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Dubs' Pigskin Pick'em & St. Louis Rams-Cleveland Browns Preview - Week 7

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The Rams come off the bye week well rested and raring to go. They're at home against a sneaky good opponent in the Cleveland Browns. Can the Rams get back to .500 on the season? Can Dubs make up some ground on the leaders in the weekly picks contest?

Week 6 of the NFL regular season is now in the history books. The Rams are well rested coming off the bye week and resume their roller-coaster ride of a season at home this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. Sunday's tilt begins a stretch of 5 games many feel are the "soft" part of the Rams' schedule. Can the Rams regroup and go 4-1 (6-4 on the season), boosting themselves into contention for a playoff berth in the process? Can Dubs make up some ground on the leaders in the weekly picks contest?

Dubs' Pigskin Pick'em & Rams Game Preview returns for a third season. I'll be predicting the winners (both straight up and against the spread) for all 256 regular season games. In addition, each week I'll be featuring 3 games in my "Hot Picks Against The Spread".

Pickwatch is a site devoted to tracking weekly picks results from NFL experts, analysts, and media types. This year, they're tracking 136 experts on a weekly basis. I'm competing against them again this season, and will publish the weekly results! In each of the last two seasons, I've managed to tie for first place in the overall standings. Can Dubs make it three years in a row?

Week 6 Results

Week Wins Straight Up Wins vs Spread Hot Picks vs. Spread Rams Straight Up
Week 6 8  6 7  7 2  1 Bye
Season 61  30 59  31  1 16  2 2  3
Win Percentage 67.0 65.6 88.9 40.0

How did I fare against the experts in Week 6? Not particularly well. Easily my worst week of the year, both in straight up picks and against the spread. After being on fire early in the season in picks against the spread, my record has suffered from back-to-back 7-7 weeks. My "Hot Picks Against The Spread" continue to impress. Both New England and Cincinnati won and covered the spread last week. Denver defeated Cleveland but did not cover the spread. Record for the week: 2-1 and 16-2 overall on the season. My 8-6 record in straight up picks set me back 8 spots in the standings. I'm now tied for 12th overall, 6 behind the leader Gordon McGuinness of Pro Football Focus.

2015 NFL Team Records

NFL ATS RANKINGS
Straight-Up Against The Spread Over/Under
Team Total Home Away Total Home Away Total Home Away
Arizona Cardinals 4-2-0 2-1-0 2-1-0 4-2-0 2-1-0 2-1-0 5-1-0 3-0-0 2-1-0
Atlanta Falcons 5-1-0 3-0-0 2-1-0 4-2-0 2-1-0 2-1-0 2-4-0 1-2-0 1-2-0
Baltimore Ravens 1-5-0 0-2-0 1-3-0 0-5-1 0-2-0 0-3-1 4-2-0 2-0-0 2-2-0
Buffalo Bills 3-3-0 1-3-0 2-0-0 3-3-0 1-3-0 2-0-0 3-3-0 2-2-0 1-1-0
Carolina Panthers 5-0-0 2-0-0 3-0-0 4-1-0 1-1-0 3-0-0 3-1-1 1-0-1 2-1-0
Chicago Bears 2-4-0 1-2-0 1-2-0 3-3-0 1-2-0 2-1-0 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0
Cincinnati Bengals 6-0-0 3-0-0 3-0-0 5-0-1 2-0-1 3-0-0 5-1-0 2-1-0 3-0-0
Cleveland Browns 2-4-0 1-2-0 1-2-0 3-2-1 1-1-1 2-1-0 6-0-0 3-0-0 3-0-0
Dallas Cowboys 2-3-0 1-2-0 1-1-0 1-4-0 0-3-0 1-1-0 2-3-0 2-1-0 0-2-0
Denver Broncos 6-0-0 2-0-0 4-0-0 4-1-1 1-1-0 3-0-1 2-4-0 0-2-0 2-2-0
Detroit Lions 1-5-0 1-2-0 0-3-0 1-5-0 0-3-0 1-2-0 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0
Green Bay Packers 6-0-0 4-0-0 2-0-0 5-1-0 3-1-0 2-0-0 2-4-0 1-3-0 1-1-0
Houston Texans 2-4-0 1-2-0 1-2-0 2-4-0 1-2-0 1-2-0 4-1-1 2-1-0 2-0-1
Indianapolis Colts 3-3-0 1-2-0 2-1-0 2-4-0 1-2-0 1-2-0 3-3-0 1-2-0 2-1-0
Jacksonville Jaguars 1-5-0 1-2-0 0-3-0 2-4-0 1-2-0 1-2-0 4-2-0 2-1-0 2-1-0
Kansas City Chiefs 1-5-0 0-2-0 1-3-0 1-5-0 0-2-0 1-3-0 4-2-0 1-1-0 3-1-0
Miami Dolphins 2-3-0 0-2-0 2-1-0 2-3-0 0-2-0 2-1-0 3-2-0 1-1-0 2-1-0
Minnesota Vikings 3-2-0 3-0-0 0-2-0 4-1-0 3-0-0 1-1-0 0-5-0 0-3-0 0-2-0
New England Patriots 5-0-0 2-0-0 3-0-0 3-1-1 1-0-1 2-1-0 3-2-0 1-1-0 2-1-0
New Orleans Saints 2-4-0 2-1-0 0-3-0 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0 3-3-0 0-3-0 3-0-0
New York Giants 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0 3-3-0 1-2-0 2-1-0 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0
New York Jets 4-1-0 2-1-0 2-0-0 4-1-0 2-1-0 2-0-0 2-3-0 2-1-0 0-2-0
Oakland Raiders 2-3-0 1-2-0 1-1-0 2-3-0 1-2-0 1-1-0 3-2-0 2-1-0 1-1-0
Philadelphia Eagles 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0 1-5-0 1-2-0 0-3-0
Pittsburgh Steelers 4-2-0 2-1-0 2-1-0 4-0-2 2-0-1 2-0-1 1-5-0 1-2-0 0-3-0
San Diego Chargers 2-4-0 2-1-0 0-3-0 2-4-0 1-2-0 1-2-0 2-4-0 2-1-0 0-3-0
San Francisco 49ers 2-4-0 2-1-0 0-3-0 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0 4-2-0 1-2-0 3-0-0
Seattle Seahawks 2-4-0 2-1-0 0-3-0 1-4-1 1-2-0 0-2-1 3-3-0 1-2-0 2-1-0
St. Louis Rams 2-3-0 1-1-0 1-2-0 2-3-0 1-1-0 1-2-0 2-3-0 1-1-0 1-2-0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-3-0 1-2-0 1-1-0 2-3-0 1-2-0 1-1-0 3-2-0 3-0-0 0-2-0
Tennessee Titans 1-4-0 0-3-0 1-1-0 2-3-0 1-2-0 1-1-0 4-1-0 2-1-0 2-0-0
Washington Redskins 2-4-0 2-1-0 0-3-0 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0 2-4-0 0-3-0 2-1-0


NFL Crystal Ball

Dubs' Pigskin Picks - Week 7

Home Away Spread Straight Up Vs. Spread Score
San Francisco Seattle Sea 6.5 Seattle Seattle 24  10
Jacksonville* Buffalo Buf 6 Buffalo Buffalo 21  14
Detroit Minnesota Min 2.5 Minnesota Minnesota 23  20
Indianapolis New Orleans Ind 4.5 Indianapolis Indianapolis 31  24
Kansas City Pittsburgh Even Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 27  17
Miami Houston Mia 4 Miami Miami 21  16
New England NY Jets NE 10 New England NY Jets 23  20
St. Louis Cleveland StL 7 St. Louis Cleveland 20  16
Tennessee Atlanta Atl 4 Atlanta Atlanta 33  17
Washington Tampa Bay Was 3 Washington Washington 21  14
San Diego Oakland SD 4 San Diego San Diego 27  14
NY Giants Dallas NYG 3 NY Giants NY Giants 23  19
Carolina Philadelphia Car 3 Carolina Carolina 24  20
Arizona Baltimore Ari 7.5 Arizona Arizona 31  17
Byes: Denver Cincinnati
Chicago Green Bay

Hot Picks Against The Spread

Seattle over San Francisco - It was about this time last year (when Seattle was 3-3) that the Seahawks began a 9-1 tear. If they want to win the division, it all begins here against the 49ers.

Atlanta over Tennessee - Marcus Mariota is banged up and is questionable for Sunday's game. The Falcons look to rebound from their sole loss of the season and are 4-2 against the spread after 6 games.

Arizona over Baltimore - Teams headed in opposite directions. The Cardinals are 4-2 against the spread this season. Baltimore? 0-5-1.

Cleveland Browns @ St. Louis Rams

Keys For The Rams Vs. Cleveland
  • The Rams must get off to a fast start in Sunday's game. In each of their 15 victories over the last 2 plus seasons, the Rams were either tied or leading at the half. In their first 5 games this season, the Rams have been outscored 37-7 in the first quarter.
  • Winning the turnover battle. In 2014, the Rams were 0-6 in games with a negative turnover differential. In contrast, the Rams were 3-0 in games with a positive turnover differential and 3-4 in games with an even turnover differential. Finally, the Rams were 4-0 in games where they didn't turn over the football. In the game against the Green Bay Packers, Nick Foles threw four interceptions, all of which were instrumental in the Rams' loss.
  • The Rams must establish the running game, against a Cleveland defense ranked dead last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (149.8) for the 2015 season. The Rams' offensive line must open up more holes for Todd Gurley. Although he ran for 159 yards against the Pack, 88 of those yards came on 4 carries. The remaining 71 came on 26 carries (a paltry 2.73 YPC).
  • Minimizing mistakes and penalties. When the Rams play disciplined football, they win games. In 2014, the Rams were 3-1 when they had a positive team penalty yards differential, and 3-9 when they had more penalty yards than their opponent. This season, the Rams are 1-1 when they've had fewer penalty yards than their opponent and 1-2 when they've had more than their opponent.
  • Pressuring QB Josh McCown. Putting pressure on McCown may be one of the bigger keys in this game. McCown is enjoying a renaissance season and continues to impress. He leads a sneaky good Cleveland offense, currently ranked 12th in the NFL in points scored (23.5 ppg.). The matchup between Browns LT Joe Thomas and Robert Quinn should be fun to watch.
  • Nick Foles will lead a conservative, ball-controlling Rams offense. A clean, mistake-free game is all that's expected of him. He'll need to connect deep with Jared CookTavon Austin and Kenny Britt to open up the Rams' running game. Better utilization of: the RB's coming out of the backfield, screens and shorter patterns all may help in reducing the pressure being put on Foles in the pocket.
  • 3rd down and red zone conversions will play a big role in this game. The Rams rank close to the bottom of the league in both statistical categories. It doesn't matter how many times Todd Gurley gashes the opposing defense, if the Rams can't punch it in (see Green Bay game). The Browns (in contrast to the Rams) are 4th in the NFL in 3rd down conversion % (46.7) compared to the Rams at a 31.1% conversion rate on 3rd down.
Prediction: Rams 20 - Cleveland 16

This will be a closer game than the oddsmakers suggest. Cleveland plays everyone tough and have a tendency to hang in there for most of their games. Since the beginning of the 2014 season, the Browns have lost 9 games by 3 points or less. The Rams' defense and Todd Gurley are the difference in this game, a low-scoring and tight contest right to the final whistle.

Perspective On The Rams Versus Cleveland

Fisher Up Front - Cleveland: St. Louis Rams Official Website

Reporter Dani Klupenger sits down with head coach Jeff Fisher to discuss this week's upcoming matchup against the Cleveland Browns

NFL Week 7 Capsule: Rams-Browns: Associated Press - Rams Gab

CLEVELAND BROWNS (2-4) AT ST. LOUIS RAMS (2-3)

SERIES

BROWNS RAMS
SERIES LEADER 10-9
STREAKS 3 of past 4
COACHES VS. OPP. Mike Pettine: 0-0 Jeff Fisher: 7-5
LAST WEEK L 26-23 (OT) vs. Broncos Bye (Wk. 5: L 24-10 at Packers)
LAST GAME 11/13/11: Rams 13 at Browns 12. St. Louis RB Steven Jackson rushes for 128 yards. Rams WR Brandon Lloyd has 48 rec. yards & TD.
LAST GAME AT SITE 10/28/07: Browns 27, Rams 20. Cleveland WR Braylon Edwards records 117 rec. yards & 2 TDs. Browns QB Derek Anderson throws for 248 yards & 3 TDs (143.0 rating).
REFEREE Pete Morelli
BROADCAST CBS (12:00 PM CT): Tom McCarthy, Adam Archuleta. SIRIUS: 138 (Cle.), 126 (StL.). XM: 230 (StL.).

STATS

PASSING McCown: 121-188-1416-8-3-94.6 Foles: 81-141-956-6-5-77.6
RUSHING Crowell: 73-272-3.7-1 Gurley (R): 55-314-5.7-0
RECEIVING Benjamin: 31-528-17.0-4 Austin: 16-144-9.0-3
OFFENSE 364.2 297.0
TAKE/GIVE -3 +1
DEFENSE 407.3 348.8
SACKS A. Bryant: 3.5 Quinn: 4
INTs Dansby: 2 Jenkins, Johnson: 2
PUNTING Lee: 49.4 (3L) Hekker: 47.0
KICKING Coons: 47 (11/11 PAT; 12/12 FG) Zuerlein: 30 (9/9 PAT; 7/10 FG)

NOTES

BROWNS: QB JOSH MC COWN passed for 213 yards, 2 TDs last week. 1st Browns QB with 2+ TD passes in 4+ consecutive games since 2007. Aims for 5th in row with 2 TDs. Has 300+ yards in 3 of past 4…In past 2 on road, RB ISAIAH CROWELL is averaging 106 scrimmage yards per game…Last week, WR TRAVIS BENJAMIN led team with 9 catches for 117 yards. Has 12 career TDs (9 rec., 3 PR) & averages 45.1 yards per score. TE GARY BARNIDGE had 3 catches for 39 yards & 2 TDs last week. 1st Browns TE since HOFer OZZIE NEWSOME in 1981 with TD in 4 consecutive games. In past 4, has 23 catches for 358 yards & 5 TDs…LB KARLOS DANSBY leads team with 46 tackles. Since 2004, is only NFL player with 40+ sacks (41) & 15+ INTs (18), incl. 2 INTs last week vs. Den. Only NFL player with INT-TD vs. both PEYTON & ELI MANNING. LB BARKEVIOUS MINGO had 1st career INT last week… RAMS: QB NICK FOLES has won 4 of past 5 starts vs. AFC with 11 TDs, 4 INTs & 108.2 rating…Rookie RB TODD GURLEY has rushed for 305 yards (152.5 per game) in 1st 2 career starts. Aims for 3rd in row with 145+ rush yards. Has 50+ yard run in each of past 2…WR-PR TAVON AUSTIN has 14 career TDs (7 rec., 4 rush, 3 PR). Is 1 of 2 players in NFL with rec., rush & return TD in 2015. Has 5 TDs in past 6 vs. AFC (2 rec., 2 rush, 1 PR). WR STEDMAN BAILEY had career-long 68-yard catch in Week 5. In last meeting (10/2/11 with Ten.), TE JARED COOK had 80-yard TD catch…Defense ranks 2nd in NFC with 19 sacks led by DE ROBERT QUINN (4) & DT AARON DONALD (3.5). Quinn has 8 sacks & 5 FFs in past 6 vs. AFC. Donald has 0.5+ sack in 9 of past 12. Has 7 sacks in past 7 at home. LB JAMES LAURINAITIS & DE CHRIS LONG each had sack in last meeting. Since 2009, Laurinaitis is only NFL player with 15+ sacks (16.5) & 10+ INTs (10). In past 3 vs. AFC, CB JANORIS JENKINS has 2 INTs (incl. 99-yard TD) & FF. Since 2012, ties for NFL lead with 5 INT-TDs.

From New York Times/STATS:
  1. The Browns are coming off a 26-23 overtime loss against the Broncos in Cleveland last week. Since the beginning of last season, Cleveland has played in nine games decided by three or fewer points, the most of any team in the NFL.
  2. The Rams are coming off a bye in Week 6. St. Louis is 1-4-1 in games following its bye week dating back to the 2009 season.
  3. The Rams lead the all-time series, 10-9. The Rams won the last meeting between the teams, 13-12, at Cleveland in Week 10 of the 2011 season.
  4. Josh McCown has thrown for 1367 yards over the last four weeks, the second most in the NFL over that span (Philip Rivers - 1472). Seven of McCown's eight touchdown passes this season have come after halftime.
  5. Todd Gurley has rushed for 305 yards over his last two games, gaining at least 140 yards in each contest. The only Rams players in franchise history who've rushed for 140 or more yards in three straight games are Eric Dickerson (two separate streaks; 1983 and 1984) and Marshall Faulk (2002).
  6. Gary Barnidge is the second Browns tight end with a touchdown catch in four consecutive team games (also Ozzie Newsome from September 20 -- October 11, 1981). Barnidge is also the second Browns tight end to have five TD catches through the team's first six games of a season (also Jordan Cameron in 2013).

The Rams' defense has played some excellent football through 5 games:

Nick Foles and the Rams' offense could stand to do a little more of what Sam Bradford and the Eagles offense have done:

ESPN's Nick Wagoner explains why the Cleveland Browns rush defense may be a little misleading. He joined Kevin Wheeler to preview the Browns and Rams.

CBS Sports' NFL analysts Pete Prisco, Pat Kirwan and Brady Quinn break down the keys for the Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams ahead of Sunday’s Week 7 showdown in St. Louis. They all pick the Rams to win.