TV Schedule: Sunday, Nov. 1 at 1:00 p.m. ET, Fox
Stadium: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH
Line: Cardinals (-4.5)
This weekend, two NFL teams on seemingly completely opposite paths meet up in Northeast Ohio.
The Arizona Cardinals, fresh off a Monday night win over the Baltimore Ravens which gave them a stronger grip on the top of their division, meet up with the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland, after forcing the undefeated Denver Broncos to overtime in Week 6, just got thoroughly trounced by a good-not-great St. Louis Rams team. While the Cardinals appear to be ready to take over the NFC West, the Browns seem to be midway through yet another losing season.
Based on records alone, this appears to be quite a lop-sided matchup. Once you dig into statistics, it looks even worse.
Arizona has suddenly become one of the best offensive teams in the NFL, ranking second in the league at total yards, as well as fourth in yards per game. This is all thanks to the career revitalization of three separate players.
Quarterback Carson Palmer seems to have dipped into the fountain of youth, throwing for his highest completion percentage since 2005. His passer rating of 108.9 is the highest we’ve ever seen from him, which is also helping wideout Larry Fitzgerald.
Seemingly left for dead after an unproductive season last year, Fitzgerald is putting forth an impressive campaign. He’s already caught six touchdowns on the year, four better than his total from last season.
Top this off with running back Chris Johnson, who’s inexplicably second in the league in total rushing yards after a miserable season with the New York Jets, and you’ve got an offense which is absolutely humming right now.
There’s a 0% chance this hot streak ends this week as the Cardinals take on Cleveland’s pathetic excuse for a revamped defense.
Touted – sometimes internally – as a potentially top ten unit, the Browns have been handing opponents yards in bunches this year. After spending the offseason supposedly bulking up to stop the run, Cleveland is actually the only team in the NFL to allow over 1000 total yards on the ground this year.
Offensively, the Browns haven’t been terrible, but question marks hover around the quarterback position (because of course they do).
Josh McCown has been better than most thought, but he was absolutely brutalized by the Rams’ defense Sunday. Though it sounds like he wants to give it a go this weekend despite a shoulder injury, it’s tough to believe he can take many more hits.
If he can’t, backup Johnny Manziel will be back in the spotlight. This is, of course, if the league doesn’t find any issue with his recent domestic dispute. He’s looked improved this year, but the sample size is still way too small to get an idea as to whether or not Manziel is potentially the man for the future in Cleveland.
At the end of the day, it’s likely not going to matter who’s behind center for the Browns. With the defense giving away yards like a charity and an Arizona offense which is firing on all cylinders, it’s nearly impossible to see Cleveland pulling out a win here. What home field advantage the team might’ve had is likely going to be diminished due to fans already hitting their breaking point and deciding to do other, more productive things with their Sunday afternoons.
Look for the Cardinals to take home a convincing win. I can’t promise they’ll break a sweat doing it, though.
Prediction: Cardinals 31, Browns 10