Fabian Sommer returns rested from his bye week as he zones in on a home favourite
The Cardinals are the only unbeaten team, and Kyler Murray justifiably got some MVP hype.
But let’s pump the brakes a little bit for one week.
This is one of the better spots all year, and the market is already accounting for it, moving the Browns from -2.5 towards an expensive three as of this writing on Thursday morning.
Arizona is flying high, and they would still lead the division with a loss. The Browns lost an exciting game last-minute against an AFC juggernaut.
The Cardinals travels to Cleveland with some vital injuries that could turn into a nightmare matchup for them.
It’s supposed to be windy in Cleveland come game time, with roughly 18-19 mph winds and 30-35 mph gusts.
That’s not dramatically bad, but it should have at least a slight impact on the passing & kicking game, which will put more weight on the running game and the trenches matchup.
But it could still change slightly until Sunday, and aside from the weather, I think the trenches matchup will be essential for this game, even when it comes to the passing game with lesser wind speeds.
Arizona will be without former All-Pro center Rodney Hudson and lost TE Maxx Williams for the season.
Hudson is a significant loss, and the absence of Maxx Williams is underrated.
Hudson is not playing at his peak anymore, but he’s one of two offensive linemen in the league that hasn’t given up a single pressure over 100 blocking snaps or more. Hudson is the guy who sets the protection scheme and helps Murray – he’s mastering it.Bet Now
Even if backup center Max Garcia is capable of executing, you cannot replace the experience from Hudson. Especially when the Browns start showing confusion and various pressure packages as they did against the Vikings.
The injury of Williams is underrated in the sense that he has established himself as a solid target for Kyler Murray, but he also helps a lot in pass- and run-blocking.
Among 61 tight ends with at least 50 run-blocking snaps, he has the 6th-highest run-blocking grade. He was also solid when it comes to limited pass-blocking snaps.
Arizona will have a more challenging time moving the ball because of those injuries, and that gets even tougher when you consider their opponent.
We don’t know yet whether Jadeveon Clowney will play this week – his presence could turn into a nightmare for Arizona because he’s having an incredible season against the run and the pass – but Cleveland has a very good front-seven that gets to the passer and defends the run very well.
Their defense ranks 2nd in EPA/play and 3rd in success rate against the run on early downs.
Clowney, Myles Garrett, and Takk McKinley rank in the top-5 in pass rush win rate.
The Browns rank 1st in run stop win rate as a team and 2nd in pass rush win rate.
This is a monster matchup for the Cards in the trenches.
It won’t help that Kyler Murray is dealing with a shoulder injury that limited him in practice yesterday. He might not have 100% of his mobility – he had the same injury last year, which hurt the Cards offense – but even when we consider him a full-go, he will be under consistent duress from the Browns’ defensive line.
It even looks like Cleveland is getting some cornerbacks back.
To sum it up: Bad matchup in the trenches, potential winds and a potential shoulder injury – everything could come together for Arizona, but negatively.
Let’s flip sides and ignore the weather for a second.
The Browns have a superb matchup in the trenches on the Offensive side of the ball, too.
Arizona cannot defend the run.
They rank 31st in run defense grade, 31st in run stop win rate and 28th in tackling grade.
So far, it didn’t become self-evident because they had phenomenal game scripts that forced opponents to throw the ball a lot more.
Now they are facing the best rushing offense in the league – the Browns’ offensive line should be able to impose its will on the Cards, and Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt should be able to run wild.
And suppose the weather allows more throwing than anticipated. In that case, the Cards will be without their best pass rusher Chandler Jones (COVID) and potentially without two of their starting cornerbacks Byron Murphy and Marco Wilson, due to rib injuries. Both were DNP on Wednesday, but I wouldn’t rule them out yet.
With the injuries piling up, this is a terrible spot for the Cardinals against an opponent that should be able to dominate them in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
- Cleveland Browns -3.0 (1.91)
Watch Fabian On Our Week 6 Preview:
Subscribe to the Matchbook Betting Podcast here
Subscribe to the Matchbook Youtube channel here