Since it’s the season for giving, perhaps Philadelphia Eagles should send a package to Cleveland quarterback Ken Dorsey in anticipation of this Sunday’s matchup at Lincoln Financial Field—the biggest bottle of Advil money can buy. Sacked just once, but on the run more than Lincoln Burrows from Fox’s Prison Break, Dorsey completed 22 of 43 passes for 150 yards and one interception in the 28-9 loss last week at Tennessee.
It was his first start since 2005, and more of the same pressure can be expected when the Browns visit the City of Brotherly Love for their third Monday Night game of the year. Philadelphia (7-5-1, 8-5 ATS), coming off a 20-14 road win over the Giants, is just 2-2-1 in the last five games and trying to hang on in the NFC playoff race. What better way to stay on a roll than by beating up on a Cleveland (4-9, 6-6-1 ATS) franchise that’s lost two quarterbacks to season-ending injuries in the last three games and has one win since Halloween?
Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson loves to dial up blitzes from every angle, and the rusty Dorsey will find himself under attack from the rush of Eagles, who are 8-1 ATS off a division game over the last two seasons.
Jamal Lewis is averaging a mere 3.53 yards per carry, and the world should be using Braylon Edwards blood to stop sickness, since he couldn’t catch a cold, let alone a pass this season. He’s dropped nearly half of the attempts thrown his way and has just 45 receptions. The Browns are just 10-22 ATS versus good rushing defenses allowing 3.5 or less rushing yards a carry.
The explosion has been missing from the Cleveland offense (21 points in the last three games), save for Brady Quinn’s first two NFL starts, and expecting it to return in Philadelphia with a third-string quarterback is a bigger longshot than the elves dropping off a 50-inch plasma TV.
Donovan McNabb’s bounced back since his benching in Baltimore, throwing for 451 yards and five touchdowns in two games, but more importantly not a single interception. The real trigger to the offense, however, isn’t McNabb but Brian Westbrook, and he has 333 total yards and six scores of his own since the debacle in Baltimore. The Eagles are 13-4 ATS at home vs. passing defenses permitting a completion percentage of 61 percent or worse in the second half of the season.
The Browns defense, led by D’Qwell Jackson’s 130 tackles, has limited the high-powered Texans, Colts and Titans to just 54 combined points and lost to them all. The defeats are more of a direct reflection of the offense’s struggles at the quarterback position, than any shortcoming on defense most of the time.
Bookmaker.com has Philadelphia as 14-point favorite with a total of 39. This could be difficult number for the Eagles to overcome, given they are 14-5 UNDER as a home favorite since 2006. Double digit home favorites are just 8-14 ATS this season.
Cleveland covers if they go for broke and play smart. Utilize running back Jerome Harrison with Jamal Lewis in the backfield to keep the Eagles defense guessing. Harrison is electrifying runner with a seam and Lewis can lay the lumber to the defensive front. The Cleveland coaches have to set up Dorsey for success with short passes on quick reads, otherwise hello Advil. The Browns secondary gives WAY too much cushion to receivers. The Philly contingent of pass-grabbers is good, certainly not great, play tighter, what do you have to lose as two touchdown underdogs? Cleveland is 7-0 ATS off a road loss over the last two seasons.
Philadelphia covers if they remember they are still in the playoff hunt and the Washington and Dallas are too be played no matter what, focus on this contest, the others will follow. Good teams punish bad teams by taking them out of the game. The Eagles have rushed 81 times in the past two games, the most ever under coach Andy Reid in a two-game span, and came out with victories and covers each time. Man up the Browns shaky receivers and organize a sack party in the Cleveland backfield.
This week’s Monday Night system is to play on favorites like the Eagles, off a win against a division rival, when playing football on the first day of a new work week. This system is 30-10 ATS, 75 percent the last decade.