This week, the(2-10) take on the San Francisco 49er (4-8) in Week 14 of the NFL regular season. Our position-by-position evaluation and game prediction are below.
Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith are the 49ers' starting receivers. Basically, it's a throwback to what we used to see multiple times a year when they were the Ravens' starting receivers. Boldin is still a reliable receiver, with two 100+ yard games this season and two more in which he almost cracked that barrier. He has 49 catches for 595 yards. Torrey Smith is still just a big-play threat -- he has just 23 catches, but nearly matches Boldin's yardage at 529 yards. He has catches of 75, 76, and 71 yards this year. Quinton Patton is the team's third receiver with 20 catches for 250 yards.
The Browns get the advantage because the 49ers are without both of their receiving tight ends, Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek, after both had combined for 40 catches and 5 touchdowns this year. Blake Bell, the team's fourth-round pick, will have a chance to step up.
Cleveland should have Travis Benjamin, Brian Hartline, and Taylor Gabriel available this week as their top three receivers, and Gary Barnidge is the player who gives the Browns the unit advantage over the 49ers. What fans really care about this week is Terrelle Pryor. It's still fun to fantasize about him making a highlight-reel play, but fans will have to be patient -- we'll be lucky if he even gets a snap during meaningful game time.
|OL||The 49ers' starting offensive line features LT Joe Staley, LG Alex Boone, C Marcus Martin, RG Jordan Devey, and RT Erik Pears. San Francisco is solid on the left side with Staley and Boone, but Martin and Devey are big liabilities. The 49ers are 28th in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play -- in fact, that's a little worse than Cleveland.
Austin Pasztor will get the start at left guard this week for the injured Joel Bitonio and the benched Cameron Erving. If it was me, I would've shifted John Greco over to left guard and given Erving a shot at right guard, the position he most practiced at this year. The coaching staff must feel Erving is that much of a liability to getting the quarterback hurt.
|DL||The 49ers run a 3-4 defense, with Ian Williams as their starting nose tackle. Their other defensive linemen include a mix of Tony Jerod-Eddie, Quinton Dial, Mike Purcell, and Arik Armstead. Armstead, the team's first-round pick, only has one sack but does a pretty good job getting pressure on the quarterback.
Over these last four games, the Browns are in a pickle with how to handle their defensive line situation. Danny Shelton still hasn't jumped off the page, even against some backup centers. John Hughes, who was re-signed to be a good run defender, has fallen completely flat. Xavier Cooper has been utilized the wrong way in my opinion -- his job all season should have been as a sub-package pass rusher.
|DB||Maybe the Browns' defensive backs coach should be fired, because their cornerbacks have by far been the most underachieving unit all season. The success rate for opposing teams targeting our cornerbacks deep has to be absurdly high, and I can only imagine how many times Blaine Gabbert will go for Torrey Smith burning a guy like Tramon Williams, Pierre Desir, or Charles Gaines.
The 49ers' secondary consists of Tramaine Brock and Kenneth Acker at cornerback, and Jaquiski Tartt and Eric Reid. Across the board, the secondary is pretty much on par with the Browns' secondary. They won't get beat deep downfield as much and Brock and Acker do each have three interceptions on the year, but they are ranked 27th in the league in passing yards allowed, which is even behind the Browns, believe it or not.
I thought the 49ers would be the worst team in the NFL heading into the season. Talent-wise, I think they were depleted to the point where they should've been the worst team, so it is a testament to the players and staff that they've been able to squeak out four wins so far.
The Browns were embarrassed last week by the Bengals, but I see things taking a turn this week. The team will be motivated to shake off the embarrassment, and their confidence level will be higher against a team that they mentally believe they have a shot against. Also, with Johnny Manziel back under center and a commitment to a player who delivered in 2015 (Gary Barnidge), that had to brighten the mood a bit in Berea. The 49ers are 1-5 on the road, and Manziel delivered a win (vs. Titans) in the only home start he's made in 2015. The Browns' defensive woes still won't be patched up, but a back-and-forth game will see Cleveland snap their seven-game losing streak.
Cleveland Browns 24, San Francisco 49ers 23
Submit your own predictions for the game below!
Be sure to visit Dawgs By Nature throughout the game to participate in and chat in our game threads. You can also follow us on Twitter or on Facebook.