Ugly underdogs are on the NFL card each week, and the Cleveland Browns always seem to be one of them. It's a team with a no-name coach, Pat Shurmur, and no identity.
The Browns are as bland as their nickname, and their rebuilding plan is based on two rookies, quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson.
It's doubtful many New York Giants players circled today's game against Cleveland as a key date on the schedule. And part of the Giants' identity is the Super Bowl champions rarely bring their "A" game if it's not a big-name opponent.
"The Giants always play down to their competition," said SportsXRadio.com handicapper Chuck Edel, whose card is highlighted by a play on the Browns as 8- to 8½-point road underdogs.
In their past 14 games at home versus teams with a losing record, the Giants are 2-12 against the spread.
What might be surprising to some bettors is that the Browns, 0-4 straight up this season, are 6-1-1 ATS in their past eight games. In September, they covered big numbers in losses to Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Cleveland stood toe to toe and traded punches with the Ravens in a 23-16 loss on Sept. 27, as Weeden passed for 320 yards. Richardson, the No. 3 draft pick from Alabama, has rushed for 222 yards and three touchdowns in four games.
"I was impressed with the way the Browns played against Baltimore," Edel said. "Weeden is starting to play a little better, and Richardson is starting to run better."
If Richardson runs effectively, and a poor Cleveland defense can contain Giants quarterback Eli Manning, Edel expects the Browns to continue their trend of covering as ugly 'dogs.
The Giants, who dropped to 2-2 with a 19-17 loss at Philadelphia, could be without seven starters, including two of Manning's top receivers, Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden.
Edel (ChuckEdel.com) analyzes the rest of today's Week 5 schedule:
■ Atlanta (-3) at Washington: It's a tough spot for the Falcons, who had a comeback win over Carolina last week and now go on the road. Atlanta leads the league in turnover ratio at plus-10. But the Redskins rank second in rushing with 171 yards per game, and Alfred Morris, the rookie from Florida Atlantic, has been a great find for them. Washington is averaging 30.8 points per game, which is why the total (51½) is so high. I'm not playing the game, but I lean to the Redskins.
■ Philadelphia at Pittsburgh (-3½): The Steelers are coming off a bye and getting back running back Rashard Mendenhall, safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison. The return of Mendenhall is huge because they rank 30th in rushing and seventh in passing. Pittsburgh is 9-0 ATS coming off a straight-up loss and 5-1 after a bye. The Eagles have won three games by a total of four points, they obviously have turnover problems, and they have not played well on the road. I like the Steelers.
■ Green Bay (-7) at Indianapolis: The Packers are averaging only 21.2 points per game, and they are 1-4 ATS in their past five games. With Colts coach Chuck Pagano's health issues, the team will give a big effort off a bye, and defensive end Dwight Freeney might come back. I lean to the Colts.
■ Tennessee at Minnesota (-5½): The Vikings scored on a kick return and punt return last week, but had only 227 yards of total offense against Detroit. Minnesota is 1-5 ATS in its past six at home. I don't mind Matt Hasselbeck being in there at quarterback for the Titans because I think he'll be sharper than he was last week. Chris Johnson rushed for 141 yards against a good Houston defense. I think Minnesota caught San Francisco in a perfect spot two weeks ago. I made the line 3. Before the season, Cantor Gaming made this a pick 'em. I like Tennessee a little here.
■ Miami at Cincinnati (-3): There are some good trends for the Dolphins, who in their past 14 games are 11-3 ATS, including 8-0 ATS against teams with winning records. The Bengals are 1-4-1 ATS in their past six at home and 1-7-2 ATS in their past 10 against AFC opponents. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill had his best game last week, passing for 431 yards against Arizona. The Bengals have a good offense, but their defense allows 5.8 yards per play. I lean to the Dolphins.
■ Baltimore (-6½) at Kansas City: I can't trust the Chiefs because they are last in the league in takeaways at minus-13. The only team even close is Dallas at minus-7. Matt Cassel had three interceptions and a fumble last week. Kansas City is capable of playing with any team in the league if it didn't have Cassel turning it over. The Ravens are 0-4 ATS in their past four games against teams with a losing record. I'll pass.
■ Seattle at Carolina (-3): The Panthers rank first in yards per play at 6.5. I'm not a fan of the Seahawks. They have a great defense that ranks second, but they are 28th in offense, and rookie Russell Wilson threw three interceptions in last week's loss at St. Louis. I'm anti-Wilson, and I've gone against Seattle in every game. Carolina is in a must-win situation at 1-3. I'm not sure I'm going to play it, but I lean to the Panthers.
■ Chicago (-5½) at Jacksonville: I know sharp money is on the Jaguars, but I'm staying away. Coming off their last 10 Monday night games, the Bears are 9-1 over the total on the following Sunday. I think what it is, that defense gets so hyped up to play on Monday night. But now they are playing Jacksonville, and you could see them being a little flat. The Jaguars defense has only two sacks, and if you're going to beat the Bears, you've got to get in Jay Cutler's face. If I played the Bears, I would blitz like crazy in the first five minutes because once Cutler hits the ground, he's a wimp the rest of the game. I'll play this over the total (40½).
■ Denver at New England (-6½): If you can get 7, the Broncos are worth a look. It's not a big play for me. Willis McGahee is running well, and Peyton Manning was 30-for-38 passing last week and is getting better. Manning and Tom Brady always seem to play close games.
■ Buffalo at San Francisco (-9½): I think the Bills are a live 'dog, but their only wins came against Cleveland and Kansas City. The 49ers defense ranks No. 1, but I could see San Francisco being flat. If I played it, I would take the 'dog, but I'm not going to play it. I'm still not sold on Alex Smith and the 49ers offense. I could play this under the total (45). I see San Francisco getting up early and just pounding the ball with running back Frank Gore the rest of the way.
■ San Diego at New Orleans (-3½): The Chargers rank 24th on offense, and I think they are overrated. The Saints showed some improvement last week. New Orleans is 10-1 ATS in its past 11 games at home when playing a team with a winning record. It's more of an anti-San Diego thing. It's going to be a great atmosphere in the Superdome with Drew Brees trying to set a record and suspended coach Sean Payton coming back. I bet this at 3, but I would still lay 3½. I'm on the Saints, and you should get their best possible effort here.
COMPILED BY MATT YOUMANS LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL