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NFL Week 4: Cleveland Browns @ San Diego Chargers Pair Bet

Cleveland Browns +9.0 (-130) @ San Diego Chargers u45.0 (-110)

Qualcomm Stadium, San Deigo, California

October 4, 2015, 1:05pm PDT

The Cleveland Browns will travel West to face the San Diego Chargers from the position of 1-2 straight up and against the number in NFL week 4 action. Last week Cleveland's offensive line allowed the Oakland Raiders to apply steady pressure, however, the Josh McCown-led aerial attack was still reasonably effective in the losing effort. In McCown's first full game under Center (the league's concussion protocol had sidelined McCown after a hard hit in game 1) he was sacked five times, but still managed 341 passing yards on 28 completions, including 2 touchdowns. The performance qualified for the 15th slot in last week's Total QBR hierarchy.

In fact, save a 2nd quarter that gave Derek Carr and the Raiders the 2 passing touchdowns reflected in the box score, the Browns were competitive. After falling behind by as much as 17 in the 3rd, Cleveland rallied back to within 7 late. The Browns next forced a Raiders punt and, in the ensuing drive, advanced from their own 2 to the Oakland 35 by the time the clock ticked down to 0:38. But McCown's final attempt would be a pick, a forgivable interception by our reckoning that nonetheless dashed Cleveland's hopes of a dramatic, come-from-behind win.

San Diego, on the other hand, was handled more thoroughly in Minnesota in week 3, as Adrian Peterson's 126 rushing yards (20 carries) and 2 touchdowns was the prominent storyline. A secondary theme here too might have been the the porous Chargers offensive line, which allowed Rivers to be sacked four times by the 19th best passing rushing defense in the league.

This week, San Diego is likely to see even more voracious pass rushing from these Browns. Cleveland's 7 sacks this year translate to an Adjusted Sack Rate of 6.9% -- good for #10 best in the NFL. This does not bode well for the Chargers' offense, which is decidedly pass-first. San Diego is 24th in rushing yards as a percentage of total yards this year, after ranking 30th by this measure last season, and is 16th in total rushing yards in 2015 vs. falling into the 30th slot last year. The Football Outsiders found that last season, the output of the Chargers offense declined from 7.5 yds/play to 4.6 when Rivers faced pressure.

From a more purely quantitative angle, both FPI, our preferred power rankings approach, as well as FiveThirtyEight's Elo Ratings rank the Chargers #18 and the Browns at #27. This differential translates to implied advantages of 7.6 (FPI) and 6.8 (Elo) points for San Diego, after factoring in optimized home field advantage constants tailored to each system. Similarly, the primary simulation routine that we employ predicts a Chargers win by about 5.

Of the entire assortment of primary and other indicators we follow, only one suggests a San Diego cover (one of the simulation routines we consult sees the Chargers finishing the contest with about a two touchdown cushion). Notwithstanding this one outlier signal, the vast majority of measures on our radar agree that while San Diego is probably the better team from this spot, 9 is just too much to expect the struggling Chargers team to lay -- even to the struggling Browns.

Relatedly, the three independent simulation and computer prediction models we incorporate in our work anticipate total scores of 41, 42 and 44, offering strong rationale for a play on under 45. These methodologies suggest an average score of 16.8-25.5, San Diego, versus the implied line of 18-27. Further, betting the under jibes nicely with our thesis that pressure on Philip Rivers is likely to limit the effectiveness of the Chargers offense.

Bottom line: We are betting that well-applied pressure on Philip Rivers from Cleveland's defensive line will lessen San Diego's offensive output. We also expect McCown to be efficient enough to keep the Browns within about one score. This outlook fits with our wagers on a Cleveland cover as well as a play on the under.

Happy betting!!

#browns #chargers #nfl2015 #nfl2015wk4

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