Chargers odds muscled up despite steroid suspension

Andrew Folkes - Senior Writer

The San Diego Chargers line for today’s game against Cleveland indicates just how bad the public thinks this Browns offense is.

Although the Chargers will be without NFL sack leader Shawne Merriman, they’re set as 12 ½-point home favorites for Sunday afternoon’s contest. Those are the same odds San Diego was assigned before the star defensive end announced on Wednesday that he’ll begin serving a four-game steroid suspension this week.

“If they were going up against a strong team like the Colts, then you might see a bit of an adjustment,” says oddsmaker Greg Sindall. “But you don’t want to shorten the odds with San Diego up against Cleveland.

“If you dropped the Browns to say +10, you’d just get hammered with San Diego money.”

The Browns certainly don’t touch the Colts in terms of offensive firepower, but they showed improvement under new offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson in last week’s 20-13 victory over the New York Jets.

Cleveland’s attack was much more aggressive than it had been under Maurice Carthon. Davidson made frequent use of triple tight end sets and had quarterback Charlie Frye throw to a wider variety of receivers. The running game was also inspired with Reuben Droughns rushing for a season-high 125 yards on 33 carries.

"He did awesome," receiver Kellen Winslow told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Just the whole setup, the play-calling, was awesome, totally different."

Merriman’s uncanny ability to single-handedly disrupt an offense would have been an asset against Cleveland’s rejuvenated attack. His absence is compounded by the fact that right defensive end Igor Olshansky is expected to miss a second-straight game due to a calf injury.

That means two backup ends will be featured in the Chargers 3-4 defensive scheme Sunday. However, books won’t move the line because bettors tend to underestimate the value of most defensive players.

“Maybe if it was a number of defensive injuries or a household name like Ray Lewis there would be an adjustment,” notes Sindall. “Linemen don’t affect the line that much because the public doesn’t seem them as affecting the score.”

Books have set a 41-point total on this game.

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