Slumping Broncos May Get Lifeline Against Baker-Less Browns

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With three straight defeats after a 3-0 start, the Denver Broncos are looking for any and all positives heading into their Thursday Night Football clash on the road against the Cleveland Browns.

They may have gotten one Wednesday, when the Browns announced starting quarterback Baker Mayfield has been ruled out with a torn labrum in his non-throwing (left) shoulder. Denver’s defense was shredded for 888 passing yards and five scoring tosses in losses to Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Las Vegas, which means facing backup Case Keenum — who threw for 3,890 yards and 18 TDs with 15 interceptions with the Broncos in 2018 — could be a better proposition than Mayfield, who had thrown for 1,474 yards and six touchdowns in the first six games.

Teddy Bridgewater has produced solid numbers for Denver with 1,514 yards and 10 touchdowns while completing 70% of his passes, but he has also thrown five interceptions in the last three games after getting picked off three times in Sunday’s 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Much has been made of the fact that Denver’s fast start came against lightweights — the Giants, Jets, and Jaguars are a combined 3-14 — and with the Browns (3-3) trying to keep pace in a rugged AFC North, this game could loom large for potential wild-card tiebreakers in December.

One other area the Broncos could find some positivity is in facing a Browns defense that has been shellacked the last two weeks. They allowed eight touchdown passes, 84 points, and 845 yards in losses to the Los Angeles Chargers and unbeaten Arizona. Cleveland struggled to get off the field defensively, allowing the Chargers and Cardinals to convert 14 of 28 third downs.

That, however, is an area where Bridgewater and the offense have struggled of late, going 10 for 38 during Denver’s three-game skid.

Sportsbooks across Colorado are gearing up with plenty of offerings. Between the short week and the switch to Keenum at quarterback for the Browns, betting lines may be both more active and swing more widely than normal right up until kickoff Thursday night. As always, there is value if you do a little digging around.

Spread moves in Denver’s direction, over/under drops

The line opened with the Broncos as 7-point underdogs, but Mayfield’s absence has caused a recalibration along with a majority of the money backing Denver. As of 8:30 a.m. MDT on Thursday, SI Sportsbook was the clear outlier, offering Denver +2.5 at -110. All the other notable books were offering either Denver +1 or +1.5.

At the lower number, Betfred (+100) and FanDuel (-108) had the two best values, though no one was above the standard -110. BetRivers (-107) and MaximBet (-108) were offering slightly better than the standard -110 on the higher number.

The over/under opened at 44.5 points, but has since passed through the 42-point play through threshold to as low as 40.5 points, found at MaximBet with a -105/-111 split and FanDuel (-114/106). Every other book was in lockstep at 41 points, with DraftKings and Betway both straying from the standard -110 with a -115/-105 split.

The moneyline is, for lack of a better word, tight. The best offering was +105, which can be found at BetMGM, FOX Bet, and theScore Bet as well as BetRivers, and MaximBet. FanDuel (+102), Caesars (+100), PointsBet (+100), WynnBET (+100), Betfred (+100), and SI Sportsbook (+100) were all also offering at least even money for that play.

For over/under plays on the Broncos team total, FanDuel is offering 20.5 points with a +106/-128 split for its single game parlay option and has 20 points at -110 both ways as its standard offering. FOX Bet is giving bettors a choice: 18.5 points at -143/+120 or 20.5 points at +105/-125. Caesars has the latter as its current offering. while PointsBet also has 20.5 points with a -121/+100 split.

Otherwise, 19.5 points is the most common offering around the Centennial State. For the over, WynnBet is the best play at -120, while BetMGM and BetRivers both listed +105 for the under at that number.

Player props aplenty and a TD for Denver’s D

It would be remiss not to offer consideration for a Broncos defensive or special teams touchdown, given they are facing a backup quarterback in Keenum. Among those offering such a play, BetMGM has a +750 offering that specifies “any Broncos defensive player” finding paydirt. FOX Bet has a +520 offering that is tops as the standard defensive/special teams play.

PlayerTop OfferingSportsBook(s)
Melvin Gordon III+200BetMGM
Courtland Sutton+220MaximBet
Javonte Williams+215BetRivers
Noah Fant+275MaximBet
Tim Patrick+275FOXBet, BetRivers, MaximBet
Teddy Bridgewater+850Caesars
Broncos D/ST+540FOXBet

There is a robust offering of over/under yardage props across Denver’s skill positions. Starting at quarterback, Bridgewater can be grabbed as low as 225.5 yards at -110 at BetMGM. Those who want to wager the under are best served at Caesars, which is offering 232.5 yards at -115, and FOX Bet with 230.5 yards at -110.

In the backfield, Melvin Gordon has a range of 40.5 to 43.5 yards, with BetMGM, FOX Bet, and PointsBet all offering the over on the lower number at -115. FanDuel is listing Gordon at 41.5 yards for -110 in both directions. BetMGM is the best play on the higher number at -115.

Gordon’s partner at running back, Javonte Williams, has a band ranging from 46.5 to 50.5 yards. Betway’s -115 for 46.5 yards is the best play for the over at the lowest number, and FOX Bet is the lone book offering 50.5 yards, with the value -125. BetMGM is offering -110 for the under at 49.5 yards.

Top Broncos wideout Cortland Sutton can be grabbed from 63.5 to 67.5 yards, but there are two outliers to ponder. One is BetMGM, which has a band of 66.5 to 68.5 yards at -115 in each direction for each yard. FOX Bet is on an island at 70.5 yards with a split of +105/-133. MaximBet has 67.5 yards at +100 for the over, with FanDuel -110. Tight end Noah Fant can be grabbed as low as 39.5 yards at BetMGM for -115 in both directions, while FanDuel has 41.5 yards at -110 each way.

Bettors who think Tim Patrick could have a big game have a choice for the over between BetMGM’s 42.5 yards at -115 or FanDuel and FOXBet offering -110 on the over for 45.5 yards. Caesars has pushed out to 46.5 yards and on both sides. Some books are offering injured receiver Jerry Jeudy as an option, but head coach Vic Fangio listed his chances of playing at “less than 50 percent” Monday.

Chris Altruda has been a sportswriter with ESPN, The Associated Press, and STATS over more than two decades. He recently expanded into covering sports betting and gambling around the Midwest.

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