DETROIT LIONS (3-2)
at CLEVELAND BROWNS (3-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Line: Detroit -2.5, Total: 43.5
Two teams with major offensive injuries meet on Sunday when the Browns, winners of three straight contests, host the Lions.
Detroit WR Calvin Johnson (knee) will be a game-time decision after missing the 22-9 loss in Green Bay last week, while Cleveland QB Brian Hoyer, who is 3-0 as a starter, is out for the season with a torn ACL. Browns QB Brandon Weeden will reclaim the starting job against a Detroit defense allowing teams to convert only 27% of their third downs (2nd in NFL). Lions QB Matthew Stafford absorbed five sacks last week, but the last time these clubs met in 2009, he threw for 422 yards and his fifth TD of the game with no time remaining in a 38-37 Lions home win. Although Detroit bettors can look to the fact that favorites with a pathetic defense (6+ yards per play) after allowing 375+ total yards in three straight games are 32-9 ATS (78%) over the past 10 years, the Lions are only 3-11 ATS (21%) after allowing 6+ yards per play in their previous game over the past three seasons.
Can the Browns keep their win streak intact without their best quarterback? For the answer, connect to NFL Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 season and playoffs. The experts are heating up in NFL Best Bets, combining for a 55.2% ATS record (16-13-2) over the past two weeks, highlighted by StatFox Scott's 67% ATS mark (4-2). Scott is also 79% (11-3) in NFL Totals in the past three weeks, increasing his season record to 65% (13-7). StatFox Gary has also had a profitable season in NFL Totals with a yearly percentage of 65% (11-6).
Detroit's offense has been rolling this season with 381 total YPG (9th in NFL), including 292 YPG (6th in league) on 7.4 YPA (9th in NFL) through the air. This will have to continue for the Lions to have a shot to beat the Browns, as the Detroit running game has a subpar 89 rushing YPG (22nd in league) on 3.6 YPC (25th in NFL). The offense had been much more potent (405 YPG, 6th in NFL) leading up to last week, but the absence of WR Calvin Johnson (knee) really hurt against the Packers, as Detroit managed a season-low 286 total yards. The good news in the loss at Green Bay was that RB Reggie Bush returned to the lineup after a one-game absence because of a knee injury, but he has been much less effective on the road (69 total YPG) than at home this season (182 total YPG). The Lions also need another wideout to step up, as Johnson is the only healthy wide receiver with more than eight catches this year. Detroit's defense has underachieved all season, ranking 25th in the NFL in both total defense (393 YPG) and yards per play (6.1). It has been especially inept at stopping the run, allowing 5.3 yards per carry (2nd-worst in NFL) and 125 rushing YPG (6th-worst in league). The pass rush has also been subpar with just 10 sacks on the season, but the defense has been opportunistic with 11 takeaways over five games.
Cleveland has averaged a mere 4.6 yards per play this season, which is the third-lowest total in the league, but the past three weeks have been much more efficient with 345 total YPG on 5.2 yards per play. But with QB Brian Hoyer done for the season, QB Brandon Weeden takes over play-calling duties, trying to improve upon a 69.2 passer rating (6.5 YPA, 2 TD, 3 INT), which ranks 29th out of 34 qualified quarterbacks. He will most certainly look to TE Jordan Cameron who already has 33 catches for 396 yards and 5 TD this season. WR Josh Gordon has also having a huge season with 303 receiving yards and 2 TD in just three games. The Browns' ground game has been serviceable in the past three weeks since trading away top RB Trent Richardson, rushing for 94 YPG on 3.6 YPC. The Cleveland defense continues to carry this team, leading the NFL with 4.3 yards per play allowed, and placing fourth in total defense (302 YPG). These numbers are even more impressive considering the unit has been on the field for 30:12 (14th-longest in NFL) and hasn't really clamped down on third downs either, allowing a conversion rate of 42% (9th-worst in league). The Browns' 12 sacks and six takeaways have certainly helped during the three-game win streak, and their special teams have also been strong, highlighted by Travis Benjamin's amazing 79-yard punt return TD last week.