The Chargers are welcoming the Cleveland Browns into SoFi Stadium this Sunday for a battle between two 3-1 teams who are both vying for their respective divisional crown. Los Angeles is a 2-point favorite heading into Sunday afternoon while the game’s over/under is set at 47.0, per DraftKings Sportsbook.
Like every week, Matthew, Garrett, and I took to the task of predicting this week’s game along with our thoughts on how we see things playing out.
Let’s get into it!
Michael Peterson: I think in terms of matchups, this is the Chargers’ toughest test of the season. The Browns have one of the most-complete rosters in all of football and it’s that well-roundedness that has allowed them to be 3-1 despite inconsistent play from an injured Baked Mayfield.
Playing with a partially-torn labrum, Mayfield completed less than half his passes against he Vikings this past Sunday while failing to find the end zone. The pressure from Minnesota’s edge-rushing duo of Everson Griffin and Danielle Hunter were key in limiting the passing game and keeping the Browns offense to just 14 points. I like the idea of copying the Vikings’ game plan to a degree as I feel rather confident in that if the Chargers can keep the Browns from scoring more than 14 points as well, that’ll be enough for the Bolts’ offense to take this one.
Of course, while scoring more than 14 points doesn’t sound like that big of an issue, I should clarify that points may be hard to come by against one of the league’s best defenses. Defensive end Myles Garrett leads the NFL in sacks and the secondary is full of young and proven talent with cornerback Denzel Ward and safety John Johnson III. In all, this unit allows just 250.3 yards per game, good for second in the NFL. They’re third in both passing and rushing defense, as well.
I think this game will be as stressful as they come. But in the end, the Chargers continue they’re streak of knocking off top AFC teams and win this one 24-20.
Matthew Stanley: I’m not as confident about this game as I thought I would be following the performance of this team the past few weeks. The two biggest things that have held the Chargers back the most so far has been inconsistency on the offense and the run defense. Well, the Browns run the ball just about as well as anyone in the league with Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and what is probably the best offensive line in the NFL (when healthy)! The Chargers defense did make some large improvements against the run on Monday night vs. the Raiders so we shall see if they can continue that trend with the Cleveland running attack, but I’m not super optimistic.
On the opposite side of the ball, they have probably a top 3 defensive line with super human Myles Garrett, a seemingly rejuvenated Jadeveon Clowney, and Malik Jackson and Malik McDowell on the interior. It seems like almost every week we have been saying “this will be a big test for the Chargers offensive line” and here we are again ... So far the OL has largely passed those tests, but this is probably the biggest test of the year, even more than Week 1.All that said, the Browns injury report looks like what the Chargers injury report normally looks like this time of year. Clowney has yet to practice this week with an elbow injury, right tackle Jack Conklin has been limited with a knee injury, left tackle Jedrick Wills hasn’t practiced at all with an ankle injury, Baker Mayfield isn’t on the injury report but is apparently wearing a shoulder harness due to a partially torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder ... and that’s not even half their injuries. If the Chargers can at least slow down the Browns running game, they win this game. I trust in Brandon Staley to have a game plan together to do just that. I think the Chargers win this 24-20.
Garrett Sisti: This is a bad matchup for the Chargers. The Browns don’t have an explosive offense per se but rather an explosive running game. With Staley’s new scheme to try and goat teams into running the ball, Cleveland will gladly oblige them on Sunday and then some. While Baker Mayfield has struggled passing the ball, whether that’s because of the injury or not, the offense still has not missed a beat with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt carrying the load. The Chargers run defense held Josh Jacobs to 40 yards and will need another strong effort if they want to beat the Browns.
This Cleveland defensive front is good and their pass rushers will be an issue, especially on the right side going against Storm Norton. Last week, the Chargers ran the ball all over Las Vegas late — but with Greg Newsome out, the Chargers will have to air out this week. I think like on Monday night, the Chargers will jump out to an early lead ... Cleveland will mount a comeback but the Chargers will shut the door late and win 24-20.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.