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NFL Expert, Ben Gretch is here with his pick for Cleveland vs New England in this AFC matchup on Sunday.

Cleveland Browns vs New England Patriots Prediction: Can the Browns Stay Hot?

Cleveland Browns vs New England Patriots Key Stat

Key Stat: Both the Browns and Patriots defenses rank in the top 10 in success rate against both the run and the pass.

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Cleveland Browns vs New England Patriots Prediction

There’s little surprise we’re looking at a close line as the Browns visit the Patriots Sunday. Both teams profile similarly; they rank 10th and 11th in offensive success rate, and both defenses are in the top 10 in success rate against both the run and the pass, per Sharp Football Stats. Both offenses are solidly run-first, posting negative Pass Rate Over Expected (PROE) figures both overall and in the red zone. And both teams even have issues with running back health entering this game.

The Browns will be without Nick Chubb after he spent the week on the reserve/COVID-19 list. D’Ernest Johnson will get the start, and while he’s a downgrade from Chubb as a pure runner, he posted an impressive 146 rushing yards on 22 carries in his other 2021 start, a Week 7 win over the Broncos. He’s mostly backed up Chubb in the two weeks since, and should be fresh against New England’s strong rush defense.

The bigger discussion point for the Browns right now is everything surrounding the release of Odell Beckham. Their decision to move on is fairly straightforward, but the open discussion about whether their offense is better without him is a fascinating dynamic. Over the past couple weeks, we’ve had anonymous comments from people inside the building that suggest they believe there is truth to this, and that Baker Mayfield in particular tended to press and try to force things to Beckham.

The offense looked fantastic last week in their first game without Beckham since Week 2, dismantling a solid Bengals defense en route to a 41-16 win. A big part of that win was their ability to run the ball and then throw off it with play action, and Chubb ripped off a 70-yard touchdown which is an element you’re not likely to get from the more workmanlike Johnson. Mayfield only threw 21 times, but he spread the ball around, targeting Jarvis Landry five times and no one else more than three. That was a positive note, as a key thing we’ve seen him do more, and to success, with Beckham out of the lineup.

Mac Jones had a similar Week 9 for New England, throwing just 18 times in a 24-6 win over Carolina. The Patriots are suddenly looking like a potential contender in the wide-open AFC, rattling off three straight wins after a 2-4 start. That was really only a slow start on paper, though, as they lost by two to the Buccaneers, by six in overtime to the Cowboys, and by one way back in Week 1 to the Dolphins as their one “bad” loss. Their fourth and only uncompetitive loss was 28-13 to the Saints back in Week 3, and they’ve looked like a much better team since.

But they may be without either or both of lead running back Damien Harris and rookie upstart Rhamondre Stevenson, both of whom suffered concussions in Week 9 and didn’t practice all week. Harris and Stevenson combined for 25 of New England’s 39 rush attempts last week, and if either or both miss this one, Brandon Bolden and JJ Taylor will likely see the bulk of the work. Much like Cleveland, that may not be as big of a deal as it seems, because both teams have well-designed rushing attacks behind good offensive lines. Still, in a tough matchup, you’d like to have your best players available.

The Patriots are the slight home favorites in a matchup that could wind up having major implications in the AFC, although they are 1-4 at home so far this year. Bill Belichick always gameplans well, but the Browns have a multi-faceted attack without clear weapons to try to contain. Mayfield has faced Belichick just once in his career, a 27-13 loss in 2019 where he didn’t play particularly well. But that was Tom Brady’s final year with the Patriots, and the win brought New England to 8-0, while the loss dropped that Cleveland team under former coach Freddie Kitchens down to 2-5, so those were different times.

I like the Browns here. This should be a close game that will come down to execution, but the Browns are to me the better team, and one of the few that can say they are probably better on both lines than New England. I expect both teams to feel each other out in the early going, looking for their opportunities to find big plays. I’m buying the trends that back up the talk of Beckham’s release being addition by subtraction, and I think the Browns will ultimately make more plays when it counts to win this one.

Cleveland Browns vs New England Patriots Pick

Article Author


Ben knows his football. A fantasy football expert who was most recently seen at CBS Sports, he'll be helping bettors find value ahead in the NFL with OddsChecker.


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