By Charles Jay
Okay, here’s the situation – the Cleveland Browns, who were embarrassed by the Tennessee Titans in Week 1, have come back with a win over the pathetic New York Jets, a home loss to the Los Angeles Rams in which they showed great resilience despite missing a number of secondary people, and a road victory in Baltimore.
That Ravens team ran the ball a lot. And now the Browns have had to take the trip to the West Coast, where they will take on the San Francisco 49ers, who run the ball even more than Baltimore does.
The game time at Levi’s Stadium is 8:15 PM ET, and remember that as ESPN is showing it, BetAnySports customers will have a chance to place wagers in real time after the kickoff as they take advantage of what Live Betting Ultra has to offer.
For what it’s worth, the Niners are one of only two unbeaten teams left in the NFL (New England is the other). And San Francisco is off a bye week.
The thing we notice about these 49ers is that they have really placed an emphasis on the ground game, which has been the precise intention of head coach Kyle Shanahan. And if you remember all of his father’s offenses in Denver, they always seemed to have a no-name running back gaining a lot of yards.
Well, in the absence of Tevin Coleman (who incidentally, is expected back tonight), they have done that with the likes of Matt Breida (5.5 ypc) and Raheem Mostert (5.9 ypc). So they are stacked in the backfield. They run it at a more frequent clip than anyone, and according to the metrics people over at Football Outsiders, they are #1 in the league in Adjusted Line Yards and “2nd Level Yards,” which essentially encompasses what happens when the running back gets beyond the first level of the defense.
Whether Jimmy Garoppolo is the “second coming” or not is still up to debate, as he’s thrown four interceptions but averaged almost nine yards an attempt. So yes, he can go down the field. And when the ground game is working, it opens stuff like that up.
In the Monday night football betting odds that have been posted on this game pursuant to WagerWAR, the Niners are favored at home:
San Francisco 49ers -5
Cleveland Browns +5
Over 48 points -110
Under 48 points -110
One of the worries the Niners have to have is how to deal with Odell Beckham Jr. on the outside. To cover him they will be using Emmanuel Moseley, an undrafted rookie last year who has just a handful of snaps in the NFL and is making his first start as a pro. This was necessitated by the foot injury sustained by Ahkello Witherspoon against Pittsburgh. What will the Browns do to exploit all this?
And what can the Niners do to counter it? They have a potentially fierce pass rusher in Nick Bosa, and Cleveland’s left tackle, Greg Robinson, a disappointment in the NFL even since being the second player picked in the draft, is a potential weak spot at the left tackle spot.
And the Browns remain banged up in their own secondary, as they could be playing without cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams. But they haven’t been severely handicapped by all that over the last couple of games.
It’s been very difficult to get San Francisco’s offense off the field over the first three games. They have gone three-and-out only 6% of the time, and these are the kinds of things that will help them in the field position battle.
A couple of things that need to be noted here are that San Francisco has played a soft early schedule, so don’t take their numbers and run over the goal line with them, so to speak. And when it comes to big-play threats out of the backfield, Cleveland’s Nick Chubb has everyone on the Frisco side beat. Joe Staley, the All-Pro tackle, is out for the Niners, and Justin Skule, a rookie sixth-round draft pick, will be tasked with dealing with Myles Garrett. So good luck with that – the Niners will be using undrafted and sixth-round youngsters to deal with the Browns’ two best players.
Under the circumstances, and while we think there is a fair amount of value getting more than a field goal, we like the idea of taking a shot with the money line, where Cleveland checks in at +185. That’s our direction, as WagerWAR continues.
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