It’s a matchup of fringe AFC contenders as the Cleveland Browns head to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon. The Browns overcame a rather newsworthy week to get a much-needed win last Sunday while the Patriots are surging, having won three in a row behind capable play from Mac Jones and incredible work from a talented defense.
Browns vs Patriots Betting Lines
|New England Patriots
The Patriots, when they had Tom Brady, did pretty well against the Browns. Since Brady became the New England starter in 2001, the Patriots have gone 7-1 against Cleveland, but the Browns still lead the overall historical record 13-12.
The last time they played was in 2019, when Brady threw for two touchdowns in an easy 27-13 victory in Foxborough. But, now, with Jones under center for Bill Belichick, the Browns could turn the tide in this series.
Next game: vs Lions
The Browns quieted some of their many critics last week by blowing the doors off the suddenly reeling Cincinnati Bengals 41-16. Cleveland used 17 unanswered points in the second quarter to take control of the game and never looked back. Baker Mayfield, playing through a few injuries, was limited but threw for 18 yards and two touchdowns while Nick Chubb ran wild, notching 137 yards and two scores on 14 carries.
Cleveland picked off Joe Burrow twice — once on a Denzel Ward 99-yard touchdown return — en route to easily winning as a road underdog. The Browns almost eclipsed the 48-point over/under total themselves.
Cleveland got some bad news Tuesday morning as both Chubb and fellow running back Demetric Felton tested positive for COVID. Since both are vaccinated, they could play on Sunday if they continue to test negative, but that’s far from a certainty. Kareem Hunt (calf) is still out as is offensive tackle Jack Conklin.
Defensive end Takkarist McKinley (groin) and cornerback Greedy Williams (shoulder) are both day-to-day after suffering injuries against the Bengals. The Browns could be missing a bunch of key players when they take on the Patriots.
New England Patriots
Next game: at Falcons
The Patriots tormented old division foe Sam Darnold last week, picking him off three times (two by J.C. Jackson) and holding Carolina to under 250 yards of total offense in a 24-6 rout. Jones didn’t do much for New England because he didn’t have to as the Patriots got 151 rushing yards (and a score) from their running back group and held the Carolina offense to just a pair of field goals.
They easily covered as 3½-point road favorites, staying undefeated when playing away from Gillette Stadium. The 42-point over/under total was never particularly close to hitting with both defenses playing so well.
New England could also be thin in the offensive backfield, as both Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson are in the concussion protocol and are questionable for Sunday after getting hurt late in the Patriots’ win over the Panthers. James White (hip) is already out for the season so Brandon Bolden and J.J. Taylor could be called upon to get a lot of touches.
Tight end Jonnu Smith (shoulder) and wide receiver/returner Gunner Olszewski (head) also got hurt against Carolina and are questionable. Wide receiver N’Keal Harry was inactive on Sunday with a knee injury and is questionable as well.
Betting on the Game
This game might hinge on the health of each team’s running backs. With Chubb on the field, the Browns have one of football’s top-five best backs and have someone who single-handedly transforms what Cleveland’s offense can do.
The Browns are second in the NFL in rushing yards and first in rushing touchdowns and yards per carry for a reason, so not having Chubb available due to COVID would really hamstring what they can do, especially with Mayfield far from 100 percent.
On the other hand, New England relies a lot on both Harris and Stevenson considering how middle-of-the-pack its passing game has been during Jones’ rookie season. Bolden is a dynamic pass-catcher and Taylor is shifty, but neither can really lead a ground attack themselves. Jones also needs a strong running game to help combat the opposing pass rush because he isn’t particularly mobile.
So, it makes sense that the NFL odds have this game as close to a pick ‘em. The Browns actually opened as 2½ point underdogs on the BetUS Sportsbook but, as the public realized how closely matched these teams are, the line moved down significantly.
Another key factor of this game is going to be turnovers. The Patriots have picked off the most passes in the NFL (13) and rely on turnovers to supplement a lackluster offense. However, for all his faults, Mayfield has done a good job of holding onto the ball.
He has just three interceptions and two lost fumbles on the year, and has been picked off only once since Week 2. As far as NFL predictions go, Mayfield keeping his run of smart decision-making going looks good, even against a ballhawking New England secondary.
If you’re betting online, you should take the under as well. This should be a pretty low-scoring game with two mediocre passing offenses that are missing a ton of key pieces.