The New England Patriots (+2.5) will travel to Cleveland this week to try to start their first winning streak of the season. In their third-matchup of the year against an AFC North opponent, New England sits as 2.5-point underdog - after opening as a 3-point underdog - with an overall point total of 43 on the DraftKings Sportsbook.
Question marks still sit at the quarterback position for the Patriots as Mac Jones continues to recover from the ankle injury he suffered in Week 3. In relief last week, New England leaned on the run game while rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe did what he was asked to do in a 29-0 victory over Detroit. This week against Cleveland, a similar game plan should follow with either quarterback under center.
Here are five bets to watch as the Patriots take on the Browns in the Dawg Pound.
Can't Stop Stevenson
With Damien Harris nursing a hamstring injury, it will again be the Rhamondre Stevenson show for the Patriots on Sunday. After rumbling for a career-high 161 yards last Sunday, Stevenson should again be in for a monster game against Cleveland, who features Football Outsiders 32nd ranked rush DVOA defense in the league - marking the third straight Patriots matchup against the league's worst-ranked rush DVOA defense. It doesn't end there either, as the Browns are dead last in EPA per rush, 31st in Pro Football Focus' tackling grade, and have now given up 200-plus rushing yards in back to back weeks.
As for Stevenson, the second year back continues to produce as one of the league's top runners this season. He currently ranks fourth in the league amongst qualified running backs in yards after contact. Last week's game against Detroit was a prime example why, as he forced nine missed tackles en route to 111 yards after contact.
No matter who's under center, New England should be able to continue to create room in the trenches, especially against Cleveland's interior defensive line that has struggled to start the season - specifically against the Chargers last weekend.
1.) Rhamondre Stevenson Over 76.5 rushing yards (-115)
2.) Rhamondre Stevenson Anytime TD Scorer (+105)
Mr. Reliable Meyers
Jakobi Meyers continues to be the Patriots' most consistent and reliable receiver this season. Despite missing two games, Meyers leads the team in targets (27), receptions (20), and receiving yards (261). It hasn't mattered whether its Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe under center.
Part of Meyers' improved production is his increase in vertical movement. According to Pro Football Focus, Meyers ranks second among qualified wide receivers in yards per route run (3.11), trailing only Miami's Tyreek Hill. He is also one of just four receivers to record a target on at least 30 percent of his routes ran.
Lining up for the majority of his snaps in the slot (57 percent), Meyers will likely draw Greg Newsome in coverage. On the season, Newsome has allowed nine receptions on 11 targets. Although, with top corner Denzel Ward out with a concussion, Cleveland may be forced to move around their defensive pieces. Either way, it could be another day big day in the office for No. 16.
The pick: Jakobi Meyers Over 50.5 receiving yards (-110)
While the Patriots' defense took a step in the right direction against the run last week, their biggest weakness this season has been defending rushes outside the tackles. They will be put to the test this weekend against the Browns, who feature heavy doses of outside zone and heavy personnel groupings.
To make things even more challenging, they'll be tasked with slowing down perhaps the best back in football, Nick Chubb. Besides leading the league in rushing yards, Chubb has piled up the most yards after contact and has forced the most missed tackles in the league as well.
With one of the best offensive lines in football, Cleveland leads the league in runs over 20 yards. So, while the Patriots' game plan may keep Cleveland under their 192.4 rushing yards per game average, Chubb is tough to contain for an entire game.
The pick: Nick Chubb Longest Rush Over 18.5 yards (-110)
Patriots Pick 'Em
The Patriots have had the Browns' number over the years. A 45-7 victory last season improved New England's record to 8-1 straight up in their last nine games against Cleveland. While the Patriots had the benefit of facing the Browns without the dynamic duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt last season, they'll now take on Cleveland without starters Jadeveon Clowney and Denzel Ward on the defensive side of the ball.
Running the football will again be the theme of this one, as both teams feature top-ranked rushing attacks and below-average statistical rushing defenses. If New England follows a similar game plan offensively as last week and Bill Belichick's defensive game plan is able to limit Cleveland's offense led former Patriot quarterback Jacoby Brissett, that combination should be enough for a Patriots' victory.
The pick: Patriots ML (+120)