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Why the 49ers Browns Point Spread has exploded to 9.5 points

The point spread between the 49ers and Browns, which started around 3.5 points prior to the 49er’s rout of the Cowboys on Monday Night Football, has shot up to 9.5 points as of Saturday at most handicapping sites. At the same time, the over-under has drifted down from 41.5 points down to 36 points. What has happened and what does it mean?

First of all, the 49ers looked absolutely awesome against the Cowboys, destroying their mojo 42-10. True! But were the 49ers really that good, or were the Cowboys making them look better than they actually were? While there is no doubt that San Francisco played well on both sides of the ball, the Dallas offense seemed to be guilty of several unforced errors. Specifically, they launched 40-yard bomb after 40-yard bomb all night long, and quarterback Dak Prescott was short on all of them. Maybe he was not at 100% health, but it was clear that he could not make those throws, and yet the Cowboys coaching staff would not relent on trying to make them work. The predictable result was incompletions and interceptions. Well, perhaps Dallas Coach Mike McCarthy could counter, “No risk it, no biscuit,” but let’s just say things did not work out for the Dallas offense, and they made the score more lopsided than it needed to be.

In other words, maybe the 49ers are not QUITE as good as they appeared on MNF. Moreover, any team can be beaten with the right game plan and proper execution, so perhaps this is the Browns week to be the team that pulls off the upset. The Niners have a very short week, having to flying home from Dallas in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, then fly to Cleveland on Saturday. Cleveland, meanwhile, has had two weeks to prepare game plans for the 49ers since they were on a bye. Plus the football “sharps” realize that Jim Schwartz has the Cleveland Browns defense playing at a very high level this season. In terms of yards per play, the Browns are best in the NFL at 3.80. The 49ers are third at 4.43.That is a huge difference.The Browns have given up 125 yards passing and 71.8 yards per game on the ground. Unless they receive help from a bumbling Browns offense, the 49ers will find it hard to score lots of points against a defense like that. For that reason, even after an awesome win, the 49ers looked like “only” -4.5 point favorites on Tuesday morning.

However by Tuesday there were loud rumblings that Deshaun Watson might not play, and at the same time the media started jumping on the 49ers bandwagon after their unexpected demolishing of Dallas on MNF. The betting public was eager to bet on the 49ers and money started to pour.in. The spread started climbing at a high rate. When little-known P.J. Walker, a 5-foot-11 quarterback who had starred in the USFL was introduced as the Browns potential new starter, that set off some alarm bells. Oh no! A short quarterback! He won’t be able to see over tall defensive linemen! The Browns are doomed, etc. etc. What nonsense! Yes, it’s better if your guys is taller and bigger, but let’s not go nuts and give up just because our quarterback is two inches shorter than their guy.

Does that mean Deshaun Watson is a Franchise Quarterback? Generally an elite quarterback is recognized to be worth about a touchdown when replaced by a nondescript backup. Is Watson really worth five points compared to Walker? Well, Watson is 5-4 for his Cleveland career, Walker is 4-3 in his Carolina Panthers career. Watson has produced 6.54 yards per pass attempt for Cleveland; Walker has produced 6.41 yards per pass attempt for Carolina. There is not that huge of a difference between the two players in the past three years. We hope that Watson will re-emerge as a superstar, but so far that has not happened. Based on what we know to date, there should not be that huge of a difference between Watson and Walker, maybe two or three points.

And check out Jack Hammer’s article appearing in Inside the 49ers. Hammer points out that Schwartz defenses have squared off against Shanahan’s offenses nine times over the years, and Schwartz has beaten him eight of nine. Why would anyone think Schwartz has no chance while his defense in number on in the NFL in terms of fewest yards given up per play? This game could be very low scoring, on a wet field with a slippery football, and field goals could be very important. Bottom line: 9.5 points is a lot to give up to a team which probably has the league’s best defense now, with an extra week of preparation. Most of the movement in the spread is not due to a physical change in the teams, but probably more due to a change in bettor sentiment.


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Podcast Transcript

The 49ers are coming! The 49ers are coming! Look, the 49ers are a complete team, but on any given Sunday even complete teams can be beaten. The -9.5 point spread, which erupted from -3.5 earlier in the week, represents a six point move over a course of a week. That would be appropriate if the Browns had Tom Brady as a quarterback. But is Deshaun Watson really worth 6 points more than P.J. Walker?



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