Browns (2-2) vs. 49ers (3-0)
Where: Levi’s Stadium – Santa Clara, CA
When: 8:15 PM EST, Monday, October 7th
Weather: Around 85 degrees and sunny at kickoff
Last Meeting: December 13, 2015 – Browns won 24-10
Betting Line: 49ers -4; O/U 46.5
The Browns are coming off of their biggest win of the year last week with a 40-25 win in Baltimore, pushing Cleveland to 1st place in the AFC North. Last week’s performance was the best game the Browns played of the season and was much needed to calm concerns among fans. Nick Chubb was by far the MVP of week 4, rushing for 165 yards on 20 carries and 3 touchdowns. San Francisco is undefeated coming into this matchup, albeit winning against teams with a combined record of 3-9. The 49ers have given up 283.3 yards per game, the 3rd-fewest in the league.
Storyline to watch: Nick Chubb can be a one-man wrecking crew at runningback. The 49ers allow the 5th-fewest rushing yards with 75.0 yards per game allowed. Chubb will be an essential feature for the Browns’ offense if they want to beat San Francisco. How much Freddie Kitchens relies on the run will be important to watch in this game.
Injury Report: Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams will likely miss another game with hamstring injuries as neither participated in practice this week. Additionally, Christian Kirksey will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery for a torn pectoral muscle. Injuries to Ward and Kirksey have been an unfortunate trend as both have tremendous potential on the field. On the offensive side of the ball, the Browns received good news as Jarvis Landry was cleared from concussion protocol on Friday. Rashard Higgins may be getting close to a return from his knee injury as he was a limited participant in practice this week. Defensive backs Morgan Burnett and Sheldrick Redwine were limited participants in practice with their respective injuries.
For the 49ers, the injury report is much shorter, as both Nick Bosa and DB Jimmie Ward were taken off the injury report and will play on Monday. Dee Ford is questionable but may miss Monday’s game with a quadriceps injury and knee tendinitis. The 49ers’ Week 4 bye helped them become healthier for this Monday Night matchup.
Return of Callaway: Antonio Callaway returns from a 4-game suspension this week. With OBJ being a prime target and heavily covered on many plays, Callaway has the opportunity to make some plays on the field this week. Last year, Callaway caught 43 passes for 586 yards and 5 touchdowns during a solid rookie campaign.
Stopping Jimmy G: Jimmy Garoppolo has had fairly modest stats despite being 3-0 to start the season. Garoppolo has completed 69.0% of his passes for an average of 246 yards per game. He has thrown 5 touchdowns and 4 interceptions on the season. The Browns’ secondary has been strong despite injuries and they have allowed the fewest passing yards of any defense the 49ers have faced this year. If Garoppolo remains turnover-prone, the Browns will take advantage.
The Punting Game: Jamie Gillan has been solid for the Browns this year, with only 19 return yards on his 20 punts through four games. Cleveland goes into Monday Night’s matchup with a big advantage in punting, and field position could be important in a game I see unfolding as a defensive struggle.
Steve Wilks’ System: Outside of the opener against Tennessee, the Browns have been fantastic defensively. Steve Wilks’ system is clearly working with the younger players, as 2nd and 3rd-string defensive backs and linebackers have stepped in to effectively stop the Rams and Ravens. Myles Garrett looks as good as ever with 6.0 sacks and Larry Ogunjobi is quietly having a great start, adding 3.0 sacks for the Browns. Joe Schobert leads the defense with 27 tackles on the season, as he continues to solidify his Pro Bowl status. This defense looks much better than Gregg Williams’ defense of the past 2 seasons.
Score Prediction: A defensive battle, but Baker (who I haven’t mentioned in this article yet) has a game-winning touchdown drive in the 4th quarter. This is just a hunch. 17-14 Browns.
Staff Predictions: Jakob Rosati – 31-21 Browns; Chi Okare – 31-21 Browns; Braden Wagle – 27-24 Browns; Austin Wodock – 28-24 49ers