This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, or general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
Thinking About What Could Have Been
- It is frustrating that the Browns have only posted a 3-7 record during Jacoby Brissett's time as a starting quarterback. This is a Browns team that we thought could contend with the best in the AFC, and we thought that Brissett would unfortunately be a crutch toward contending until Deshaun Watson came back.
- Instead, Brissett has been one of the best and most consistent players on the team, week in and week out. Brissett, the running backs, Joel Bitonio, Ethan Pocic, and the top two wide receivers have all been stellar. I don't need to beat a dead horse about the defensive play, but it has been abysmal. The offensive line play for Cleveland has deteriorated too over the past few games, which is odd because they should've been healthier following the bye week.
- This week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town. They have been a disappointment in 2022 as well, and yet they are 5-5 and in the playoff hunt. That's where the Browns should've been. I don't want to talk about Cleveland getting back on track as far as a playoff race goes, because they're a long way from that consideration. With that said, I think this week's game against the Buccaneers suits Cleveland well.
A Favorable Matchup?
- Tom Brady is one of the greatest of all time, and he's still playing at a decent level. However, he's also been off quite a bit. I wouldn't say that he's as lackluster as Peyton Manning's final year, but he's starting to look like Ben Roethlisberger toward the end of his career: a tick behind, less downfield action, and more prone to turnovers.
- Myles Garrett made a point to emphasize that the defense needs to look for more turnovers this week. On the surface, that might sound pointless to say. But it's also possible that these individual defenders are so hung up on following whatever scheme Joe Woods has them in, that they've lost touch a bit with their natural aggressiveness. Three interceptions for the entire season? That is terrible.
- Tampa Bay hasn't run the ball well, ranking 32nd in the NFL. Poor running teams have still sliced the Browns apart, but I think the Buccaneers are a little different in the sense that they'll rely more on living or dying with Brady. I could see that leading to a similar formula that worked to Cleveland’s advantage during their last home game (Halloween night against the Bengals).
- Cleveland’s biggest question mark this week comes at center, with Ethan Pocic out. The Buccaneers will decide late on the status of DT Vita Vea, which could also benefit Cleveland if he is inactive.
- I've grown from loving Cade York to being frustrated with him. As crazy as it sounds, despite the mess that the defense has been, if York had been the kicker we hoped he was, then Cleveland might just be 5-5 right now.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 3.5 point underdogs against the Buccaneers.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “Cleveland still has some of that home magic left in them, and they'll get a solid performance from the defense to head into the Deshaun Watson era with a win.” Browns 24, Buccaneers 17
Barry Shuck: “Hate to see Deshaun Watson show up with Cleveland holding just three wins, but sadly, that is how it is shaping up. We here at DBN are aghast at the win-loss record as we sit around the conference table drinking some brews and watching the tape of the last game. Will Deshaun make a difference? To this offense - yes. This offense has a ton of talent and lots of promise. But the defense is horrific and is the two-steps back mentality. Tampa Bay has a really bad running attack, but as luck will have it they are playing Cleveland who has a habit of making household names out of the weak and previously pitiful. The Buccaneers are dead last in all of these categories: total rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, yards per carry average, runs of 20+ yards and runs of 40+ yards.
But get this: if the Browns under Deshaun could run the table with six wins, could it be possible that maybe 9-8 is good enough for a Wild Card spot? Firstly, we must lose to Tampa and Lord Brady and make one of their running backs a candidate for NFC Offensive Player of the Week. In the meantime, pass me another Blue Moon.” Buccaneers 34, Browns 20
Jared Mueller: “In an interesting twist, I think the Cleveland Browns will be playing for QB Jacoby Brissett this week with Deshaun Watson returning next week. That doesn’t mean that a win is on the horizon but I think you will see more passion than we’ve seen in the past few games. Expecting Kevin Stefanski to get Brissett a rushing touchdown on Sunday is a strange but real prediction I have.
In the end, someone on Tampa Bay will look like the next big running back find after this week and Tom Brady has been doing just enough to win games lately.” Buccaneers 21, Browns 20
Ezweav: “As bad as the defense looked last week it still managed to make Buffalo have to kick 6 FG’s, so it wasn’t all bad (even though there was a whole lot of bad). The Buccaneers do not provide as much punch, as IMO the personal stuff along with not having his security blanket TE this year has messed with Tom Brady. Also Myles vs. Donovan Smith is a huge advantage for us.
Offensively the loss of Ethan Pocic I think won’t be as pronounced this week since Billy Callahan has had the opportunity to coach up (presumably) Froholdt. Obviously Vita will be a problem if he plays, but our all pro guards should be able to handle it. The loss of Shaq Barrett is huge for them, and in Jacoby’s last start he’ll do enough.” Browns 20, Buccaneers 19
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.