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Patriots poised to extend win streak, cover against Browns

For the first time since Tom Brady led them to an 8-0 start in 2019, the Patriots have won three consecutive games.

After a forgettable 2020 in which New England went 7-9 with Cam Newton at quarterback and coach Bill Belichick was targeted by critics as Brady won a Super Bowl without him, the Patriots (5-4, 5-4 ATS) are back as playoff contenders.

New England appears to have found Brady’s replacement in rookie quarterback Mac Jones, and the defense has delivered, allowing 14.3 points per game during the win streak.

The resurgent Patriots, fourth in the NFL in scoring defense (18.9 ppga) and 10th in scoring offense (25.6 ppg), will try to make it four in a row Sunday at home against the Browns.

New England is a consensus 2½-point favorite over Cleveland (5-4, 5-4 ATS), coming off a 41-16 rout of Cincinnati.

Both teams might be missing their top running backs. Nick Chubb has been ruled out for the Browns in COVID-19 protocol, and Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson are listed as questionable for the Patriots after suffering concussions in last week’s 24-6 win at Carolina.

Jones has outplayed Cleveland QB Baker Mayfield in several categories, throwing for more yards and touchdowns with a better completion percentage.

The Patriots have covered six of the past eight meetings against Cleveland, and I’ll take them laying a small number at home.

Here are four more plays (home team in CAPS):

TITANS (-3) over Saints: This number doesn’t look quite right. AFC-leading Tennessee (7-2, 7-2 ATS) has won and covered five straight games — its past four outright as underdogs over the Rams, Colts, Chiefs and Bills. Now the Titans are laying only a field goal at home against the Saints (5-3, 4-4 ATS), who will start Trevor Siemian at quarterback and will be without injured star running Alvin Kamara. People keep doubting the Titans, who rank sixth in scoring (28.3 ppg) and 14th in scoring defense (23.4 ppga).

Buccaneers (-9½) over FOOTBALL TEAM: Both teams are coming off their bye, which means Brady has had two weeks to stew over Tampa Bay’s loss at New Orleans. He should pad his stats against Washington, an NFL-worst 1-7 ATS and 29th in scoring defense (28.4 ppga). The Football Team, which averages only 19.5 ppg, won’t be able to keep up with the Bucs, who lead the league in scoring (32.5 ppg).

CHARGERS (-3) over Vikings: I’ll follow the lead of sharp bettors and take Los Angeles over a Vikings team coming off painful losses to the Ravens and Cowboys that seem to have become the norm for them. The Chargers are coming off a 27-24 road win over the Eagles and have the better quarterback in Justin Herbert over Kirk Cousins.

RAIDERS (+2½) over Chiefs: The Raiders covered both meetings against Kansas City last season, and the Chiefs have covered only four of their past 20 games.

Last week: 3-2

Season: 25-20

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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