The clash between the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Chargers is shaping up to be a huge matchup to spot. At the face of it, it’s a battle between 3-1 teams jockeying for positioning in the AFC. At the crux of it, it’s a scintillating glimpse into the future of the game as NextGen quarterbacks, Baker Mayfield and Justin Fields, face off in a marquee showdown. Books opened as a pick’em on the NFL odds board, but the line moved up to a high of 2½ points with several sportsbooks as soon as the market doors opened, prancing opportunely in favor of the hosts.
|Game: Cleveland Browns (3-1) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-1)
Location: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood
Date: Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021
Time: 4:05 p.m. ET
|Cleveland Browns||+2 -110||+110||47 -110o|
|Los Angeles Chargers||-2 -110||-130||47 -110u|
This is the first meeting between the Cleveland Browns and the Los Angeles Chargers in their current form. It’s the first head-to-head between Baker Mayfield and Justin Herbert, two of the most exciting NextGen quarterbacks in the league. As well, it’s the first time second-year head coach Kevin Stefanski and first-year head coach Brandon Staley match wits.
Next game: vs. Arizona Cardinals
The Cleveland Browns are a solid 3-1 on the season, but with wins over the Houston Texans, Chicago Bears, and Minnesota Vikings, the jury is out. All these opponents are amongst the league’s stragglers, carrying next to no expectations in the broad spectrum of the season. The Texans began 2021 as the no-hoper in Super Bowl 56 betting, while the Bears and Vikings were amongst the pretenders and longshots, tipped somewhere in between the middle and the bottom of the pack.
The Browns are in a good spot behind a 3-1 record, but they’ve yet to get the validation of beating a quality opponent. The only quality team Sefanski’s side faced so far was Kansas City in Week 1. Alas, it didn’t go well. The Browns lost that game 33-29, underscoring some of these reservations.
Winning is important, but so too is the quality of a win. Not only have the Browns not beaten a team of note, but they struggled to beat their inferior opponents too. They didn’t have an easy go of it against the Texans, and they struggled offensively against the Vikings. It was revealed this week that Mayfield is nursing a shoulder injury. That explains why the passing game was stunted last week. At the same time, it also raises concerns about Cleveland’s chances against the Chargers this Sunday. Whether Mayfield will be up for the task and fit enough to keep up with Herbert, never mind lead the Browns to victory.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield (shoulder) is questionable, along with line-backer Tony Fields II, cornerback Denzel Ward (neck), center JC Tretter (lower body), and tackle Jack Conklin (knee). Defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney (elbow) and Myles Garrett (knee) are probable, while tackle Chris Hubbard (tricep) is out for Sunday’s game.
Los Angeles Chargers
Next game: at Baltimore Ravens
A week after leading the Chargers to the impressive 30-24 win over the AFC West champions Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, Justin Herbert led the Chargers to a pivotal 28-14 win over another division rival, the previously undefeated Las Vegas Raiders. The Chargers improved to a 3-1 record and a 2-0 record in the AFC West.
The moment Herbert took to the field for the first time in his NFL debut against the Chiefs in Week 2 of the 2020 season, it was obvious he was something special. His talent, poise, skill, and pocket awareness were undeniable, and while the Bolts finished 7-9-0, Chargers nation just knew the future was bright.
Few preseason NFL predictions had the future arriving quite so soon, but now that it has, it seems enormously fitting. It seems right that Herbert would give Patrick Mahomes a run for his money, if only for the sake of parity in the AFC West and wider NFL. It seems right that Herbert would show up Derrick Carr as the lesser signal-caller of the two the other day if only to bring the Raiders quarterback back down to earth.
How far Herbert can go? Well, the sky’s the limit. As far as 2021 is concerned, it remains to be seen. There’s a long way to go, but the early prognosis is encouraging. His advantage, over and above his individual talent, is the winning product around him. Not every quarterback is so lucky to start on a team that is playoff-ready. He has a solid offensive line, a stout supporting cast on defense, and, not least of all, a passionate, young head coach in Staley, who is as inspiring and humble as he’s a brilliant tactician.
Safety Derwin James Jr. (shoulder), cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (shoulder), line-backer Drue Tranquill (llness), running back Austin Ekeler (ankle), and wide receiver Keenan Allen (ankle) are all probable. Running back Justin Jackson (groin) is doubtful, while cornerback Ryan Smith (upper body) and defensive tackle Justin Jones (calf) are both questionable.
Betting on the Game
Books opened this game on a pick’em before the public bet it up to a high of 2½ points, clearly demonstrating a lack of agreement with the initial presentation. The problem with a pick’em line is the fact that it technically suggests the Browns are the better team, good enough at least to negate the Chargers’ home-field advantage, and the customary field-goal point spread that is normally awarded to home teams in a matchup between two good teams. Suppose, the public wasn’t buying such an assessment.
Now, the Chargers’ home advantage is suspect, seeing as they’ve only recently moved into Inglewood. That was evinced last week when the Raiders seemed to get more support at SoFi Stadium than the Chargers did. However, with Herbert’s star on the rise, his popularity growing, and with each big scalp he notches, the fans are sure to get behind Herbert and the Chargers. SoFi stadium may not be a home fortress for the Chargers yet, but it will be in the near future.
In any event, Mayfield’s injury, Cleveland’s offensive struggles, and the absence of quality wins are other reasons that might turn the tide of betting toward the Chargers to both win and cover at home.Mayfield has yet to face a defense as good as the Chargers. Equally, the Browns defense hasn’t faced a quality quarterback since Week 1, and that didn’t go their way.
Everything the Browns appear to be right now is built on the back of wins against inferior teams. This matchup will tell us more about where the Browns really stack up in the field of hopefuls. There’s no doubting the Chargers are the real deal. The only question is whether they can sustain their form over the course of an 18-week season. For now, though, the Chargers have to be the best NFL pick against the spread at -2. If you can find the Chargers at -1, even better.
Betting the favorite on the moneyline seldom offers much value, but because books have tipped this game on a tight point spread, the moneyline odds are quite attractive. Here too the Chargers are worth the tickle as the -130 bet to win straight up.
Finally, this game could potentially turn into a blowout win for the Chargers if Mayfield isn’t 100% fit. Alternatively, if the Cleveland quarterback is good to go, it could turn into a scoring fest. The total opened around 46 points but ticked up to 47 points since Sunday. It’s still low enough for the over to cash in either of these scenarios.