Two up-and-coming young teams face off on Monday Night Football as the Cleveland Browns, fresh off a 40-point performance against the Ravens, take on the 3-0 San Francisco 49ers. From the first whistle to the last we break down the odds and give our best bets and predictions for this matchup.
CLEVELAND BROWNS AT SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (-5, 47 @ BETAMERICA)
The Browns will be the best defense the 49ers have faced this year. So far San Fran’s offensive line has managed to keep quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s jersey relatively clean, letting him get sacked just twice in three games.
However, the Browns led by Myles Garrett are fourth in the league in sacks with 3.5 per game and should be able to apply more pressure than what Jimmy-G has faced this year.
The 49ers defense has been excellent against both the run and the pass; holding opposing running backs to just 3.3 yards per carry and opposing quarterbacks to a completion percentage of 57.14. So both offenses could struggle out of the gate in this one.
We like the Under 9.5 on the 1Q total.
PICK: First quarter total – Under 9.5 (-110)
San Fran has put points on the scoreboard this year but they tend to do most of their damage in the second half. In the opening half they average just 11 points per game. Cleveland scores 9.5 ppg in the opening half and even in their 40-point performance last week, scored only 10 points through the first 35 minutes of the game.
On the defensive side of the ball, both teams have been stout in the early going. The Browns hold opponents to just 6.2 ppg in the opening half, the third-best number in the league. The Niners defense, which features a front seven just littered with first-round draft selections, isn’t far behind them giving up 7.7 points in the first half.
Take the Under on the 1H total.
PICK: First Half total Under 23 (-110)
We’ve already described how much the 49ers defense has improved and one stat in particular makes this clear: interceptions. In 2018, the 49ers set an NFL record for the fewest interceptions in a season, picking off just two passes! This year, through just three games, they’ve already more than doubled that total with five INTs.
Browns QB Baker Mayfield has plenty of potential but he’s a gunslinger who’s not afraid to force passes. Unfortunately for Cleveland fans that also means he gets picked off a lot. Mayfield has been intercepted in every game this season, and going back to last year he’s thrown 13 interceptions over his last nine games.
Odell Beckham Jr. has been limited to just 86 yards on eight catches over the last two games (with not a single reception of 20 yards or more), so you might see Mayfield force the ball downfield a bit more on Monday night. We like Mayfield to throw an interception even with the number juiced heavily towards that happening.
PICK: Baker Mayfield Over 0.5 interceptions (-150)
FULL GAME TOTAL
Both defenses have looked very strong this season while the offenses have been inconsistent. Cleveland’s offense finally broke through last week, but through the first three games of the season looked out of sync on that side of the ball, averaging just 330.3 yards and 16.3 points per game.
San Francisco has racked up a lot of yards this year but if you look below the surface there are troubling signs. The best defense they’ve faced this year was Pittsburgh who rank 19th in the league in yards allowed, and the Niners have turned the ball over more than any team in the league with 2.7 giveaways per game. They also have one of the worst red-zone offenses in the NFL, scoring a touchdown just 42.86 percent of the time they enter the red zone.
We think the second half will be higher scoring than the first but we’re still leaning towards the Under.
PICK: Under 47 (-110)
FULL GAME SIDE
San Francisco might be 3-0 but they’ve beaten up on some pretty weak opponents in the Buccaneers, Bengals, and Roethlisberger-less Steelers. The Browns got stomped by the Titans in Week 1 but are coming off an impressive win against a good Ravens team and the previous week were leading against the Rams until the fourth quarter.
The Browns also have a terrific group of skill players, in Beckham, Jarvis Landry and Nick Chubb that are all capable of making big plays. That big-play ability could make the difference in a back-and-forth defensive battle.
The Niners might play spoiler every now and then but they don’t do a good job of covering when they are the chalk. They’re 0-5 ATS as a favorite going back to last year, and have covered as a favorite only once since 2015 (1-9 ATS in that span). With the Browns 4-0 ATS in their last four games on the road, take them to cover again.
PICK: Cleveland +5 (-110)