It’s Week 2 of the Brian Hoyer era in Cleveland and this week his test will a lot stiffer than it was last week. The Cincinnati Bengals defense is notoriously tough and gave Aaron Rodgers all sorts of fits last week as they pressured him into mistakes that led to the Bengals comeback victory.
While most fans and media members were enamored with the way that the new Browns QB played in his first start with the franchise, leading them on a late game-winning drive on the road, I was less impressed. I mean, I enjoyed the win as much as everyone, but I’m not ready to hand the guy the starting job because he beat a crappy Vikings team. Earlier this week I broke down some of the tape and showed some of the flaws in Hoyer’s game and how he struggled to read defenses pre-snap and then how he didn’t see the whole field after the snap, both of these leading to turnovers and missed opportunities. The bottom line is that if Hoyer had actually played good then he wouldn’t have needed that late drive to win the game. So incidentally his issues actually led to some of the praise he’s getting now. The game-winning drive was great and he showed poise and moxie while doing so I can’t take that away from him. But he’s going to need to play much better this week against a much better defense if he’s going to keep his job when Brandon Weeden is healthy again.
I’m not alone in my opinion on Hoyer, for the record. I finally bit the bullet and bought a Pro Football Focus subscription to get those premium stats that everyone loves so much. I wanted to see what they thought of Hoyer’s game on Sunday. PFF gave him a 0.0 overall rating and a -0.1 pass rating, good for 18th in the NFL among Week 3 QBs. So he was right in the middle of the pack just like I thought he would be. Not exactly bad, but not really good either. It was only one game, however, and it would stand to reason that Hoyer will only get better. This week’s game will go a long way in showing if he has the chops to cut it as a starter in this league. For the record, the Bengals forced Rodgers into a -2.3 pass rating (25th). So if they could do that to Aaron Freaking Rodgers you’ll forgive me if I’m a little worried about how Brian Hoyer will fare.
Now on to the picks…
(Home team is in CAPS. Lines from SportsBook.com. Gamble at your own risk…especially considering who bad I was last week.)
BROWNS (+4.5) over Bengals
I haven’t gotten a Browns pick right yet this season so take this one with a grain of salt. As I’ve covered already I’m really worried about how Hoyer will handle the Bengals defense. With that said, it looks like the Cincinnati will be without three starting defensive backs which should ease things on Hoyer a bit. On the other side I really like the Browns D against the Bengals offense. Joe Haden v. AJ Green is always a great matchup to watch. I expect the defense to keep the Browns in the game but I need to see Hoyer do it against a real team to get me to buy in fully. But because of the injuries in the Bengals’ secondary I’ll take the points with the Browns.
Vikings (+3) over Steelers
This game is so bad that it’s not even allowed to be played on US soil. My general rule of thumb when it comes to games pitting two crappy opponents: just take the points.
Ravens (-3) over BILLS
The Ravens are so utterly uninspiring that I was thisclose to taking the Bills in this game. Then I remembered the absurdity of betting on the Bills to beat the Ravens and I came to my senses. I have to give Baltimore some credit though for their nice win last week over Houston. They’re always tough to beat at home, even when they aren’t as dominating as they’ve been. Memo to self on that front going forward.
Colts (-9.5) over JAGUARS
If the Jags are so bad that they can’t even come close to covering a 20 point spread then there’s no way that I’m betting on them anytime soon. After making that trade with the Browns the Colts really look like they’re running game has come alive. It’s actually something that they can lean on now instead of putting so much pressure on Andrew Luck. It’s really pretty impressive the turnaround. And who’d a thunk that Trent Richardson would have nothing to do with that? Ahmad Bradshaw everyone!!! Side note: I love how that’s playing out in Indi.
2.7…Really taking advantage of those “wide open running lanes.”
Seahawks (-2) over TEXANS
This is an insanely easy call for me. The Texans are coming off a bad loss to the Ravens going up against probably the best team in the NFL. I realize that the Seahawks aren’t quite as dominant on the road as they are in Seattle but this one shouldn’t be that close of a game.
Cardinals (+2.5) over BUCCANEERS
Color me skeptical, but I’m not laying points with a winless team starting a rookie QB who looks like this.
LIONS (-2.5) over Bears
This should be a pretty good game and I like both teams a lot. Take the home team in this matchup especially considering it’s Calvin Johnson indoors on a fast track.
CHIEFS (-4.5) over Giants
Kansas City looks rejuvenated and I can’t believe that I’m betting on them doubling up last season’s win total in only four weeks but it’s the Giants, who really stink. I’m going to need to see a lot more out of the Giants other than, you know, Eli Manning interceptions before I’ll feel comfortable taking the points with them on the road, especially against a good defensive team.
Jets (+4) over TITANS
Now the other New York team on the other hand, isn’t actually as terrible as we thought. How’s that for a compliment? In all seriousness thought the Jets defense has been pretty good this season and has given them a chance to win every game. Neither of these teams have good offenses so I expect this one to come down to a field goal.
CHARGERS (+2.5) over Cowboys
Are we really sure that the Cowboys are good enough to be favored on the road against a decent team? I think that the Chargers have played really well so far this season behind the strength of Philip Rivers who looks reborn after being rid of Norv Turner (uh oh). Taking the points at home in this one is pretty easy for me.
RAIDERS (+3.5) over Redskins
There’s this general rule that Bill Simmons brings up all the time about how some teams should never be favored by more than a field goal on the road no matter who they’re playing. What exactly has Washington done well this season other than put up garbage time points to make the final score look less brutal than their unfortunate reality. Meanwhile the Raiders haven’t been totally terrible. Also, Terrelle Pryor is cleared to play!!!
Eagles (+11.5) over BRONCOS
Philadelphia might not stop the Broncos offense at all in this game. The good news for them though is that their offense is still really good and pretty potent when Michael Vick isn’t turning it over. Don’t get me wrong, I’m terrified of betting against Peyton Manning and that offense especially considering the Eagles defensive issues. But I’m still a believer in that Eagles offense and I think they’ll keep the game within reach.
FALCONS (-2.5) over Patriots
I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d like the Pats in this game. Their 3-0 record is a bit of fluke as they haven’t really played anyone yet. The Falcons on the other hand are a really good team and they should win this game not going away necessarily but it will be a convincing victory for Atlanta.
SAINTS (-7) over Dolphins
While I like the way that Miami has played this season it’s been a little fluky. The Saints are so good at home and their defense, under Rob Ryan of all people, is playing really well. I think they’ll give Tannehill issues and their lack of a running game will hurt. Meanwhile Drew Brees is at home, where he’s really freaking good. It’s a big line but I like the Saints nonetheless.
LAST WEEK: 3-10-2
BROWNS PICKS: 0-3
 Just in case you were wondering, Christian Ponder finished with a -4.9 pass rating which was second worst in the league in Week 2. Even with his 2.3 run rating he still finished 25th overall among QBs last week. So it’s not like Hoyer outdueled an elite QB or anything.
 I’ll say this about Hoyer…he might be one of those guys who other players really just rally around and you have to throw the stats and other stuff out the window. We’ve only seen one game of this guy so only time will tell. Here’s hoping though.