Buccaneers at Browns odds preview: Cleveland plays final game without Deshaun Watson against Tampa Bay

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Cleveland Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett is seen on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers look to continue their push to the playoffs as they travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns in a pivotal road game.

The Buccaneers (5-5) are in first place by a half-game over the Atlanta Falcons. The season hit its lowest point two weeks ago when they fell to 3-5 in a 27-22 loss to the Ravens on Thursday Night Football. Since then, they have recovered and won two straight extremely competitive games, beating the Rams and Seahawks by three and five, respectively.

Meanwhile, what appeared to be a potential run deep in the playoffs this offseason has gone extremely wrong for the Browns. The team led 10-3 against Buffalo early in the second quarter last week, but the Bills went on a 25-point run to pull away for the win. Running back Nick Chubb couldn’t get anything going last week, carrying 14 times for only 19 yards. This figures to be the last week without quarterback Deshaun Watson, as he is eligible to be back after being suspended for 11 games.

Caesars Sportsbook lists the Buccaneers as a 3.5-point favorite with an over/under of 42.5.

Let’s take a closer look at the odds and trends:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cleveland Browns

Time/TV: 1 p.m. ET Sunday, Fox

Point spread (from Caesars Sportsbook): Tampa Bay -3.5

Money line: Tampa Bay -178, Cleveland +150

Over/under: 42.5

Analysis: Tom Brady has been solid all year for the Buccaneers, throwing for 2,805 yards and 12 touchdowns with only two interceptions. However, it is the big plays that are lacking. He is averaging only 6.6 yards per pass attempt, which is tied with the 2019 season as his lowest mark since 2002. One area where the Buccaneers’ offense has struggled this year is on the ground, as the team averages only 70.7 yards per game, which ranks last in the NFL by a wide margin (the Rams are second-worst at 76.1 yards). The Bucs’ average is 27.7 yards per game less than last season.

While they didn’t rush the ball well last season, the Browns have been one of the better teams on the ground. Cleveland is ranked fifth in rushing yards (150.9 yards), which is even more impressive with the lack of a passing attack. Jacoby Brissett has thrown for 2,398 yards and 11 touchdowns, while also throwing only five interceptions. Brissett hasn’t thrown an interception in his last four games and is coming off a 324-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Bills.

The Browns are limping to the point when Watson returns — which may be too late for playoff hopes — while the Buccaneers appear to be back in contention for a division title. This will be a low-scoring affair, but the Buccaneers get the job done.

Prediction: Buccaneers 24, Browns 17

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