The NFL’s best team last season will take on the NFL’s worst team last season as the Philadelphia Eagles visit the Cleveland Browns in preseason action Thursday night. Despite these teams being on the opposite side of the spectrum last season, the Browns are actually 3.5-point favorites to win Thursday’s preseason game. There is also an over/under of 41.5 points.
The Eagles are 0-2 in the preseason, and neither game has been close. They lost 31-14 at home to the Steelers and then got trampled 37-20 by the Patriots on the road last week. Obviously, they don’t have anything to prove after winning the Super Bowl last season. But their ambivalence during the preseason is important to note from a betting perspective.
The Browns, meanwhile, lost to Buffalo 19-17 last week, snapping a five-game preseason losing streak after Cleveland was a perfect 4-0 in exhibition games last season. Clearly, these games mean a little more to them, as they need to find players during the preseason who may be able to help them once the games start to count.
Anybody Going to Play?
Philadelphia has serious questions about who’s going to play on Thursday and for how long they will play. It seems likely that both Jay Ajayi and Alshon Jeffrey will be sitting this one out. At quarterback, Carson Wentz remains out, although Nick Foles is expected to play despite leaving last week’s game with an injury. Of course, with Foles getting hurt last week and Wentz, not a lock to be ready for Week 1, the Eagles may be inclined to get him in and out quickly despite his struggles against New England before the injury.
This could leave Nate Sudfeld to take most of the snaps for the third straight week. Sudfeld hasn’t been completely inept these past two games, but he will be a bit out of place with teams starting to play their starters more in the third preseason game. Cleveland’s defensive starters have also played well the first two weeks of the preseason, so it could be tough sledding for the Philadelphia offense.
Are We Gonna Throw the Ball?
Despite last week’s close loss to the Bills, the Browns have had a fine preseason. However, they have done most of their damage on the ground. Quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield haven’t been given much of a chance to air it out. That could change against the Eagles if the team is still deciding who will start Week 1. But if they are largely set on Taylor, the Browns will probably keep the ball on the ground in the first half while the starters are in the game.
Of course, based on how Philadelphia’s defense has played these past two games, the Browns could have a lot of success simply handing the ball to Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb. At some point, they will want to give Mayfield some reps throwing the ball, but that may not happen until the 2nd half when most of the starters on both sides have left the game.
Only in the Preseason
If this were a regular season game, the Eagles would be heavy favorites. However, the Browns appear to be taking the preseason seriously, whereas the Eagles aren’t likely to push the envelope, especially if Foles is nursing an injury. Bet on the Browns to cover the 3.5-point spread against the Eagles on Thursday.