Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 10:30 AM EST.
CLEVELAND -7½ +102 over Chicago
1:00 PM EST. After two weeks of Howdy Doody, the Bears have pulled the plug on Andy Dalton. A knee injury was the chink in the armor that head coach Matt Nagy needed to go back on his preseason promise that Dalton would be the starter in favor of rookie Justin Fields. With Fields ready to usher in (another) new era in Chicago, there is likely much more attention on this Week 3 trip to Cleveland than there would have been otherwise. The Bears become infinitely more exciting with the Heisman finalist and College Football Playoff runner-up on the field. With that excitement comes a tax that one would not have had to pay otherwise with Dalton.
The Bears are coming off a 20-17 home win over the Bengals. A victory is nice, no doubt, but it was one of the more misleading positive results you’ll see. It’s hard not to get excited about the potential of Fields, but Dalton led the Bears to their only offensive touchdown drive. If not for a Roquan Smith interception return for a touchdown, the result of that game would have been much different. The Bears benefited greatly from four Bengal turnovers. When you win the all-important (albeit luck-based) turnover battle 4-1, especially at home, you are supposed to win by more than a field goal.
The Browns gave their survivor pool backers a scare and did not cover as a double-digit favorite over the Texans and because of that, we have to wonder if the market will have a hard time spotting a price like this with the Bears in town, especially after Houston’s horrific showing on Thursday Night Football. Lost in the Browns’ first two games has been the performance of Baker Mayfield, who is playing like a dude that wants to get paid. Mayfield has been laser accurate, completing 81.6% of his passes for 534 yards. He has just one throwing major to his name, but a correction to the good is forthcoming in that department considering how well he’s slinging the rock.
Through two weeks the Browns are 1-1, but there is no shame in their Week 1 loss at Kansas City, where Mayfield and the offense actually outgained Patrick Mahomes and company. The Browns also had more first downs and went 4-for-4 in the Red Zone. The problem being, they settled for field goals instead of majors. Hell, the Browns had a 29-20 lead with just over 10 minutes to go in that game before giving up 13 unanswered points. While ugly, Clevelands 31-21 decision over the Texans was dominated by the home side. The Browns had more first downs (22-to-17), yards (355-to-302), and dominated the time of possession (35:05-to-24.55).
We can understand there might be some hesitancy to spot a price like this with the Browns, especially with a great unknown that is full of potential like Fields on the scene. These days, rookie quarterbacks are taking over their teams and becoming stars sooner rather than later (Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow and Mayfield), so it’s much easier for the market to get on board hyped up rookie QB’s with big pedigrees. However, there is a new crop of quarterbacks every draft year and few are instant game changers. For every Murray, there is a Daniel Jones. For the Burrows and Herberts, there’s a Tua Tagovailoa or Josh Rosen. The point is, there is no guarantee that Fields will be an impact player on day one. Hell, we’re not sure he’s sure, "I think I'm ready." Swallow the points.
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CLEVELAND -7½ +102 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.04)