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What: Cleveland Browns at San Francisco 49ers
When: Monday Night Football, October 7 at 8:15 pm ET
Where: Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California
How (TV): ESPN
Browns +5, 49ers -5
The fifth Monday Night Football matchup of the NFL’s 100th season promises to be an exciting one, with the rising 2-2 Cleveland Browns traveling west to take on the rejuvenated 3-0 San Francisco 49ers in their home stadium.
The undefeated 49ers are coming off their bye week and are favored to win this game by 5 points, but given who they have beaten so far those odds might be just a bit overblown, whereas the Browns aren’t quite as impressive statistically but they are coming off an impressive blowout of the Baltimore Ravens.
Let’s take a quick look at how these two teams are set up in Week 5.
Also, have a look at the best picks and matchups of week 5.
There is no getting around it, the 2-2 Cleveland Browns looked a bit off offensively during their first three weeks this season, but after watching them dismantle the Baltimore Ravens 40-25 last week with an offense centered around their run game (finally), it can be safe to say that Cleveland is starting to figure themselves out.
Head coach Freddie Kitchens knows that the key to Browns’ wins is to stop forcing Baker Mayfield to perform miracles with triple-teamed Odell Beckham Jr. and instead have the second-year quarterback get rid of the ball quickly and efficiently to the open receivers (like Jarvis Landry) while managing the run game, letting Nick Chubb do all the hard work.
Against Baltimore, the Browns used double tight ends a lot to help their struggling offensive line open up some bigger holes (which they did, big enough to allow Chubb an 88-yard touchdown run), but the question for Week 5 is can they use that same tactic against the 49ers’ beastly d-line?
Read more about the Cleveland Browns 2020 postseason.
The undefeated San Francisco 49ers are coming off an early bye week, which they used to rest up and get healthy, especially in the case of rookie star defensive end Nick Bosa, who used the extra week off to get his sprained ankle healthy again.
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garopolo is finally healthy and though he isn’t playing at the top of his game right now, he is getting the job of running the offense done with efficiency and seems like a potential big playmaker waiting to happen.
San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan, who also serves as the offensive coordinator, has done what he promised to do, which is to turn the 49ers’ offense around using the run game and play-action pass, and his biggest test of the season so far will be against this strong Browns defense on Sunday.
These two teams have met 19 total times (including 0 postseason games), with San Francisco winning 7 of those games and Cleveland winning 12 times.
The last time these two teams played was in December of the 2015 season in Cleveland, where the Browns defeated the 49ers by a score of 24-10 for their third (and final) win of the season.
If the Browns win this matchup, they’ll move to 3-2-0 and continue their rare run at the top of the AFC North, at least a game in front of the Baltimore Ravens and two games ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But if the 49ers come out winners in this one, they’ll stay undefeated and move to 4-0-0 and suddenly there is a legitimate three-way battle for the NFC West with the 4-1 Seattle Seahawks and the 3-2 Los Angeles Rams.
Who’s favored to win this Week 5 Browns-49ers matchup?
Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?
Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?
We’re going to briefly compare the Browns and the 49ers next and attempt to answer those questions and more.
For an overview of Week 5, check out NFL Power Rankings for Week 5.
Passing attack: The Cleveland Browns have the 12th ranked passing offense in the league right now, averaging 265.2 yards per game through the air after four weeks.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield started the season slowly but is finding his way, now the 8th most productive passer in the league having completed 82-of-139 for 1,147 yards and 4 touchdowns with 6 interceptions and a completion percentage of just 59.0.
The Browns leading receiver after four weeks is Jarvis Landry, who is currently T-12th in the league with 18 catches for 328 yards but no touchdowns.
Rushing attack: The Browns’ rushing attack is ranked 15th after averaging 115.0 yards on the ground per game.
Running back Nick Chubb is averaging 5.1 yards per carry, ranked 4th among running backs, so far with 78 total carries for 398 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Cleveland has scored 89 total points this season, or 22.2 per game, which is the 15th best total in the 32-team league.
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Listed as questionable for Week 5: wide receivers Rashard Higgins (knee) and Jarvis Landry (concussion), offensive tackles Chris Hubbard (foot) and Kendell Lamm (knee).
Injury notes: tight end David Njoku (wrist) and running back Kareem Hunt (suspension) are listed as OUT, while center Lo Falemaka (shoulder), guard Drew Forbes (knee), fullback Joe Kerridge (concussion), wide receiver D.J. Montgomery (hamstring) and quarterback Drew Stanton (knee) have all been placed on injured reserve.
Passing attack: San Francisco has the 17th best passing attack in the league right now after averaging 246.0 yards through the air each game.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota has completed 58-of-84 passes for 739 yards and 5 touchdowns with 4 interceptions and an impressive completion percentage of 69.0.
The 49ers’ best receiver is tight end George Kittle, who has caught 17 passes for 165 yards but with no touchdowns in four games, ranked 72nd among NFL receivers right now.
Rushing attack: San Francisco has the 2nd ranked rushing attack, so far averaging 175.0 rushing yards per game.
Matt Breida is the 49ers’ best runner and he is currently the 19th best in the NFL with 41 carries for 226 yards and 0 touchdowns, averaging 5.5 yards per carry, with his backfield partner Raheem Mostert, ranked 23rd right now, also getting 34 carries for 202 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
San Francisco has scored 96 points in 2019, averaging 32 per game, which is the 3rd highest average in the league right now.
Listed as questionable for Week 5: running back Tevin Coleman (ankle)
Injury notes: offensive tackle Joe Staley (lower leg) and center Kyle Nelson (suspension) are listed as OUT, tight end Garrett Celek (back) is listed as PUP-R, while running back Jerick McKinnon (knee – ACL), wide receivers Jalen Hurd (back), Shawn Poindexter (knee) and Trent Taylor (foot) and offensive tackles Shon Coleman (ankle) and Andrew Lauderdale (undisclosed) have been placed on the injured reserve list.
The numbers make it obvious that the San Francisco 49ers have the advantage offensively in Week 5, but keep in mind that the Browns started out slow this season and could actually be better offensively than their current stats might indicate.
Pass coverage: The Browns have the 7th best pass defense in 2019 so far, allowing opponents to throw for 215.2 yards through the air per game.
Cleveland’s defense has 4 team picks and they have 14 sacks total.
Read our coverage of “Most NFL Sacks in 2019“.
Run coverage: The Browns are the 21st best NFL team against the run right now after allowing opponents to run for 119.8 yards per game.
Cleveland has allowed their opponents to score 91 total points, or 22.8 per game, which is 15th lowest in the NFL.
One of the league’s top middle linebacker plays for the Cleveland Browns right now, Joe Schobert, who already has 43 tackles (5th most in the league, 3 for a loss), a sack, a quarterback hit, a pass defended and a forced fumble.
The Browns have a quarterback hunting defensive end named Myles Garrett worth watching (check out how fast he gets across the line) who right now has the second-most sacks in the league with 6 of them, plus a forced fumble and 13 tackles.
With the Browns’ two best cornerbacks out with injury (see below), Justin Burris has stepped up and filled in nicely, so far with an interception he returned for 15 yards plus 2 passes defended along with 4 tackles.
Listed as questionable for Week 5: linebacker Willie Harvey (shoulder), cornerbacks Denzel Ward (hamstring) and Greedy Williams (hamstring) and safeties Morgan Burnett (quadriceps) and Sheldrick Redwine (hamstring).
Injury notes: linebacker Christian Kirksey (pectoral) has been placed on injured reserve.
Pass coverage: The 49ers’ defense is 6th against the pass, allowing their opponents to throw for an average of 208.3 yards per matchup.
San Francisco’s defense has 5 interceptions on opposing quarterbacks and they have 9 total sacks after four weeks.
Run coverage: The 49ers are 5th best against a rushing attack, allowing opponents to run for an average of 75 yards per game.
San Francisco has allowed its opponents to score 54 total points this season, or 18 per matchup, which is 8th fewest in the NFL.
The best tackler so far on the 49ers defense is middle linebacker Fred Warner, who has 19 total tackles (1 for a loss), a pass defended and a forced fumble.
Three of the 49ers defensive line have 2 sacks apiece – watch for defensive ends Arik Armstead and Dee Ford and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to get after Baker Mayfield, who sets up behind a notoriously shaky line.
San Francisco has a middle linebacker who can also snag picks, Kwon Alexander already with an interception and 4 passed defended, plus 16 tackles (1 for loss).
Listed as questionable for Week 5: defensive end Dee Ford (quadriceps).
Injury notes: cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (foot) is listed as out, while defensive end Kentavius Street (knee) and cornerbacks Tim Harris (groin) and Jason Berrett (knee) have been placed on injured reserve.
Again, the numbers point to the 49ers’ defense as having been more effective so they technically have the advantage in Week 5, but the Browns’ defense is far better than any of the three that San Francisco has faced so far so this will be an interesting game defensively.
Cleveland’s punter, Jamie Gillan, aka the “Scottish Hammer,” is in his first NFL season and he has punted 20 times so far this season for a net average of 40.6 yards per punt, which is the 25th best in the league.
San Francisco’s punter, Mitch Wishnowsky, is in his first NFL season and so far, he has punted 7 times this season for a net average of 42.3 yards per punt, which is 16th best in the league.
Cleveland’s placekicker, Austin Seibert, is in his first season with the Browns after beating out last year’s starter, Greg Joseph, in the preseason.
Seibert has made 7-of-7 field goals this year, his longest a 48-yarder, and he missed an extra point attempt (8/9).
San Francisco’s placekicker, Robbie Gould, is in his fifteenth NFL season, his third with the 49ers.
Gould has made 6-of-8 field goals so far this season, his longest a 47 yarder, and so far, he has missed zero extra point attempts (10/10).
Cleveland’s punt returner is often wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who is currently ranked T-6th in average punt return yardage.
Landry has returned 4 punts for 48 yards, averaging 12.0 yards per return, his longest for 18 yards.
San Francisco’s punt returner, wide receiver Richie James, is ranked 19th in average punt return yardage this season.
James has returned 7 punts for 57 yards, averaging 8.1 yards per return, his longest for 15 yards.
Both teams have rookie punters and speedy punt returners, but so far the Browns’ rookie field goal kicker hasn’t missed a field goal and the 49ers’ veteran has missed two – special teams advantage goes to the Browns.
The Cleveland Browns will win this one because they are so much better than the last two teams San Francisco has played and beaten, the AFC North basement-dwelling Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals, and the well-rested favorited 49ers, who think wins are a given right now, will be caught completely off guard.
The Browns will only win if their run defense can step up and shut down the 49ers’ excellent two-headed rushing attack as well as get after Garopolo and force him to make ill-advised throws on the run.
The San Francisco 49ers are 5th best in the NFL against the run right now, so to beat them, Nick Chubb and the Browns’ offensive line have to have their biggest game this season, and it wouldn’t hurt if Mayfield could start connecting with OBJ a bit more in this one.
The San Francisco 49ers will win on Sunday because not only are they better rested and a bit healthier than the Cleveland Browns right now, they have also played more productively in the first three weeks, regardless of their opponents.
The 49ers will most likely play in the postseason this year and beating a team like the super-hyped Browns on national television will serve to solidify their reputation as big game-winners.
Jimmy Garopolo is the real deal, and he hasn’t even begun to show the league what he is capable of doing (remember, he sat and studied the GOAT closely for years), so if he can stay healthy he will lead these 49ers to many wins, including this one in Week 5.
The Cleveland Browns by 4, because they are more talented than the San Francisco 49ers on all three sides of the ball and on this nationally televised Monday Night Football telecast, Cleveland will finally begin to flex their growing dominance.
John Breech of CBS Sports predicts the score as Browns 30, 49ers 27.
My prediction for the final score is Browns 34, 49ers 30.
Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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