The Cleveland Browns will try to make it two wins in a row for the first time in forever when they play host to the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 6. Kickoff is at 1:00 EST on Sunday, October 14, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. Fans in certain markets will be able to watch the game on CBS.
The Chargers are listed as 1-point favorites on the road with an over/under of 44.5 points. Click here to check out a full list of this week’s NFL betting odds.
The Browns are ecstatic after last week’s overtime win against the Ravens. As expected, it wasn’t pretty, as it looked like the Browns might give the game away. However, Baker Mayfield and company were able to do just enough to pull out the 12-9 win, a game in stark contrast to the 45-42 shootout they lost the previous week against Oakland.
At 2-2-1, the Browns are in the thick of the AFC North race. If expectations weren’t so low coming off last year’s winless campaign, we’d probably say that there isn’t anything special about this team. However, all of Cleveland’s games have been decided by four points or less. If nothing else, the Browns are giving themselves a chance to win every week.
The Chargers, meanwhile, have won back-to-back games to move to 3-2 on the season. They have successfully avoided the kind of dreadful start to the season that plagued them last season. However, the jury is still out on them. Their two losses have come against the NFL’s two unbeaten teams, but their three wins have come against some of the worst teams in the league.
Los Angeles now enters a stretch in which they play three of their next four games on the road, so we should learn a lot about the Lightning Bolts in the weeks to come. Of course, they’re already two games behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. If the Chargers want to avoid being sucked into a crowded wild-card race, they can’t afford to lose many games, at least until the Chiefs start to look a little more vulnerable.
My inclination is that the Chargers are the better team. However, I think the Browns have a good chance to draw them into a close, low-scoring game that will give Cleveland a chance to win. The Chargers are also playing an early game on the east coast. They handled that situation fine a few weeks ago against the Bills, but this will be a more difficult game. I’ll drink the kool-aid a little and lean toward the Browns as home underdogs.
The Los Angeles offense has easily been the strength of the team this season. The running back tandem of Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler has almost stolen the show from the great season Philip Rivers is having. However, with inconsistency at wide receiver outside of Keenan Allen, the Chargers need a steady running game to make their offense run. If the Browns can slow down the running game, they can slow down the Chargers. The Los Angeles offense can also be a little inconsistent at times. They haven’t always put together four good quarters, which can make it difficult to win on the road.
By the numbers, Cleveland’s defense looks average at best. However, their game against the Raiders a couple weeks ago have skewed those numbers. They were awfully impressive last week playing bend but don’t break defense against the Ravens. Baltimore’s offense looked great heading into that game but was limited to just three field goals.
Also, remember that the Browns limited the high-scoring Saints to just 21 points back in Week 2, so this Cleveland defense is no pushover. The Browns are also a little underrated when it comes to creating takeaways. Rivers has done well to avoid turnovers this year, but that could change at any time given his history.
Admittedly, the Browns need this to be a low-scoring game in order to win. They don’t want Mayfield getting dragged into a shootout as he did a couple weeks ago in Oakland. Obviously, he can make big plays, but he can also be prone to turnovers, especially if the Browns are playing from behind.
Against the Los Angeles defense, the Browns have to worry about Mayfield being harassed by Melvin Ingram and a strong pass rush. Last week against the Raiders, the Chargers did a great job of slowing down the running game and getting pressure on Derek Carr. Of course, that was the first time all season the Chargers held a team under 20 points. If the Browns can keep getting steady production out of running back Carlos Hyde, they should be in good shape and able to put Mayfield in advantageous positions.
All things considered, I think the Browns will find a way to pull out a win. They have two wins and a tie in their three home games, so the Chargers have a difficult road contest ahead of them. I’m just not sold yet on the Chargers based on the teams they’ve beaten. Plus, the Browns have played three overtime games this year, so a tie is on the table. With a tie, Cleveland would still beat the spread, so I’ll lean toward the Browns at home.