Cleveland @ Dallas
Recommended Wager: DAL -4.5
Cleveland Browns: (Week 9 bye)
-RB Kareem Hunt (groin) is QUESTIONABLE, but will play.
-LG Joel Bitonio (back) did not practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday/Friday. He is QUESTIONABLE.
-LB Jacob Phillips (knee) was INACTIVE weeks 2 and 3. He returned to practice this week for the first time since the injury as limited. He is QUESTIONABLE.
-DE Adrian Claybord (hip) is OUT after not practicing all week.
-DE Oliver Vernon (abdomen) was INACTIVE weeks 2 and 3. He returned to practice this week for the first time since the injury as limited. He is QUESTIONABLE.
-CB Greedy Williams (shoulder) was INACTIVE weeks 1 – 3. He is OUT for week 4. He was limited in practice prior to weeks 3 and 4.
-CB Denzel Ward (groin) was injured week 3. He did not practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday/Friday. He is QUESTIONABLE.
IR: TE David Njoku (knee), DT Andrew Billings (opt out), K JoJo Natson (ACL – season ending)
Dallas Cowboys: (Week 10 bye)
-LT Tyron Smith (neck) was INACTIVE weeks 2 and 3. He will return week 4.
IR: TE Blake Jarwin (knee), T La’el Collins (hip — season ending), T Cam Erving (knee), LB Sean Lee (sports hernia), LB Leighton Vander Esch (collerbone), CB Maurice Canady (opt out)
Line watching: The line has made some very insignificant jumps between 4 and 5 throughout the week. The model grabbed it Tuesday night at 4.5, and it currently sits at 4.
The Browns were an interesting offense to watch heading into the season, and even after 3 games, questions still remain. Everyone is aware of their talent, but the question was if a new coaching staff could actually make use of it. They were understandably shut out by a dominant Ravens defense week 1, where they were held to 6 points. In week 2, they equally understandably dominated a horrible Bengals defense by putting up 35. In week 3, we saw them put up 34 against a Washington defense that has holes in the secondary, but dominant up front. This week they’ll have another relatively easy test against Dallas.
Baker Mayfield’s first two games went exactly how you’d expect, and his third game was a more pedestrian effort. He struggled under pressure, but was still able to complete 69.6% of his passes and gain 6.8 yards per attempt. His favorite receivers have been Odell Beckham Jr (22 targets), Jarvis Landry (13), Austin Hooper (10), and Kareem Hunt (10). Beckham has only cause half of his targets with 1 drop, which says Mayfield and OBJ are still having communication issues. Jarvis Landry is, yet again, a sure handed slot option (he’s caught 12 of his 13 targets), where Hooper and Hunt are the check down options. The offensive line has been phenomenal — the offseason additions of Jack Conklin (former Titan) and Jedrick Wills Jr (10th overall in the draft) have both played well. The backfield combination of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt is one of the best in football.
Despite giving up point totals of 38, 30, and 20, the Browns defense is doing well in both football outsiders DVOA metric and PFF grades. Myles Garrett has been a dominant force off the edge — his 19 pressures are 2nd only to Aaron Donald. Behind Garrett has been more mediocrity, but they could potentially get Oliver Vernon (abdomen, questionable) back after missing 2 games. On the inside, Larry Ogunjobi and Jordan Elliot have played well against the run, where Sheldon Richardson provides an interior pass rushing threat. The problem is the linebacking core has been awful, and the secondary is banged up. CB Greedy Williams hasn’t played a game this season and is again out, where top CB Denzel Ward is very questionable after injuring his groin last week.
After struggling week 1 against the Rams, the Cowboys offense has put together back to back games which is much more in line with what we’d expect. Dak Prescott is completing 67.1% of his passes, gaining 8.3 yards per attempt, and has a sky high 86.8 PFF grade. His options on who to throw to are essentially limitless, with Amari Cooper (34 targets), rookie slot receiver CeeDee Lamb (21), RB Zeke Elliot (30), TE Dalton Schultz (30), and WR Michael Gallup (16) leading the way. Zeke has, as expected, been efficient on the ground, gaining 5.4 yards per attempt. The problem has, surprisingly, been the offensive line. The Cowboys do get a big boost this week with LT Tyron Smith returning, but that’s only part of the problem. They lost RT La’el Collins for the season, and have struggled to replace him. Undrafted rookie Terence Steele has been the primary option, and he’s struggled immensely, evident by his 50.1 PFF grade. Last week the Cowboys flirted with moving dominant RG Zach Martin over to tackle, and he held up fairly well. I’d consider doing the same this week if they don’t want Myles Garrett to be living rent free in the backfield.
The Cowboys defense has been an interesting story so far. I’d expect Demarcus Lawrence and Everson Griffen to be a solid pass rushing combo, but both have struggled. Lawrence has only 6 pressures to start the year, where Griffen sits at 9. The bright spot has been Aldon Smith, who hasn’t played since 2015 — he’s easily been their best pass rusher and has 13 pressures. The linebackers are again a problem since they lost both Sean Lee and Leighton Vander Esch (again). The corners have also been terrible — Darly Worley has arguably been the best of the 3 and QBs have a rating of 110.4 when targeting him. I’m hoping Lawrence and Griffen can step their game up to make life somewhat uncomfortable for Mayfield, because I don’t have a ton of confidence that the back end can keep up with the Browns receivers.
That’s it for now, bitches.