We split our picks in week 5, getting Denver (+6.5) and losing A$$lanta (+5). Both picks closed in our direction, but in the latter case that will never, ever, making the Falcons pause when deciding whether or not to disappoint us. Our all-time record is now 103-86-10 (54.5%), and 10-5 on the young season. Our pick of the week has gone 4-1 this year, and after a losing season last year they are now 29-20-2 (59.2%) since we started in 2017.
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Seattle Seahawks (-2) at Cleveland Browns
Point (Eric Eager): There are competing “situational” elements to consider in this handicap. For one, Seattle is traveling from the West Coast to play at 10 am their local time. The Browns, on the other hand, are playing with one day's less rest than normal, and the Seahawks are playing with three more days after a one-point victory last Thursday at home against the Rams. The travel from the West Coast to East Coast has been less of a thing in recent years, so we’re going to lean a bit on the lack of rest for the Browns, as well as their (drastic) shortcomings when it comes to comparing the game’s two signal-callers.
Simply put, Russell Wilson has been playing like the league’s most valuable player, producing more than 10 times as many big-time throws as turnover-worthy plays, while averaging over 9.5 yards average depth of target. The Seahawks absolutely do not throw it enough and struggle during scripted plays, but when Wilson does drop back to pass, the Seattle offense is averaging almost a third of an expected point. On the other side of the field, Baker Mayfield and the Browns are averaging a negative amount of expected points added each time they drop back to pass, despite the second-year pro from Oklahoma is generating positively-graded throws almost three times as much as negatively graded throws. While the Browns, especially if they get Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams back, are better on the defensive side of the ball than Seattle, allow this disparity in the passing game to guide you to the Hawks this weekend.
Counterpoint (George Chahrouri): The Browns are an absolute disaster, but the demolition by the Bay was not something that should have been too startling. The Browns were coming off Kitchen-sink, must-win game against the division-leading Ravens, which they won convincingly while the 49ers had 15 days off playing at home facing their most noteworthy opponent to date. The writing was on the wall in that game, but it should be a different story this week at home. The Seahawks travel from the Pacific Northwest to the eastern time zone to play an early game (something our models account for). The Seahawks also present far less of a threat defensively; the 49ers have a top-five PFF pass-rush grade while Seattle ranks 22nd. When they do get pressure on the quarterback, they’ve allowed the fifth-highest passer rating (90.7) while the 49ers rank second (22.1) and are converting just 4.8% of their pressures to sacks (24th, 49ers: 8.7% fifth). Mayfield was under pressure on 14 of 26 dropbacks against San Francisco and when he was the Browns averaged the worst expected points added per play (it was negative) of any team this week with an averaged gain of -1.9 yards per pass play (third-worst). The Seahawks' pass defense is allowing the 16th-best expected-points added per pass play, which feels like a hurdle even the offensively-challenged Browns might be able to clear.
Quite simply, it cannot get any worse from both a matchup and situation perspective than it did on Monday night for the Browns, and overreaction should be expected especially against a Seahawks team that was five inches away from losing at home to the Rams.