the first half, it was 21-9 Giants, but two long plays changed all that—a 44 yarder to DeSean Jackson, followed by a 55-yard strike to Jamison Crowder. Dustin Hopkins' five field goals were also key, especially the game-winner with under two minutes left.
We started to see some of the things that had people excited about the Redskins' aerial attack on Sunday. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is in a contract season and looks like he's poised for a big year, as he was near 100 yards on Sunday, with Crowder adding 78 through the air and a big 50-yard punt return. Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed were productive and you can see there are a lot of weapons on this offense. Matt Jones ran for 65 yards, but this is an offense that will be trying to do damage in a variety of different ways through the air.
The Washington defense made a major contribution to the game. They gave up a lot of yardage, but that's part of doing business when playing the Giants. They held up when they needed too, with corner Quinton Dunbar getting an interception deep in Washington territory and rookie safety Su'a Cravens intercepting a Manning pass to protect the lead. They did lose DeAngelo Hall for the season and are banged up across the back-seven. After giving up 65 points in their first two games, some wondered how they would hold up against the Giants and they did pretty well all things considered. For all the issues they faced in their first two games, they are now a home win against the winless Browns away from evening the slate at 2-2.
A loss is a loss, but the Browns were more effective on Sunday in an overtime loss to the Dolphins. A double-digit favorite, Miami was up by 11 in the fourth before a TD and a two, followed by a FG made things a little anxious for the Dolphins, who scored the winning TD in OT. The Browns are already down their third string QB and one of the only things that would have made this game an attraction was dashed in week one with former Redskins QB Robert Griffin, III. going down in his first game with the Browns. After McCown went down, it's now up to USC rookie Cody Kessler, who was 21-for-33 for 244 yards in his pro debut, not an altogether bad game. In the last few games, they've gone on little spurts, showing some upside offensively.
On Sunday, the Browns got a big performance from Terrelle Pryor, who connected well with Kessler with 8 catches and 144 yards receiving. Pryor also ran for a TD and completed three passes. The run-game has shown some real upside in the last few games and on Sunday, Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson combined for 148 yards on the ground, with the Browns averaging 5.3 yards per run. Tight end Gary Barnidge came alive some and the signs aren't bad for the Cleveland offense, something that hasn't been the case for quite some time.
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There were some good signs for the Browns on defense on Sunday. They held Miami to just two third down conversions. In addition, they were more than just "there," as Briean Boddy-Calhoun returned a Ryan Tannehill pass for a touchdown, with Jamar Taylor picking off another pass. All in all, there is just some more overall zip on this team. Not that they're not bad, but they just seem more prone to coming up with big plays on both sides of the ball. Against Cousins, they're going to need to find a way to contain all the different Redskins aerial targets, having had trouble stopping the pass this season against the Eagles, the Ravens, and the Dolphins on Sunday.
This is a tough one to gauge, as it looks tricky on a few different levels. Relying on a late FG to win their first game is hardly cause to signal a Redskins return to their peak form of last season. The road win over the Giants was a good sign, however, and if the Redskins continue to show that kind of form, they will be in good shape against the Browns. But I see Cleveland getting some business done, as well. I see a lot of points on Sunday. I'll take the over.
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