The New England Patriots will kick off a three-game stretch against opponents from the AFC North on Sunday when they visit the winless Cleveland Browns as heavy 11.5-point favorites at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The Patriots are coming off a 16-0 loss to the rival Buffalo Bills last weekend, failing to cover as 3.5-point chalk in their first shutout loss at home since 1993 and ending a three-game against-the-spread win streak.
However, help is on the way as Tom Brady returns from suspension to take over under center for New England in Sunday afternoon’s Patriots vs. Browns matchup at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Brady’s return couldn’t have come at a better time for the Patriots, who have lost quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett to injury in Brady’s absence. Brissett started against Buffalo despite nursing an injured thumb, but he was unable to find the touch he had while leading New England to a 27-0 win over the Houston Texans two weeks ago.
The Patriots generated a season-low 277 total yards against the Bills’ defense, and racked up their lowest possession numbers since a 26-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers two years ago, controlling the ball for under 24 minutes.
But a date with Cleveland gives New England ample opportunity to bounce back. The Browns take a seven-game straight-up winless streak into Week 5, and have covered at home just twice since the start of last season.
Quarterback issues have been a concern for the Browns, who saw newly-anointed starter Robert Griffin III sidelined indefinitely by a shoulder injury in Week 1.
Griffin quickly was joined in the clinic by veteran backup Josh McCown, who suffered a shoulder injury in Week 2, leaving the reins of the Browns’ offense in the hands of rookie Cody Kessler, who kept the squad close in recent losses to the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins.
The bright spot for the Browns has been a ground game, powered by running back Isaiah Crowell, that leads the NFL with over 149 yards per game. But while glimmers of hope exist on offense, the Browns’ defense has twice blown fourth-quarter leads this season and sits 27th in the league in points allowed at 28.8 per game.
The Patriots have dominated the Browns in recent years, winning five of six SU while going 4-2 against the spread, but were routed 34-14 as 4.5-point chalk in their last visit to Cleveland according to the OddsShark NFL Database.
New England hosts the Cincinnati Bengals next weekend before traveling to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers in Week 7. The Patriots are a solid 8-2 SU and 4-6 ATS in their past 10 games against the Bengals, and 9-3 SU and 9-2-1 ATS in their past 12 against the Steelers.
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