The Cleveland Browns have traded their best offensive player and will be using a quarterback who has, well, been used very little in his NFL career. So the Minnesota Vikings may have found the right opportunity to get out from under an 0-2 start and climb toward a second consecutive playoff berth. We will find out on Sunday at 1 PM ET at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
In the NFL betting lines that have been established on this game by the folks at Bovada, the Vikes are solid favorites against a Cleveland team that once again finds itself in a bit of chaos:
Minnesota Vikings -7 -105
Cleveland Browns +7 -115
This is the total on the game:
Over 41 Points -110
Under 41 Points -110
There were shock waves sent through the league on Wednesday as it was announced that the Browns had traded Trent Richardson, the player they drafted in the first round of last year’s draft, to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a first-round choice next year. Although one could easily imagine why the Colts would make a deal like that, there didn’t appear to be an explanation as to why Cleveland would deal its top running back. The CEO of the team, Joe Banner, said based on how we’re building this team for sustainable success, we’re going to be aggressive and do what it takes to assemble a team that consistently wins.”
Richardson had gained 105 yards on 31 carries, and he was the only Cleveland player with any rushing yards at all aside from quarterback Brandon Weeden. As for relief, the Browns signed free agent Willis McGahee, who had previous made his mark in Denver and Baltimore.
The company line from the Cleveland brass was that they were looking toward the future, although most people were thinking that Richardson was going to be a cornerstone of that future. But the speculation now is that the Browns are going to use the Colts’ first-rounder to draft a quarterback, although it may be in the second half of the first round and thus may preclude them from being able to get a premium guy.
But Bovada NFL bettors see what the level of satisfaction is with Weeden, who is just 55% thus far and has been sacked eleven times already in two games. He is indecisive, and may not fit into the plans Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner have for this offense. He’s also banged up with a thumb injury, and won’t play this week. Jason Campbell, the veteran who has fumbled opportunities to be a starter elsewhere, will not take his place. Instead it will be Brian Hoyer, who has played very little in his five-year NFL career.
So things are a shambles already in Cleveland. What about Minnesota’s situation?
Well, we know they have the incomparable Adrian Peterson, who’s had 193 yards over the first two games, but he can’t go it all by himself, and that is where the problem has been.. Christian Ponder is struggling mightily, having been intercepted four times in the early going. So he will need to bounce back here, needless to say. Ponder at least can boast of some people who can catch the football, with Jerome Simpson (189 yards, and a former Bengal who has faced this secondary before) and Greg Jennings (the former Packer) on the flanks.
We are curious as to how much of an effect Jared Allen could have on this game, especially with the inexperienced quarterback at the helm for Cleveland. Hoyer has not stared down a lot of pass rushers like this, and Allen, who has registered Minnesota’s only sack thus far, should be foaming at the mouth, although he’ll have to beat a Pro Bowl offensive tackle in Joe Thomas to get into the pocket.
The Browns are the seven-point underdog in NFL betting at Bovada, and no wonder; they have certainly not won the “battle of third down.” They have converted on just 17% of their opportunities (a pitiful figure) while allowing the opposition to make a first down on 50% of all occasions. They have averaged just over four yards per offensive play, so in that respect it looks like the same old story with this franchise. But the Browns’ stop unit has also stopped both Miami and Baltimore cold when they’ve tried to run the ball, and that holds out a special challenge to Peterson (who aspired to a 2500-yard season) to make a difference.