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Browns live ‘dogs at Dallas

In the soap opera that is the NFC East, all four teams seem to experience constant trouble at home, and that’s where Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys are most dysfunctional.

The Cowboys are 5-14 against the spread on their home field the past three seasons, including 0-3 this season.

At first glance, there is little to like about the Cleveland Browns, but SystemPlays.com handicapper Doug Fitz is primarily an underdog bettor, and he sees Dallas’ home-field disadvantage as the overriding factor in his best bet today.

“For whatever reason, the Cowboys just don’t play well in Jerry Jones’ palace,” said Fitz, who is taking the Browns as 7½-point ‘dogs. “It seems crazy to back any team laying this many points if it can’t win at home and has trouble scoring due to turnovers.”

Romo has thrown an NFL-high 13 interceptions, including four in his last home start, a loss to the New York Giants. But he produced big plays, and avoided costly mistakes, to lead the Cowboys (4-5) to a win at Philadelphia last week.

Cleveland, 2-7 straight up and 4-4-1 ATS, is seeing a few encouraging signs from rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. Trent Richardson, another rookie, has rushed for 575 yards and five touchdowns.

“The Browns keep losing, but they have been competitive in most of their games, and Weeden has been a pleasant surprise by showing poise and command of the offense,” Fitz said. “When healthy, Richardson has run the ball very effectively.

“The Cowboys can’t run the ball, so their offense has been totally dependent on Romo, who has played fairly well when he’s not turning the ball over and getting careless.”

Dallas, 1½ games behind the Giants in the division, can make up ground by beating the Browns and handling Washington (3-6) on Thanksgiving Day.

Fitz scouts the rest of today’s Week 11 schedule:

■ Philadelphia at Washington (-3½): A quarterback change might be what the Eagles need to get out of their funk, and rookie Nick Foles takes over for injured Michael Vick. The Eagles are 1-7-1 ATS, but they were favored in most of those games. The Redskins are 1-3 ATS at home and 0-3 ATS as favorites. Foles should be able to move the ball on a Washington defense that allows 27.6 points per game. I’ll take the ‘dog.

■ Green Bay (-3) at Detroit: This is a tough one to call, but I’ll give a slight nod to the Packers, who have won four in a row while going 3-1 ATS. Green Bay has won four of its past five games at Detroit, and road favorites off a bye are 25-4 ATS this season.

■ Arizona at Atlanta (-9½): I rarely recommend a favorite laying a significant number, but the Cardinals have lost five straight games and six in a row ATS. With the Falcons coming home after their first defeat last week, Matt Ryan and the offense will be focused. Atlanta is aiming to show its 8-1 record is no fluke. And Arizona’s 4-0 start was a fluke.

■ Tampa Bay (-1½) at Carolina: The Buccaneers are in a bad sandwich spot. They beat San Diego at home last week and play a huge home game next week against NFC South rival Atlanta. Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman has been hot. But the Panthers should be live home ‘dogs, despite their disappointing showing a week ago against the Broncos.

■ New York Jets at St. Louis (-3): This is a play against an improved but still mediocre Rams team. St. Louis is a favorite for the first time this season. The Jets are not playing well, and quarterback Mark Sanchez is feeling the pressure, but this number was set anticipating a public overreaction to the Rams forcing the 49ers into an overtime tie. The line is moving to 3½.

■ Indianapolis at New England (-9½): The Colts are playing inspired and focused football, and their offense is clicking. Andrew Luck has been impressive for a rookie quarterback, passing for 2,631 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Patriots’ defense ranks 25th in the league, allowing 382 yards and 22.3 points per game, so Luck should be able to move the offense enough to help the Colts cover this high number.

■ Jacksonville at Houston (-15½): Most double-digit spreads in the NFL are too high under any circumstances, and this line inflated because the ‘dog is so ugly. The Jaguars rank 27th in total defense and last in total offense. But how seriously can the Texans be taking this game? They are set to travel on a short week for a Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit. The Jaguars are brutally bad, but they did cover a similar number three weeks ago in a 24-15 loss at Green Bay. The road team has covered in all nine Jacksonville games, for what it’s worth.

■ Cincinnati (-3½) at Kansas City: Both defenses are bad, and I think we’ll see this go over the total of 43½. Second-year quarterback Andy Dalton has struggled at times, yet the Bengals are averaging 24.4 points. The Chiefs get little from their passing attack, but Jamaal Charles is having a terrific season with 734 yards rushing, so they can score on Cincinnati by moving the ball on the ground.

■ New Orleans (-5) at Oakland: The Saints have played much better the past two weeks, seemingly turning around their 0-4 start. Drew Brees again is piling up big numbers, passing for 2,847 yards and 25 touchdowns. But I’m betting they could be overconfident facing a Raiders team that allowed 55 points at Baltimore last week. Oakland should bounce back and put up a good effort at home. New Orleans is off an important home win and plays a key home game next week against the 49ers, so traveling to the West Coast makes this a tough spot for the Saints. It could be both a letdown and a lookahead spot for the favorite.

■ San Diego at Denver (-8): It’s basically do-or-die time for the Chargers, who have lost four of their past five games. Philip Rivers has thrown 12 interceptions, and coach Norv Turner is on the hot seat, as always. In the teams’ first meeting in mid-October, San Diego lost a 24-0 halftime lead and got embarrassed, 35-24. The Broncos are perceived to be on cruise control en route to winning the weak AFC West. Denver has won and covered four in a row, but this is a division game against a desperate team, and the line looks a little too high.

■ Baltimore (-3½) at Pittsburgh: I don’t expect Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich to be able to pass effectively against the Baltimore defense, so Pittsburgh will be riding its running backs. The Steelers rank No. 1 in total defense and allow 19.7 points per game. In a matchup with two solid defensive teams, and a poor backup quarterback in Leftwich, look for a low-scoring game likely to go under a relatively low total of 40½.


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