The Cleveland Browns might be for real. So might the Buffalo Bills.
Or neither of them should be believed.
Hard to tell, and regardless of their credentials, Cleveland and Buffalo enter Thursday’s NFL game with 2-2 records and off impressive victories. The Browns beat division favourite Cincinnati last Sunday, while the Bills stunned defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore.
Cleveland – which got both of its victories after trading away its best offensive player, running back Trent Richardson – is a 41/2-point favourite. Credit a stingy defence that ranks third overall for the Browns’ turnaround.
The Browns are allowing just 2.9 yards a carry, a league low.
“No one is going to be able to run on us this year,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “As long as we stay healthy and continue to grind the tape out and do what we need to do on Sunday, I don’t think anyone will be able to run on us.”
Buffalo might not be the best test. C.J. Spiller is battling an ankle problem and fellow running back Fred Jackson has a knee injury.
That should be enough to give Cleveland a third consecutive victory.
BEST BET: BROWNS, 20-17
Denver Broncos (minus 7) at Dallas Cowboys
Can’t see the Cowboys slowing down Peyton Manning and Co.
BEST BET: BRONCOS, 33-23
New England Patriots (plus 11/2) at Cincinnati Bengals
Shouldn’t the Patriots be favoured?
UPSET SPECIAL: PATRIOTS, 27-20
New Orleans Saints (pick’em) at Chicago Bears
Great at home, Saints must show they are at least good on road.
Seattle Seahawks (minus 21/2) at Indianapolis Colts
Delicious matchup of Andrew Luck vs. Russell Wilson, but defence decides this one.
Houston Texans (plus 7) at San Francisco 49ers
First, Seahawks beat Texans, now ’Niners match it.
Kansas City Chiefs (minus 3) at Tennessee Titans
Chiefs need to be better than in last week’s win.
Baltimore Ravens (plus 3) at Miami Dolphins
Don’t like how Ravens have played away from Baltimore.
New York Jets (plus 91/2) at Atlanta Falcons (Monday)
A loss here makes Falcons an also-ran. They aren’t.
Detroit Lions (plus 7) at Green Bay Packers
Back from bye, time for Pack to assert itself in division.
Carolina Panthers (minus 2) at Arizona Cardinals
Back from bye, Panthers do not assert themselves.
Philadelphia Eagles (plus 2) at New York Giants
Giants have to win at some point.
San Diego Chargers (minus 41/2) at Oakland Raiders
Baseball playoffs force change in kickoff time. Not in result, though.
Jacksonville Jaguars (plus 111/2) at St. Louis Rams
Rams were awful last week. Jaguars wish they could get to awful.
Against spread: 8-7 (31-29-3). Straight up: 7-8 (40-23).
Best Bet: 3-1 against spread, 4-0 straight up.
Upset special: 1-3 against spread, 1-3 straight up.