The Cleveland Browns are gearing up for a regular season dress rehearsal boasting an experienced QB rotation, but the Green Bay Packers are waiting at home with one of the best offenses in the NFL. Rather than pick a side, let's turn our attention towards the total.
Mike McCarthy must be at his wits' end. The injury list was at 19 heading into their Week 1 game and it grew after that. They lost ILB Desmond Bishop for the season, which is a huge loss for an already suspect defense. CB Davon House dislocated his shoulder and won't be back for a few weeks. This leaves the team incredibly thin at cornerback with Sam Shields also on the mend.
"This is not what you're looking for," McCarthy said. "This has been a very challenging week due to injuries. Obviously if I knew why it was happening, I would fix it."
Last week, I played the under in the Chargers/Packers game due to the lack of depth at QB for both teams and the limited reps expected for Rodgers. This went against the historical trends towards the over for both Norv Turner and McCarthy. To date, McCarthy is 19-6 to the over in his preseason coaching tenure.
Pat Shurmer hasn't been a head coach for long, but the over hit in three of the four games he coached last preseason and the total pushed in Week 1 this season. Given the circumstances I'll talk about in a minute, I expect Shurmer to extend his over streak.
Before the odds were released on Monday, I had this game circled. CRIS opened the total at 38 and it was promptly bet up to 39 (odds courtesy of SBR Forum) within the first few hours of being on the board.
The numbers are still very preliminary, and it doesn't take a lot of early action to move preseason lines, but 86 percent of the bets are on the over. I won't be surprised if the total increases as Thursday approaches.
Last week, I ripped both QB rotations for the Browns and Packers. It's not that I think Graham Harrell is bad, but Matt Flynn had firmly established himself as a bona fide backup for Green Bay. B.J. Coleman barely saw any action and only came in to run the two-minute drill at the end of the game.
Colt McCoy played better than expected against a weak Lions secondary, but he didn't stay in the game long. Seneca Wallace and Thad Lewis took advantage of an uninspired third-string crew in Detroit and kept some drives alive with their legs (and some help from the replacement refs).
In this matchup, Brandon Weeden is slated to play the entire first half with the first-stringers—and possibly into the third quarter depending on how things are at halftime.
This could be good or bad depending how you look at it, because the Browns' starting unit wasn't very good in their opening game. Yet, you have to like their chances playing against a depleted Packers crew and they should have a chance to play against backups in the second quarter.
Regardless of who gets playing time beyond that is moot since there isn't a whole lot separating them. Whoever is under center will have a great chance to put up some garbage points against a very thin secondary.
The Packers still have questions on their O-line, and guys like Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, and James Starks are out with injuries, but Aaron Rodgers should get more time than he did in Week 1.
I expect at least a touchdown from the starters against a weak Cleveland defense. Graham Harrell put together a couple of TD drives against the Chargers after a slow start, and shouldn't have much trouble putting up more points against Cleveland backups. I wouldn't even rule out some production from B.J. Coleman.
Regular Season Tune-Up
Much like the Eagles, the Browns have to treat this game like their regular season dress rehearsal. Shurmer has already said his starters will play the full half (CBSSports.com) and possibly into the third.
This is likely the reason why some early money has come in on the Browns moving the line from 4.5 to 4. I think this gives the Browns the kind of advantage they need to produce points in this matchup. There should be some favorable mismatches.
Cedric Benson was signed to fill the void at RB in Green Bay, but he isn't expected to play on Thursday—he might have to the way things are going for the Packers.
Since 2000, the scoring average for Week 2 of the preseason is 37.1. In Week 3, the scoring average goes up to 39.0.
This prediction is really a no-brainer. The starters for both teams will be playing longer against suspect defenses. Since it's the preseason, there is always the risk of a sloppy low-scoring game, but I see enough situational factors and mismatches to warrant a play on the over here.
NFL Pick: Over 39 (SBR Forum).