USA Today Sports
Cleveland Browns (2-5) vs. Denver Broncos (2-6)
Where: Empower Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
When: 4:25 PM EST – Sunday, November 3rd
Weather: About 50 degrees, sunny, winds 5-10 mph
Last Meeting: December 15, 2018 – Browns won 17-16
Betting Line: Browns -3.5; O/U 39.5
In a battle of struggling teams, the Browns visit Denver needing a win. The harsh reality of a 2-5 start has set in and many fans have taken to Twitter to voice their displeasure, particularly with head coach Freddie Kitchens. Cleveland must go 7-2 the rest of the way to have a winning record and a reasonable chance at a wild card berth. Even 7-2 might not be enough, but all this fanbase asks for is a team that can win consistently. Sitting 3 games behind Baltimore for the division lead, the Browns can also take advantage of a much easier November schedule compared with a difficult schedule for Baltimore.
Meanwhile, Denver was never a team with playoff aspirations or as much hype as the Browns coming into 2019, but have had a disappointing season nonetheless. After defeating the Chargers and Titans to get to 2-4, Denver was blown out at home against the Chiefs and suffered a heartbreaking loss in Indianapolis last week on an Adam Vinatieri 51-yard field goal. Also, winter came early in Colorado, but luckily this game will be played in sunshine and not a snowstorm.
Storyline to watch: Denver’s 3rd-string quarterback Brandon Allen is making his first career start on Sunday. The Broncos are excited about Allen’s mobility as compared to previous quarterbacks, so look for a lot of QB runs if the Browns can bring pressure. Philip Lindsay will likely see a lot of carries as well, so the Browns’ front 7 can expect a busy day.
Injury Report: For the Browns, safeties Eric Murray and Damarious Randall are out for Sunday’s game. TE Pharaoh Brown has a concussion and has not practiced this week, so he will likely be out on Sunday. Both Odell (groin) and Jarvis Landry (shoulder) were limited in practice this week but will likely play. OT Kendall Lamm is questionable with a knee injury. For Denver, CB Bryce Callahan (foot), TE Jeff Heuerman (knee), OT Ja’Wuan James (knee) and S Will Parks (hand) will be out for Sunday’s game. Joe Flacco’s herniated disk in his neck will be leading to Brandon Allen’s start. Von Miller (knee) practiced fully on Friday and is expected to play on Sunday.
Stopping the run: Brandon Allen is known for his mobility and Philip Lindsay is a weapon in the backfield for Denver. Lindsay has 492 yards and an average of 4.5 yards per carry on the season, so he can be contained, but stopping Lindsay and Royce Freeman will be essential on Sunday. The Browns have given up 143.3 rush yards per game, 4th-most in the NFL.
Baker Mayfield: The Browns’ QB is undoubtedly in a sophomore slump. While his yardage numbers are roughly the same pace as last season, his touchdown passes are way down and he leads the NFL with 12 interceptions thrown. The “interception” against New England perfectly sums up the Browns’ season thus far. The Broncos give up the 4th-fewest passing yards per game (194.8) and are tied for 3rd-fewest passing touchdowns allowed (6). Baker once again needs to play mistake-free football.
In other Baker news, he walked out of his Wednesday press conference after probably once of the worst questions ever by beat reporter Tony Grossi. Baker was explaining the Browns’ decision to play conservatively in the last 2 minutes of the first half which led Grossi to ask if Baker was “happy with the drive.” The QB responded with “No, we didn’t score points. That’s the dumbest question you could ask.” As a lifelong Cleveland fan, I have long noticed that the Browns have the worst beat reporting of the 3 major professional teams by far.
OBJ and Landry need more production: The Browns got a lot of hype this year from having both OBJ and Jarvis Landry at wide receiver. However, the duo has combined for just 1 touchdown through the first 7 games. Some fans may argue that Freddie Kitchens’ playcalling hasn’t allowed them to show their full potential, which is somewhat true. However, Cleveland needs their star receivers to step up and find the end zone.
Denzel Ward is back: The Browns’ other 2018 1st-round pick returned from injury last Sunday and had a strong game. Ward defended 2 passes, nearly intercepting one of them (he should have had that pick in the 1st quarter). In the 2nd quarter, Ward blocked a field goal to keep the score at 17-7. Ward looked good in his return last Sunday and if he stays healthy and continues to play well, the Browns will get a major benefit on defense.
Score Prediction: The Browns SHOULD win this game, but I do not expect a complete blowout either. Cleveland wins by a score of 24-13.