ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.
The NFL’s only unbeaten team the Arizona Cardinals roll into in Cleveland minus their head coach Kliff Kingsbury with the news breaking late on Friday night that Kingsbury has tested positive for Covid-19. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will serve as interim head coach but we don’t know at the moment who will be calling the Cardinals plays.
To that question mark hanging over the game we must also add the weather forecast which is to put it mildly not looking conducive to free-flowing football something that the Cardinals have become known for. Throw in all the injuries that are affecting both sides and we have a recipe for the unknown here.
Let’s deal with that weather forecast first as there is plenty of rain forecast with winds blowing in the 15-20mph range and a temperature that feels like it could be around the mid-50’s Fahrenheit. All of that would make throwing the ball more difficult than usual and curb the explosiveness of both teams’ passing games, promote more (clock-eating) running plays, and the high winds and rain could also make things such as kicking field goals and extra points difficult (as we saw last week kicking at the moment in the NFL looks to be a difficult skill).
Now the injuries Cleveland are definitely missing one of the leading, if not the leading piece of their offence in running back Nick Chubb who misses the game with a calf injury. His partner in what was an excellent 1-2 ground game punch Kareem Hunt is expected to take over lead back duties if he’s recovered from a niggling injury of his own.
It’s a shame that those injuries have happened this weekend as the Browns offence is built on the run, they lead the NFL with 35 rushing attempts per game, 187.6 yards per game, and 5.4 yards per carry. Arizona still have some significant injuries on defence though particularly edge rusher Chandler Jones and with their preference for playing run-funnel defence (they yield the second-most yards per rush in the NFL but the fifth-fewest per pass) I can still see the Browns having success on the ground especially with the forecast weather “dictating” that style of play. If Hunt is missing (he’s listed as questionable) then D’Ernest Johnson and/or Demetric Felton will fill the running back roles for the Browns and they may be worth a look once the markets are priced up.
Arizona for their part are far more a passing team driven by their dynamic quarterback Kyler Murray however back on the injury narrative again Murray is dealing with a shoulder injury which limited him against San Francisco last week. Versus the 49ers Murray had his lowest yards/attempt, intended air yards/attempt, and passing yards for the season. With the Cardinals missing their main tight-end Maxx Williams (out for the season) they will be forced into more wide-receiver sets and that may well be good news for the explosive Rondale Moore who looks to playing a bigger and bigger part in the offence; he will test the mettle of the Browns pass defence.
However, the weather may place more emphasis on the run game and the Cardinals running backs Chase Edmonds (battling a hamstring injury) and James Connor come up against a Cleveland run defence that has the best run stop win rate (34%) and gives up the second-fewest rushing yards per game. Connor is still the goal line threat though with Edmonds having gone seven straight games without a TD.
The weather and game script ought to favour the Browns in this one and the Cardinals face a tough task to keep their unbeaten streak alive although I wouldn’t write them off totally as they are one of the surprise if not the surprise package of the season so far.
The confirmed absentees on both teams and those that are questionable make this a tough game to call though and until the final line ups are known it’s hard to have a definitive opinion on this game. I’d lean with the Browns but the -3.5 handicap is a fairly hefty premium to pay so with the weather forecast the way it is I’ll take the Browns -2.5 and under 53.5 match points to a small stake as the play in the game with too many question marks over the contest to be make more definitive wagers as things stand.
The fact that the Under has cashed in two of the last three games for each team tipping the scales in that direction.
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