Cleveland at San Francisco
Time: 7:15 PM CST, ESPN
Spread: SF -5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The San Francisco 49ers are off to a hot start at 3-0. It defeated Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh in its first three games, and now it hosts the visiting Cleveland Browns (2-2) as 5-point favorites according to NFL oddsmakers at 5dimes. The over/under is set at 47 total points and the game will kick off at 7:15 PM CST on ESPN.
Jimmy Garoppolo, despite some blemishes, has been very good so far. He has four interceptions, which hurt, but he has thrown 69 percent for completion while averaging 249.3 passing yards per game. He has not been a rush threat with 12 attempts for nine yards total, but the 49ers top-two running backs are getting the job done. Matt Breida averages 5.5 yards-per-attempt and Raheem Mostert has rushed for 5.9 yards per. Both have over 200-yards on the season and neither has scored a TD. All four rushing TDs for the Niners have come from No. 3 running back Jeff Wilson Jr, who has just 18 attempts for 52 yards but gets the looks when the Niners get in the red zone.
Garoppolo’s top receiving targets have been Tight end George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Marquise Goodwin. Kittle leads the team in both receptions (17) and yards (165) but he has not scored a TD yet. Samuel, Goodwin, and Mostert have all caught TD passes. Mostert has just four catches for 68 yards, but he is the top backfield option for pass plays.
San Francisco has all the talent at the skill positions to maintain its hot start, but few seem ready to grant that possibility quite yet. San Francisco has played mostly mediocre opponents and is lucky to find itself 5-point favorites against a Browns team that was supposed to be much improved in its own right.
The Cleveland Browns are 2-2 on the season but a perfect 2-0 on the road as it looks to improve to 3-0 on the road in 2019. It defeated the Baltimore Ravens 40-25 last week, but many expected much more than “.500” from this Browns team. Will it get it together fast enough in this season?
Quarterback Baker Mayfield has had his bumps thus far. He has thrown four TDs but already has six interceptions, and he is completing just 59 percent of his looks. The 286.8 yards per game stand nice by itself, but the inaccuracies and interceptions are a dark enough cloud over the otherwise solid performances. Mayfield also is not a threat rushing. He has four attempts for a net gain of 0 yards, and the Browns are entirely reliant on the work of running back Nick Chubb for its rush attack. Chubb has 78 of the team’s 94 carries and averages 5.1 yards-per-attempt. He also has four of the six rushing touchdowns, with the other two coming from Dontrell Hilliard who has rushed just seven times this season.
Cleveland’s top-two receivers have had a field day. Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. form a strong 1-2 punch at receiver and both have over 300 receiving yards on the season with 18 and 21 catches, respectively. Chubb has caught 14 passes for 99 yards out of the backfield, performing a role not quite equal to, but very similar, to what Alvin Kamara does in New Orleans. The difference is that Cleveland has the talent at other positions to spread out and diversify its attack more.
The reliance on developing Mayfield has merit in its own right, though. It is just that this team had the bar set awfully high in 2019, and even going 2-2 hardly satiates the high demand for improvement. The fact that many of the hopes for brighter days depend on Mayfield, though, means this may take time to reach the pinnacle pundits are expecting from this Browns team.