The Chicago Bears and the Cleveland Browns improve to a 1-1 start after both sides emerged triumphant in their season home-openers in Week 2. However, the Bears didn’t look fantastic and barely edged the Cincinnati Bengals 20-17. By contrast, the Browns looked solid as they galloped to a 31-21 win over the Texans.
Lookahead NFL lines had the Browns laying a touchdown before Week 2, and markets reopened at the conclusion of Sunday’s round of football action with Kevin Stefanski’s side still laying a touchdown. Some sportsbooks have are up to 7.5-points already. So, with the Browns tipped as the 7 to 7.5-point home chalk ahead of this Week 3 showdown, the question is: is it too many points to lay with the Browns? Find out as we preview this game and serve up choice NFL picks.
Chicago Bears vs. Cleveland Browns
Sunday, September 26, 2021, 1:00 PM EDT at First Energy Stadium
Bears Win First Game and Get Justin Fields
The Chicago Bears opened their season at home with a topsy-turvy 20-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Dalton started the game against his former team brightly. He lifted the Bears to the 7-0 lead in the first quarter, connecting with wideout Allen Robinson for the touchdown. But after that initial spark, Chicago’s offense sputtered to a halt in a scoreless second quarter. And then dandy Andy gave way to Justin Fields after injuring his knee on a scamper.
As Fields took over as the offensive pivot in the second half, excitement spread through stands at Soldier Field. It was Fields’ time in Chicago, a chance to potentially win the starting job from Dalton. Alas, the Bears' offense failed to impress as many would have expected it to. Granted, Fields was thrown into the game on short notice, but he almost cost his side the victory too.
Fields didn’t create any viable scoring opportunities, although he showed some brief flashes of brilliance. The Bears' defense stepped up in a big way. First, a pick-six from Roquan Smith gave the Bears the 14-3 lead, and then the ensuring two interceptions led to field goals that gave the Bears the 20-3 lead. Things got a bit nervy towards the end when Fields threw an interception that gave the Bengals a lifeline in the final quarter. Fortunately, he atoned for his mistake by converting a key third down to salvage the suddenly narrow win.
All told, the Bears covered as the 2-point home chalk to improve to 1-1 SU and ATS. They’re also currently in the top spot in the NFC North – after the Vikings lost to the Cardinals and with the Packers and Lions yet to play in Monday night football. On the downside, Chicago’s offense ranks amongst the worst in the league after two weeks. The passing offense was nigh non-existent against the Bengals, while the run game was modest. If the Bears' offense doesn’t perk up, it’s hard to see how they’ll compete against the better teams in the league. Dalton went 9-of-11 for 56 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 25 yards on two carries too. Fields went 6-of-13 for 60 yards and an interception. He also scampered for 31 yards on 10 carries.
Browns Win First Game
The Cleveland Browns are 1-1 SU after beating the Houston Texans 31-21 at FirstEnergy Stadium. It was their first win of the season, although they failed to cover as the whopping 13.5-point home chalk.
The Browns had one of the biggest points spreads in Week 2. Contrary to the NFL odds, however, the game was surprisingly close in the beginning, Closer than the oddsmakers had projected it on the NFL odds board. At halftime, the Browns were tied 14-14 with the Texans. Cleveland’s defense was having all kinds of trouble against Taylor, giving up way too many yards to the journeyman quarterback and the supposedly lowly Texans offense. And the pressure was on Mayfield and Cleveland’s offense to keep up, which it did.
Nevertheless, it was almost a relief for Stefanski’s side when Taylor was ruled out in the second half. Certainly, it swung the balance in favor of Cleveland when Taylor exited the game after suffering a hamstring injury. Baker Mayfield did injure his shoulder in the first half too but returned shortly to score a touchdown and rush for a score.
Taylor’s departure paved the way for rookie quarterback Davis Mills, who was clearly not prepared for the moment. Mills played well enough, but the Texans accounted for seven points only. Once Mills took over, the Browns played better and pulled away relatively easily.
NFL Predictions and Picks
The Browns are the -7 to -7.5 favorites against the Chicago Bears across multiple sports betting sites, although it’s yet to be determined which quarterback Chicago will turn to for this Week 3 encounter. Andy Dalton’s knee injury is still being evaluated and an MRI is expected to shed light on his condition this Monday.
Dalton’s knee injury is not believed to be an ACL tear, but a final verdict will confirm it this week. The situation is complicated though because Dalton will be a big question mark no matter the result of his MRI. If the injury isn’t major, he’ll be questionable to start. Alternatively, if he does get the start, then it remains to be seen how effective he will be with a dodgy knee.
The Bears might be better served starting Fields in week 3 regardless of the outcome of Dalton’s MRI. At least, it will allow Fields to prepare for this game by practicing with the first team and the coaching staff to come up with a game plan that’s best suited to his skillset.
Of course, going with Fields doesn’t necessarily mean the value opens up with Matt Nagy’s side in the betting as a result. But it will give them a punter's chance. It will help Fields adjust better than he did last Sunday when he was thrown into the fire at short notice. And it will allow the team to game plan around the rookie quarterback and his unique skillset. Additionally, the Bears defense showed improvement in Week 2 and that might further underscore Chicago’s value as the 7-point underdogs, more so than which quarterback starts.
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.