The Thursday night football slate has a college game in the Pac-12 Conference and an NFL game involving two teams that are vying for a winning record through five weeks in the season.
UCLA Bruins @ Utah Utes
Thursday, 10:05 PM ET
Odds: UCLA -4
This game is one that should go in UCLA’s direction, but there’s just enough unpredictability to make it a tricky betting play. Utah has beaten Utah State at home this season while losing narrowly to an Oregon State squad that is likely to make a bowl game. The Utes and quarterback Travis Wilson can score. Moreover, new offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson should be able to find ways to exploit UCLA’s shaky defense. However, can the Utes possibly stop UCLA’s offense, with veteran quarterback Brett Hundley operating behind a solid offensive line? Utah should score a fair amount of points, but UCLA is poised to score a lot more. The Bruins overcame an 18-point deficit on the road to beat Nebraska earlier this season. That experience should come in handy for the Bruins here in Salt Lake City on Thursday night.
Utah is an up-and-down team. The Utes won at Brigham Young with defense, but their game against Oregon State was a shootout. If Utah plays its very best game, UCLA could very easily be in trouble. Yet, the thing to emphasize about the Utes is that they very rarely play their best game and just don’t inspire enough confidence from a betting standpoint. Take UCLA when you consider all possible football betting options.
Pick: UCLA -4
Buffalo Bills @ Cleveland Browns
Thursday, 8:25 PM ET
Odds: Cleveland -4.5
This game could be very close, not just because these teams are both 2-2, but also because their quarterback situations are so unsettled. You just don’t know what to expect from Buffalo’s E.J. Manuel and Cleveland’s Brian Hoyer. It’s true that Buffalo beat Baltimore last week in a really good win for the franchise, but the Bills won by only one score despite getting five interceptions from Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco. Are the Bills good enough to win on a day when their defense doesn’t carry the load? They do not have a particularly powerful offense. Manuel shows potential, but he is so green as a rookie that he is likely to learn more lessons as an NFL field general.
The Browns’ quarterback situation is not really any better – not on an immediate level. The Browns won entirely with defense last week, as they limited the Cincinnati Bengals to just six points. Hoyer, the team’s new starting quarterback who wasn’t given the starting job in the first two games of the season, won the game by staying out of the way. Can he perform better in this contest? He’ll need to. Ultimately, the fact that Hoyer is a veteran while Manuel is a rookie should give Cleveland an edge on the NFL betting – especially when one realizes this game is being played on the Browns’ home field.
Pick: Cleveland -4.5