The Washington Commanders look to remain in the hunt for a playoff spot in the NFC as they host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
The Browns have been eliminated from the playoff race and reduced to the role of spoiler. Quarterback Deshaun Watson is back for the past few games, but the offense really hasn’t changed a ton. In the four games with Watson at quarterback, the Browns are 1-3 and are averaging only 15.0 points. Their high with Watson quarterback is 27 points, and even in that game, all three Browns touchdowns were scored either by the defense or special teams. Running back Nick Chubb has been the bright spot for the Browns’ offense, as he is third in the NFL with 1,344 rushing yards. The defense has been much better as of late; they have allowed only 14.3 points during this four-game stretch with Watson.
The Commanders are still in the playoff race and are bringing back Carson Wentz at quarterback to end the season. Taylor Heinicke had been the starter for the last nine weeks, going 5-3-1 while passing for 12 touchdowns. Wentz entered the game last week in the fourth quarter after a couple of turnovers by Heinicke, and coach Ron Rivera announced that Wentz will be the starter going forward. He started the season as QB1 but hadn’t played since a 12-7 win against the Bears on Oct. 13.
FanDuel Sportsbook lists the Commanders as a 1.5-point favorite with an over/under of 40.5.
Let’s take a closer look at the odds and trends:
Cleveland Browns at Washington Commanders
Time/TV: 1 p.m. ET Sunday, Fox
Point spread (from Caesars Sportsbook): Washington -1.5
Money line: Cleveland +110, Washington -130
Analysis: The Browns gave Deshaun Watson a historically high, fully guaranteed contract this off-season, knowing he would be suspended. He missed the first 11 games of the season, and the rust has been a big issue for him in his return. In 2017, he completed 61.8% of his passes in his rookie campaign. However, he is completing only 57.2% of his passes in these four games, after completing at least 67.3% of his passes in his last three full seasons. Wide receiver Amari Cooper has had a very good season, as he has 73 catches for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns. Defensive end Myles Garrett is one of the most dominating defensive players in football, as he ranks fourth with 13.5 sacks.
The Commanders have been in a ton of close games this year, as 10 of their 15 games have been decided by single digits. They are 5-4-1 in those games. The Commanders have gotten a very good year from rookie Brian Robinson, who has rushed for 710 yards despite missing a few games after being shot before the season. This ground game complements a passing attack that has a ton of speed. Terry McLaurin (1,092 yards, 4 touchdowns), Curtis Samuel (652 yards, 4 touchdowns) and Jahan Dotson (414 yards, 7 touchdowns) are all explosive players who are capable of big plays.
This is a matchup where one team is trying to make the playoffs, and that will be the reason why the Commanders get a tough, close win against the Browns.
Prediction: Washington 21, Cleveland 17