Both teams are facing a must-win situation in Week 9 as the 2-6 Denver Broncos take on the 2-5 Cleveland Browns. Kickoff is at 4:25 EST on Sunday, November 3 at Empower Field in Denver. Fans throughout the Mountain Time Zone and in AFC North markets will be able to watch the game on CBS.
This line has shifted throughout the week with the Browns now listed as 4-point road favorites. The over/under for the game is set at 39 points. Be sure to check out all of the Week 9 NFL odds.
For a minute, the Broncos had a glimmer of hope, winning back-to-back games against the Chargers and Titans following a 0-4 start. However, losses to the Chiefs and Colts the last two weeks have knocked Denver back to 2-6 at the midway point of the season. Last week, the Broncos again held a lead late in the game, only to lose on a last-second field goal for the third time this season.
If the Broncos have a miracle comeback in them the second half of the season, it has to start now. Denver’s remaining schedule includes four games against teams with winning records, all of which are on the road. If the Broncos can’t improve upon their 1-3 home record this week, there’ll be nothing left to do but start preparing for the 2020 season.
The Browns are in a similar position, having lost three straight games to fall to 2-5 on the season. Cleveland looked like they were for real after a 40-25 road win over the Ravens in Week 4. But they’ve been unable to replicate that performance and now frustration is starting to boil over with Baker Mayfield blowing up at a reporter this past week.
The silver lining for the Browns is that their schedule could open the door for a second-half surge. With two games left against the winless Bengals and two games against the 3-5 Steelers, not to mention the Dolphins and Cardinals still on their schedule, only two of Cleveland’s remaining games are against teams with a winning record, both of which are at home. There’s still a glimmer of hope, but the Browns first need to snap their three-game losing streak.
Neither of these teams seems like a trustworthy pick at this point in the season, but I’ll take my chances with Cleveland. Despite Denver’s propensity for close losses this year, they’ve also lost by more substantial margins and they haven’t played particularly well at home. The Browns hold a little more upside offensively, which is why I think they can score enough points to cover the 4-point spread.
In addition to all of their other problems, uncertainty at quarterback is now an issue for the Broncos. Joe Flacco has been placed on IR with a herniated disk in his neck, prompting former Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen to get his first NFL action outside of the preseason this week. Obviously, Allen is an unknown entity, making it difficult to project how he’ll play and making it tough to lean toward the Broncos in this game.
Allen’s biggest problem is he’ll have the same supporting cast that Flacco had, most notably a dreadful offensive line. Flacco has been sacked 26 times in Denver’s first eight games. Even when the offensive line isn’t allowing sacks, they’re committing drive-stalling penalties. Allen is a little more mobile than Flacco, which should help with a shaky O-line. However, he has no experience and hasn’t even logged that much practice time with the rest of the offense. You can also bet that the Browns will be eager to put pressure on him, especially Myles Garrett, who has 10 sacks this season.
To be fair, the Cleveland offense has plenty of flaws as well. Mayfield is tied for the league lead in interceptions with 12 while throwing just six passing touchdowns this year. Things only seem to be getting worse for Mayfield, who has just two touchdown passes in his last three games to go along with six interceptions and nine sacks during that span. A week ago, the Browns turned it over on three consecutive offensive plays early in the game, and that was coming off a bye week.
On the bright side, the Browns have a productive running game behind Nick Chubb, who is averaging 5.5 yards per carry this year. They also have high-level playmakers in the passing game with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, so the opportunities are there if Mayfield can get things turned around. It should help that the Browns will be facing a Denver defense that has struggled to get sacks and create takeaways during large stretches of the season. They may not be able to feast on all of Cleveland’s shortcomings the way elite defensive teams like the Patriots and 49ers have in recent weeks.
All things considered, there’s too much that can go wrong with the Broncos giving a young quarterback his first start. If Denver’s supporting cast was better, I’d surely take the home underdogs to beat the spread. But I think the Browns have better overall talent, which is why I think they’ll find a way to win and cover.