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Each week, Monty Andrews breaks down some of the underlying betting mismatches on the National Football League slate, giving you an inside edge when handicapping the schedule and setting your daily fantasy lineup.
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-7.5, 40)
Browns’ shoddy pass protection vs. Ravens’ elite pass rush
Sunday's AFC North Divisional showdown between Cleveland and Baltimore pits two teams that had vastly different season openers. The perennially rebuilding Browns put up a game effort last week before ultimately dropping a 21-18 decision to the Pittsburgh Steelers, while the Ravens executed a perfect game plan in a 20-0 drubbing of the Cincinnati Bengals. This week's game could very well hinge on Cleveland's ability to protect its rookie quarterback - and that could be a significant challenge.
Coming off a season that saw the Browns finish as the only team in the league with an opponent sack rate above 10 percent, Cleveland was no better at pass protection last week - surrendering seven sacks to the Steelers' vaunted front seven. Only the Houston Texans allowed a higher sack rate last week than the Browns (18.9 percent), who will need to do a much better job of protecting QB DeShone Kizer and giving him time to find his receivers.
There's just one problem with that: The Ravens were even more ravenous than the Steelers last week, obliterating Cincinnati's offensive line to the tune of five sacks and four interceptions. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was hounded all afternoon - particularly on third down, where Cincinnati converted on just 4-of-13 chances. Cleveland has plenty of work to do if it hopes to keep its quarterback upright - and the Ravens won't be doing them any favors.
New England Patriots at New Orleans Saints (+6.5, 55)
Patriots' pass D struggles vs. Saints' Superdome sizzle
Are the Patriots vulnerable? That's the question football fans and bettors alike are wondering this week after the Chiefs hung 42 points on them in their own stadium in last week's season curtain raiser. A New England defense that was torn apart both through the air and on the ground will face an equally stiff test this week against a Saints unit that has enjoyed one of the most significant home-field advantages in the league - and is also coming off a bitter Week 1 loss.
It isn't bad enough that New England lacks for quality pass rushers, but after losing one of their top defensive options in Dont'a Hightower late in the third quarter, things really went south. With Hightower in the game, New England allowed 6.6 yards per play to the Chiefs; after he left with a knee injury, the Patriots went on to surrender more than 12 yards per play the rest of the way. Worst of all, they allowed noted game manager Alex Smith to post an absurd 148.6 QB rating - the highest of the week.
New England shouldn't look for relief in what is, at least as of Tuesday, the game with the highest Vegas total. The Saints are coming off a disappointing 29-19 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, a game in which quarterback Drew Brees didn't really get going until the final 15 minutes. But New Orleans was the second-highest scoring home team in the league last season, averaging 31 points at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. They also averaged 32.4 points at home in 2015. Good luck, Patriots pass defense.
Arizona Cardinals at Indianapolis Colts (+7.5, 44.5)
Cardinals' decimated run game vs. Colts' elite run D
The Cardinals and Colts come into Sunday afternoon's showdown at Lucas Oil Stadium each looking to atone for Week 1 defeats. But the depth of Arizona's loss is much deeper than a 35-23 setback to the Detroit Lions last weekend; with running back David Johnson on the sidelines indefinitely with a dislocated wrist, the Cardinals will need to rely on a committee of far less talented options to move the chains on the ground. And that could prove challenging against a surprisingly stout Colts run defense.
Johnson isn't just a significant part of the Cardinals' offense - he is the Cardinals' offense. The do-it-all back produced more than 71 percent of Arizona's total rushing yards (1,239) while finishing second on the team in receptions (80) and targets (120). The three players aside from Johnson who had at least one carry Sunday finished with a combined 22 yards on seven attempts. Johnson also had nine targets despite seeing limited action - and it's anyone's guess where those targets will go.
With Arizona's running game now in tatters, what was a slight advantage becomes a major mismatch for the Colts, who did exactly one thing right in last week's 46-9 annihilation at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams. The interior defender duo of Al Woods and Margus Hunt helped limit the Rams to just 63 rushing yards on 33 attempts; both players earned Pro Football Focus grades above 80 for their efforts. Given how Carson Palmer threw last week, the Cardinals could find themselves in a battle Sunday.
Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Rams (-2.5, 46)
Redskins' pass problems vs. Rams' sensational secondary
The Redskins opened as slight favorites in this one, but with bettors left impressed by the way the Rams trucked the Colts in Week 1, the home side is now favored by nearly a field goal. Much will be made of Los Angeles' ability to move the ball at will against an overmatched Colts defense, but the real focus in this one will be how the Rams follow up a truly impressive defensive effort as they tangle with a Redskins offense that laid an egg in the opener.
It was a bad week for Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, who found himself scrambling a lot more than he probably wanted. Per Pro Football Focus, Cousins faced pressure on 19 of his 47 dropbacks, while completing only 42.9 percent of those passes. Top target Terrelle Pryor Sr. hauled in just six of the 11 targets he saw, while the right side of the offensive line allowed nine quarterback pressures; RT Morgan Moses was responsible for three of Cousins' four sacks on the afternoon.
Cousins won't find much comfort in traveling to Los Angeles for a date with the relentless Rams, who took advantage of some truly dreadful quarterback play by Colts starter Scott Tolzien. LaMarcus Joyner and Trumaine Johnson both came away with interceptions and provided the kind of lock-down secondary defense that prevented Indianapolis from doing anything on offense; both players finished with PFF grades north of 89. It could be another week of Cousins running for his life.