Cleveland at Tampa Bay
Time: NOON CT
Spread: TB -3.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Cleveland Browns have gone a surprising 2-3-1 thus far, and it recently dealt running back Carlos Hyde to clear the way for rookie Nick Chubb. The Browns lost 14-38 to the Chargers last week, and this week it travels to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers as 3.5-point underdogs. The over/under is set at 52 points, according to NFL oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
Ultimately, Cleveland felt that leading-rusher Carlos Hyde was inhibiting Chubb without any of the results desired. Hyde carried 114 times but averaged just 3.4 yards-per-attempt, while Chubb has managed just 16 attempts but already racked up 178 yards and two touchdowns. His yards-per-attempt is 10.8 per, and he has two rushes for 20-plus yards. Even backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor fared better than Hyde, with 7.8 yards-per-attempt and three rushes for 20-plus.
The Browns might have dealt an effective running back in Hyde, but the team figures to only improve with Chubb now seeing the majority of the touches, and it will open things up for Duke Johnson Jr of Miami, too. Johnson has rushed for 111 yards on 19 attempts with five first downs, but he has not received many red zone looks and that figures to be an area that he could eventually excel in. The Browns are a continually evolving team, and the best part may be that it solved its “revolving door” issue at quarterback.
Rookie QB Baker Mayfield has thrown for 1,076 yards but completed just 55.6 percent of his passes and has thrown more INTs (5) than TDs (4). Improvement will come, but the Browns are pleased to be just one game under .500 with so many things that can easily be adjusted to improve outcomes. Fixing its backfield situation was first, but Mayfield simply needs more experience, and he will get better. Jarvis Landry has caught 31 of 67 targeted passes for a team-best 392 yards and a touchdown.
The Browns also have David Njoku and Rashard Higgins with 200-plus yards on the season, but the team has only scored six passing TDs thus far, while having scored eight via the rush. If one were to guess, it would probably figure that the Browns turn its attention to the rush game given the 4.6 yard-per-carry average while Hyde was mediocre as the main ball carrier. The trade definitely signals a change in the attack for Cleveland, and it will be a couple seasons probably before this team is anything near a contender. That outlook is far better than the hapless one the team possessed a year ago, though, and Browns fans are excited to have a competitive team. One step at a time…
Tampa Bay is 2-3 thus far on the season, but it has lost its last three matchups. Losses to Pittsburgh, Chicago and Atlanta, put a damper on the 2-0 start the team managed when it knocked off the Saints and Eagles in Weeks 1 and 2.
The Bucs rank No. 1 in the league in passing yardage (368.4) but sport the third-worst rush offense at just 79.8 yards per game. It still possesses a top-10 offense (no. 8), but its defense has been horrid in giving up 34.6 per game and ranking No. 32 in the league.
Jameis Winston is not a captain, but he regained his starting role. Ryan Fitzpatrick started the season strong, and he has 1,356 yards and 11 TD passes with five interceptions. But the fourth-year Winston is the team’s real future. Last outing he threw 30 of 41 for completion with 395 yards and four touchdowns, though he did throw two interceptions. Winston rushed another five times for 29 yards, including a long-rush of 11-yards. Last season, Winston threw for 1,605 yards at a 61.4 percent completion ratio, but this year he is already at 75.4 percent. That is unsustainable, but the Buccaneers would likely prefer to move forward with a project like Winston than win games with a stop-back like Fitzpatrick.