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NFL betting: Underdog Broncos getting public support on Thursday

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Think back to two weeks ago. At that time, a Broncos-Browns game on Thursday night sounded like it had the potential to be fun. The Broncos opened the season by winning their first three games and the Browns had a 3-1 record and could have easily been 4-0. Now? This matchup falls under the "disgusting Thursday night game" heading. Things change quickly in this league. 

This line has seen significant line movement over the course of the week. Cleveland opened as a 5.5-point favorite but as injury concerns became apparent for the Browns, the line dropped to 3.5 points. Once Baker Mayfield was ruled out, the line continued to tumble to its current number, which has the Browns as a 1.5-point favorite at home at BetMGM.

Public backing the healthier Broncos

It's rare that we see the betting public back an underdog in a prime-time slot. Outside of the support the Bills got against the Chiefs in Week 5, it seems like the public has been siding with the favorite in these spots through the first third of the season. That's not the case on Thursday night. 

Currently, 60% of bets placed are on Denver to cover the 1.5-point spread. Over 80% of moneyline bets are on Denver, which currently sits as a +110 underdog to win the game outright after opening at +190 earlier in the week. 

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 17:  Javonte Williams #33 of the Denver Broncos rushes against the Las Vegas Raiders in the third quarter of a game at Empower Field at Mile High on October 17, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Javonte Williams and the Denver Broncos are a rare underdog receiving public support. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The Browns' injury report this week has 19 players on it, and the fact that it's a short week only underscores that reality. We already know Cleveland will be without starting quarterback Baker Mayfield, standout running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and do-everything rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. 

In addition, three members of the starting offensive line are on the injury report for Cleveland, with Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin already missing last week's game. Standout receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is questionable and it's unclear whether reliable Jarvis Landry will be activated off injured-reserve in time for kickoff. 

While injuries have definitely played a part in the line movement, NFL lines don't usually move 4 points in three days if there isn't public support on one side. That's exactly the case on Thursday night. 

Massive action on the under

The point spread isn't the only market in this game that has seen massive line movement over the course of the week. After opening with a total of 44 points, this game is down to a low total of just 41 points at BetMGM.

As of Thursday morning, a massive 92% of the money wagered for this game has been placed on the game to go under the total of 41. Nearly 70% of bets placed on the total have been placed on the under. The public doesn't love betting unders, so now we've seen the public come in on an underdog and under in the prime-time slot. Bizarre, but perhaps telling?

We've already outlined the massive injuries the Browns are facing on offense, but they're not the only team in this game with injury concerns. Teddy Bridgewater is questionable for the Broncos. Though he's expected to play, his effectiveness might be impacted. 

Popular prop bets

Though the game is far from sexy on paper, there's still plenty of action to get involved in. The prop market at BetMGM always offers hundreds of different ways to bet any game, and Thursday night is no different.

Bettors like Melvin Gordon of the Broncos to score the first touchdown of this game at his +1200 price. Gordon is splitting carries with rookie running back Javonte Williams, but this is still a good price for a running back to find the end zone. It's worth noting that the Browns have been stout against the run, ranking top 10 in yards-per-rush, rush yards per game and rush touchdowns allowed. 

Another popular prop bet is Courtland Sutton to score at anytime. Sutton operates as the Broncos' No. 1 receiver with the absence of Jerry Jeudy. He has two touchdowns on the season. In back-to-back games, the Browns have allowed Mike Williams and DeAndre Hopkins to score two touchdowns a piece, so they're not doing a great job of slowing down the opponents' No. 1 option on the outside. Should Sutton find the end zone, bettors will be cashing a +200 ticket.

This game is also the ultimate test for the Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Baker Mayfield narrative. It's hard to deny that the pairing has underperformed over their first two-and-a-half seasons together. Mayfield has performed better when Beckham has been off the field and there's no denying that the lack of connection has affected OBJ's numbers when he's been healthy.

With Case Keenum at quarterback, maybe Beckham Jr. has a big game and stokes the flames in the Baker-OBJ narrative. You can bet on the Browns to win and Beckham Jr. to score a touchdown at +300 odds.

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