Denver Broncos vs. Cleveland Browns
Sunday, November 3, 2019 at 4:25 PM (Empower Field at Mile High Stadium)
Cleveland -3; Total 39 Click to Get Latest Betting Odds
Things might not be as they seem in this matchup of sub-.500 teams. The 2-5 Cleveland Browns head to Empower Field at Mile High Stadium to take on the 2-6 Denver Broncos, but these teams really aren’t nearly as bad as their records may indicate, no matter how ugly those records are. That doesn’t make picking the game any easier, but it does show that the game might be played at a higher level of respectability than might otherwise be expected.
The Broncos have lost two in a row and six games on the season, but aside from a 30-6 drubbing by the Chiefs, Denver is losing by an average of 4.6 points per game against the likes of Green Bay, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Oakland, and Chicago. Not all world-beaters, but all respectable teams. Add to that a 16-0 shutout over Tennessee and a close win over the Chargers and Denver has really been in every game it has played this year, except for that Chiefs game.
How about the Browns? Cleveland did open up with that disastrous 43-13 loss to Tennessee in which Baker Mayfield threw three interceptions and the Browns were called for 18 penalties for 182 yards. Not good. But since that time, Cleveland owns a dominating 40-25 win over Baltimore (which many feel can beat New England this weekend), a 23-3 thrashing of the Jets, as well as close losses to the Rams and Seahawks. There was also a two-touchdown loss to New England and a 31-3 defeat to San Francisco, but isn't being handled by those teams this year?
So what can be inferred from that information? Both of these teams can play with just about anyone, and neither are probably as bad as their records show.
How does someone figure out how to pick this game? It might come down to the quarterback. Even though the game is in Denver, the edge has to be given to Cleveland in the quarterback department as it will be Mayfield, who is still looking to really break out on the field (although his off-field commercials for Progressive have been quite funny), taking on Brandon Allen, who gets the start in place of injured Joe Flacco, and who also becomes the sixth starting quarterback for Denver since 2017.
Allen has taken exactly zero regular-season snaps in the NFL, and his backup Brett Rypien has the same on-field experience. Allen was selected 201st in the 2016 draft out of Arkansas and will get on the field for the first time on Sunday against a Browns defense that has struggled so far this season, ranking 22nd in the NFL in scoring defense at 25.9 points per game. Cleveland will hope that number will go down Sunday in the rookie quarterback’s debut.
Allen will look for Flacco’s favorite target Courtland Sutton, who is averaging 79.5 yards receiving per game and has scored three touchdowns. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman share the load on the ground with Lindsay averaging 61.5 yards per game and Freeman at 44.9 yards per game. They have combined to run for six touchdowns.
The Browns clearly have more of the household names on their roster, but most have been a disappointment. Mayfield has completed 57.6 percent of his passes for 1,690 yards, but his 12 interceptions and 21 sacks have led to an abysmal 34.8 quarterback rating. Odell Beckham Jr. has been punished because of it, catching just 34 passes for 488 yards and only one touchdown, while teammate Jarvis Landry has slightly more yards receiving (504) but no touchdowns. Running back Nick Chubb has been a rare bright spot on offense with 738 yards rushing (105.4 yards per game) and six touchdowns on the season.
This one comes down to who can be trusted. It will most likely be a close game because that’s what these two teams do -- play close games. So who can be trusted? Mayfield, who has had a disappointing season, or Allen, who has never played a snap in the NFL? The decision really has to come down to Mayfield. He has had success and he has a former multiple Pro Bowl receiver to throw to and a running back who has already found success. Compare that against a guy who hasn’t seen a competitive field for more than three years. Who knows? Maybe Allen turns out to be the next Tom Brady -- but probably not. Take Cleveland minus-3 and cross your fingers on this one.