NFL Week 7 pick, prediction against the spread for Thursday Night Football | Broncos vs. Browns

In our Week 7 Thursday Night Football prediction, we take a look at the NFL odds and provide a pick for tonight's Broncos vs. Browns game.

In the NFL, it’s always about the next man up and tonight is the perfect example of that. The hobbled Cleveland Browns host the up-and-coming Denver Broncos in this week’s prime-time battle. Let’s dive into the Broncos vs. Browns and determine the best pick for this NFL betting Thursday Night Football prediction.

Broncos vs. Browns Prediction

We open Week 7 with two teams struggling to stay healthy. An efficient and safe quarterback leads the Broncos in Teddy Bridgewater. Denver is loaded across both sides of the ball with playmakers and will need to capitalize tonight. 

The Browns came into this year as extremely hyped Super Bowl contenders. Cleveland fell off the wagon due to Baker Mayfield’s play and the plethora of injuries they have endured. Can the Browns take down the Broncos with backup quarterback Case Keenum taking the reins tonight?

Back to the drawing board

The Broncos started the season on absolute fire, dominating defensively and doing enough on offense to put opponents away. Those opponents were the Giants, Jaguars, and Jets. Not much to write home about. Denver has dropped three straight since their 3-0 start, losing to legitimate talent in the Steelers, Raiders, and Ravens. Can the Broncos take care of a depleted Browns team in this Thursday Night Football matchup?

Bridgewater comes into this game with a 52.5 QBR (19th overall) and a 6.2 adjusted net yards per attempt (18th). Denver’s overall EPA/play comes in at 0.066 (11th), while their passing EPA comes in at 0.157 (12th). On offense, the Broncos are a mediocre unit. They do enough to move the ball down the field yet are not the explosive type of offense. Bridgewater was not expected to shoulder the load or lead Denver back from a multi-score deficit.

Numbers don’t lie

Looking at surface-level numbers, Denver’s defense looks stout. They are fourth in scoring defense, limiting opponents to 18.3 points per game (don’t forget the talent they’ve faced). They are allowing the eighth-fewest total yards per game and the sixth-fewest passing touchdowns this season.  

However, looking at advanced stats, Denver has the ninth-worst defense, according to DVOA. Against both the run and the pass, the Broncos rank in the bottom third of the league in defensive DVOA. They have had the easiest defensive schedule and still rank in the bottom half in most advanced categories. Although Keenum is four years removed from his 22 touchdowns and 7 interceptions with the Vikings, he will have plenty of opportunities in a familiar offense to compete against this mediocre Broncos defense.

Will it be enough to pick the Browns in tonight’s Thursday Night Football matchup?

Mr. Mayfield, please report to the medical unit

Although Mayfield has struggled this season, he remains a better prospect at the quarterback position than Keenum. Thus far, Mayfield fields a 41.6 QBR (25th) and 7.0 adjusted net yards per attempt (16th). Cleveland’s overall EPA/play comes in at 0.44 (16th), while their passing EPA is 0.03 (23rd). The discrepancy between their passing (23rd) and rushing (first) attacks is significant, yet this was with both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt on the field.

Not only will Keenum get his first start of the season, but running back D’Ernest Johnson will too. Cleveland will be relying on backups at two key positions on offense but will have wide receiver Jarvis Landry returning for this game. Landry has been a safety net his entire career, and this could be an essential piece for the Browns to contend against the Broncos. 

One if by land, two if by air

Cleveland’s defense was one of the most popular units in the NFL during the preseason. All the talk last season was about how Cleveland’s offense was elite, yet their defense lacked the strength to limit the best offenses in the league. The Browns addressed this in the offseason by adding multiple pieces to push them over the hump. Unfortunately for Cleveland, the pass defense hasn’t lived up to their end of the bargain. 

The disparity between the Browns’ run and pass defenses is stark. They are third against the run with a -30.9% rush DVOA. However, they are 20th against aerial attacks with a 17.3% pass DVOA. With a Broncos team that likes to push the ball through the air, the Browns may have their work cut out for them. Although Denver has above-average talent in the backfield with running backs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, the Broncos are more efficient through the air. 

Will head coach Kevin Stefanski employ a run-heavy attack against Denver’s 20th-ranked rush defense with a backup quarterback at the helm?

Thursday Night Football prediction and pick

After three weeks into this season, this game had the makings of a stellar matchup. Due to unforeseen injuries and the performance of each team, this AFC battle has lost much of its firepower.

Both offenses were middling before their respective injuries and are looking for answers to bolster their attacks. Both defenses rank 20th or worse in pass DVOA and should allow the opposition to move the ball down the field through the air. Keenum has familiarity with the Kubiak-style offense going up against a subpar Denver defense, while the Broncos will attack the bottom-tier Cleveland coverage unit. Take the over 40.5 points as tonight’s pick in this Thursday Night Football prediction.