BY MARK KERN
The Cleveland Browns look to rebound from their discouraging loss when they host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday in an NFL Week 5 battle of 2-2 teams.
The Browns season has been of a roller coaster to start the season, as three of the four games have been decided by three points or fewer (1-2 in those games). Jacoby Brissett has filled in admirably for the suspended Deshaun Watson, limiting turnovers (two interceptions). One area the Browns have been terrific is the ground game, as Nick Chubb is second in the NFL with 459 yards rushing (Saquon Barkley 463).
The Chargers are looking to build off a 10-point win against the Houston Texans. They had lost their previous games to the Chiefs and Jaguars before responding with a win, but there were issues in that game as well. The Chargers were rolling up 27-7 in the second half, but turnovers and breakdowns allowed the Texans to cut the game to 27-24 in the fourth quarter.
Justin Herbert has been terrific, overcoming a rib injury to lead the NFL with 312.5 yards passing per game. Last season, Herbert threw for 398 yards and four touchdowns when these two teams squared off.
A number of other injuries have the Chargers, once listed above Super Bowl sleepers, fighting at the .500 mark entering this key game.
Caesars Sportsbook lists the Chargers as a 2.5-point favorite with an over/under of 47.
Let’s take a closer look at the odds and trends:
Los Angeles Chargers at Cleveland Browns
Time/TV: 1 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS
Point spread (from Caesars Sportsbook): Los Angeles -2.5
Money line: Los Angeles -135, Cleveland +115
Analysis: The Chargers have had to deal with a ton of injuries to start the season. Rashawn Slater and Joey Bosa are already on IR, while players such as Keenan Allen, Joshua Palmer and Gerald Everett are all questionable for this game. While Herbert and the passing game have been terrific, the Chargers’ rushing attack has not lived up to its billing, ranking last in the NFL with 64.5 yards per game.
These teams couldn’t be more different offensively, as the rushing attack of Cleveland ranks second in the NFL (187.3 yards) and the passing attack ranks 25th (197.5). One big positive for the Browns is that it appears superstar defensive end Myles Garrett will be back after missing last week because of injuries sustained in a car accident. Having a pass rusher like Garrett back will be huge against a quarterback like Herbert.
The old saying is styles make fights, and this game is a perfect example. The Chargers with their high-flying offense and the Browns ground attack are a clash of styles. One big thing to look for: Do the Browns stop giving up huge passing plays in the fourth quarter? Through four games, the Browns have given up the most points in the fourth (12.5) in large part because of defensive breakdowns. One of those breakdowns could be the difference Sunday.
Prediction: Los Angeles 28, Cleveland 24