Week 5 comes to a close with an inter-conference showdown between the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns. Game time is at 8:15 EST on Monday, October 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Oddsmakers list the 49ers as 4-point favorites at home with an over/under of 46.5 points. Be sure to check out a full list of the Week 5 NFL odds.
The Browns had perhaps the most impressive win in the NFL in Week 4, stomping on the Ravens 40-25. That final score is actually kind to the Ravens, who were dominated by Cleveland in almost every area. Coming off a tough loss to the Rams the previous week, it was a game the Browns needed to have, and they responded accordingly.
Of course, it doesn’t get much easier for the Browns, who are on the road for three of their next four games, including a trip to New England at the end of the month. The good news is that last week’s win means that Cleveland is tied with Baltimore atop the AFC North. Based on the first month of the season, this could be a close and competitive division all season. With that in mind, stealing a win on the road this week could be huge for the Browns at season’s end.
As for the 49ers, they had a bye last week, allowing them to remain one of three undefeated teams heading into Week 5. San Francisco’s three wins have come against the Bucs, Bengals, and Steelers, so it’s not the most impressive 3-0 record. However, two of those wins came on the road on the east coast and were won by double digits, so the 49ers have done well to take care of business.
Alas, the 49ers find themselves in what could be the best division in football alongside the 4-1 Seahawks and 3-2 Rams. There is little margin for error if the 49ers want to remain ahead of those teams. It’s vital that they hold serve at home, especially with their road games on top for the next two weeks.
I’m a little torn in this game. On the one hand, San Francisco’s schedule makes me a little skeptical of their undefeated record. On the other hand, the Browns have been a little Jekyll and Hyde this year. In the end, I’m gonna lean toward the home team that’s had two full weeks in between games. The Browns, as we know, are capable of a surprise, but I think San Francisco is the safer pick in this game.
To their credit, the Browns showed just how explosive they can be on offense last week. Nick Chubb has turned into the catalyst for the Cleveland offense, averaging close to 100 yards per game and just over five yards per carry this year. Last week, the Browns also proved that they have weapons in the passing game beyond Odell Beckham Jr., and they’ll add to that group this week when Antonio Callaway returns from suspension.
However, the Cleveland offense is still littered with red flags that make them unreliable from one week to the next. It starts with the offensive line, which most expected to be a problem heading into the season. Despite only allowing one sack last week, the Cleveland O-line has conceded 12 sacks through four games this season. Baker Mayfield has been under pressure for most of the season, which could be part of the reason why he’s thrown six interceptions in four games, which is yet another red flag for the Cleveland offense.
More importantly, the 49ers should have a defense that can take advantage of those flaws. The San Francisco defensive line is loaded with former 1st-round picks and has plenty of depth. After accumulating nine sacks in three games, they should be licking their chops to go against the Cleveland offensive line. The 49ers have also been good at stopping the run this year, so there’s a good chance they can keep Chubb contained and force Mayfield to beat them. Remember, the more times Mayfield has to drop back, the more opportunities the 49ers have to get sacks and create takeaways.
In fairness, the 49ers haven’t exactly excelled at ball security, specifically their five turnovers against the Steelers in their last game. However, that’s surely something that has been addressed during the bye week. While Jimmy Garoppolo has been a little up and down and loose with the ball at times, the 49ers are winning at the offensive line. They’ve conceded just two sacks in three games and are averaging 175 rushing yards per game.
That could be a big problem for a Cleveland defense that’s getting gashed on the ground on a regular basis. Even in last week’s win, the Browns gave up 173 rushing yards. If the 49ers can take advantage of such a porous run defense, it should open things up for big plays from Garoppolo in the passing game.
All things considered, it’s tough to trust Cleveland given their issues stopping the run and protecting the passer. Going on the road against a team that looks capable of exploiting both of those flaws doesn’t seem like a winning combination. I’ll eat the points and take my chances with the 49ers being able to cover at home.