Buccaneers vs. Browns NFL Week 12 Betting Preview: Run-Heavy Cleveland to Cover the Spread Against Tampa Bay

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David Bell #18 of the Cleveland Browns and Amari Cooper #2 of the Cleveland Browns celebrate after Cooper's touchdown against the Buffalo Bills. Nic Antaya/Getty Images/AFP.

The best sportsbooks have released their NFL odds for this week’s NFL action between Tampa Bay and Cleveland.

The Buccaneers currently sit at 5-5 after achieving 2 consecutive narrow wins: they edged out the Rams 16-13 before defeating Seattle 21-16. Last week, though, they had their bye week.

As for Cleveland, the Browns are 3-7 after getting blown out by Miami and failing to backdoor-cover the Bills. Cleveland will look to be much more competitive against Tampa Bay in what will be the Browns’ first home game in November.

For reasons that I will explain, you should play the spread for this game.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Cleveland Browns

Sunday, November 27, 2022 – 01:00 PM EST at FirstEnergy Stadium

Buccaneers' Regressed Run Defense

In 2020, Tampa Bay boasted the NFL's top run defense. Last year, the Bucs ranked 3rd in run defense. They were no longer the best, but they remained solid.

This year, however, the Bucs are mediocre in this respect. They rank 15th in rush defense.

Tampa Bay has done a good job against backup-filled rush attacks like Seattle's beleaguered unit, and the Bucs were great against the Rams' second-to-last-ranked rush attack. Stronger rush attacks, though, have posed grievous threats to the Bucs' defense.

What Happened?

Repeatedly, in Bucs' games, one sees guys who are out of position, who cannot disengage from opposing blockers, instances of miscommunication among defenders, and missed tackles. Part of the issue is injury-related but only a small part.

Linebacker Shaq Barrett was a highly-graded run defender, but he is in crutches with an Achilles injury that sent him onto injured reserve. Fellow linebacker K.J. Britt, whose strength was run-stopping, is also out indefinitely.

Personnel-wise, the Bucs arguably miss monstrous run-stuffing nose tackle Ndamukong Suh, who is now an Eagle.

Vulnerability Increased

A significant reason for Tampa Bay's regressed run defense is the playing quality of individual players who had previously contributed to Tampa Bay's positive run defense statistics in earlier seasons.

In particular, nose tackle Vita Vea has been subject to much criticism from Bucs' fans for his regressed play, and his increased vulnerability to getting manhandled on the line of scrimmage.

Linebacker Devin White's struggles are less surprising based on prior seasons' criticism of him. He is a major part of Tampa Bay's tendency to miss tackles, according to PFF's record of his missed tackle rate. He continues to suffer as a run defender.

Buccaneers vs. Good Rush Attacks

The Buccaneers have faced 2 teams that rank top-five in rushing. Those teams are Atlanta and Baltimore, both of which thrived.

On the strength of 151 rushing yards and 4.9 YPC, the Falcons covered the spread in their game against a then-healthier Tampa Bay defense.

Baltimore beat Tampa Bay 27-22 while the Ravens amassed 231 rushing yards on 33 carries. Ravens' running backs Gus Edwards and Kenyan Drake combined for 127 rushing yards on 18 carries. Evidently, strong rush attacks thrive against Tampa Bay.


Browns' Rush Attack

I like Cleveland's offense to do well on Sunday because the Browns enjoy one of the NFL's most productive rush attacks. Their rush offense ranks 5th.

They are led in this respect by running back Nick Chubb, who averages 5.3 YPC as he approaches 1,000 yards rushing on the season. In terms of rushing yards, he ranks 5th in the league. He also has a nose for the end zone, accruing 11 touchdowns on the ground so far.

Nick Chubb is so good because he has so many tools: he has great vision, quick feet, strong physicality, and other positive qualities.

Chubb will be too much for the Bucs' defense to handle.

Browns' Wins

Similar to Tampa Bay, Cleveland's run defense forms a significant part of its wins. When the Browns stop opposing running backs, they tend to win. They have 3 wins on the season.

First, they beat Carolina while limiting then-Panther running back Christian McCaffrey to 33 rushing yards. Then, they defeated Pittsburgh.

Steeler running back Najee Harris mustered 56 rushing yards on 3.7 YPC.

In their victory over Cincinnati, the Browns held Bengal running back Joe Mixon to 27 rushing yards.


Buccaneers' Rush Attack

I dislike the Bucs' offense because it ranks dead-last in rushing, averaging 70.7 rushing yards per game.

Leonard Fournette, who is anyhow banged-up and listed as 'questionable' for Sunday's game, is averaging 3.4 YPC. Atop the depth chart, he may be replaced by Rachaad White, who averages all of 3.7 YPC.

Cleveland struggles to limit opposing scoring when opposing running backs thrive; Miami's new running back Jeff Wilson and Charger Austin Ekeler are examples.

However, Tampa Bay lacks the running back quality to take advantage of Cleveland's potential area of vulnerability.


The Verdict

Led by sack artist Myles Garrett and Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward, Cleveland's pass defense is regularly well-equipped to limit opposing pass attacks; Buffalo's Josh Allen, for example, suffered his lowest passing yardage total of the season last week against the Browns.

It will come down to Cleveland's run defense, and the Bucs lack the personnel to pose a threat on the ground.

Conversely, led by Chubb, the Browns will do what they want on offense.

With your NFL picks, you should confidently invest in the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

For residents of Cleveland looking to bet on this game, you can check out our top Ohio betting sites.

NFL Pick: Browns +3 (-108) at Heritage Sports (visit our Heritage Sports Review)

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Browns +3 (-108)
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*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.