7. Will the Browns go over .500?
It’s been four years since the Cleveland Browns were above .500. Thanks to a top-notch defense and revitalized passing attack, they’ll have the chance to start 3-2-1 as the Los Angeles Chargers fly into town for an early Sunday afternoon kickoff.
The stage is set for a critical game for both teams. The Browns need to win to keep their Wild Card and AFC North playoff hopes alive. Each win also will help head coach Hue Jackson justify keeping his job to ownership at the end of the season.
If Jackson doesn’t get to at least six, it would be difficult to imagine he returns.
Meanwhile, the Chargers are essentially in a must-win game on the road, and history doesn’t look kindly on West Coast teams that have to play early on Sunday. They’ve won three of their last four and two-consecutive, but the Browns are better than each of the three teams they’ve beaten.
The Browns have the upper-hand in the trenches on both sides since Joey Bosa is still out for the Chargers. Browns defensive linemen Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi have been an elite pairing this season. They should be effective once again stopping the run and getting to the quarterback as it’s not like the Chargers boast Pro Bowl veterans along their line.
Baker Mayfield should continue to his development this week too despite the Chargers having talent on defense. The Chargers’ secondary has taken a step back despite adding Derwin James and retaining cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Trevor Williams. It’s been a mysterious drop-off for those two.
Mayfield has been good thus far for a rookie. Some of the excitement seems overblown, but his quick release and willingness to throw to anyone have been as effective in the NFL as it was in Oklahoma.
Prediction: Browns 20-17