This Saturday, the Cleveland Browns take on the New Orleans Saints in Week 16. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, or general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
It All Starts With the Weather
- You can’t talk about this game without first talking about the weather situation. Temperatures on Friday were 0 degrees, with 35 MPH winds and the “feels like” temperature at -26 degrees. Things will be a hair better for gametime on Saturday, but it’ll still be the coldest game for Cleveland in my lifetime, at 12 degrees, 30 MPH winds, and the feels like temperature at -10 degrees.
- It’s easy to think you’ll be OK in those cold temperatures, that adrenaline can take over, etc, but you never know how your body will react. I remember playing touch football in temperatures that felt like 5 degrees, and while I was OK running around, my hands were cold — and then when I deflected a pass by the quarterback from close range with my hand, it instantly felt like my hand was gone — that I no longer a hand, and then my mind went to panic mode and I had to stop before I passed out.
- Anyway, back to the game itself — those weather conditions make it likely that both teams will deploy a rushing attack. Even though the winds are 30 MPH, the wind gusts — especially near the lake — could be up around 65 MPH. Throwing the ball in those conditions is not practical, unless you are taking advantage of some very short, direct throws. Field goals are probably out of the question too, unless there’s a really short attempt or if the coaches feel the wind can actually carry a ball a certain direction and you want to try it to end a half. But otherwise, both teams should be going for two point conversions if they score touchdowns.
The Wildcard Advantage for the Browns
- Welcome back, Ethan Pocic. What a pleasant surprise it was this week to hear that he returned to practice, and now he’s been activated and will start against the Saints. We didn’t expect much from Pocic when he was signed this offseason, but wouldn’t you know it, he fit this blocking scheme like a glove. The running game and offense in general has suffered greatly since his injury.
- The Saints’ run defense hasn’t been sharp this year, and this could be the type of game where Cleveland’s rushing attack gets back on track to really have a big day running it. On the same note, though, when you factor in the weather, it only makes sense that each defense will commit extra resources to stopping the run. If both teams do that, it’s entirely possible that you have a stalemate of sorts. Even if a team picks up three first downs via the running game, if you aren’t able to pass it, then eventually the defense is going to force a negative run play, which will kill the drive and force you to punt the ball.
- The most important player for each team could end up being the punter. Field position will be important in the chess match that we’re expecting. A booming punt with the wind can completely change field position. However, a bad punt can make it more managable for a team to be aggressive (i.e. going for it on fourth down with the running game). Also, if punts are low with little hang time, the punt returners could have a chance to run with room in front of them — but will they even be able to judge the ball correctly without fumbling it? There are a lot of factors that can impact this game.
- Deshaun Watson vs. Andy Dalton doesn’t matter in my opinion in this game, except for the fact that Watson is more likely to be a running quarterback than Dalton is. That could come into play if Watson can do the read-option, where teams will technically still have to respect those quick 5-yard passes that can be completed in this weather.
- The Saints’ X-factor should be Taysom Hill, who can try to do the same type of thing I just mentioned with Watson.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 3-point favorites against the Saints.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “The Saints’ receiving group is hurting, and their defense is hurting a bit too. Cleveland will be without Jadeveon Clowney. I know Cleveland’s run defense has been terrible at a lot of points this year, but I’m optimistic about them in this game coming up with enough stops (similar to the Ravens game last week), and then Cleveland’s rushing attack will get things going enough for the win. I’m going with two touchdowns for the Browns (one two-point conversion, one miss), and one touchdown for the Saints (missed two-point conversion).” Browns 14, Saints 6
Jared Mueller: “An ugly game between the Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints will come down to who makes the most mistakes and who can make one big play. I trust Deshaun Watson over Andy Dalton for both of those. The weather will make everything about the game on Saturday painful including the final score.” Browns 17, Saints 10
Matt Wood: “Saints are not great. Neither are the Browns. So I will go with the team with the best offensive player (Chubb) and the best defensive player (Myles). Garrett is closing in on a possible DPOY award and I think he continues the assault Saturday with a monster game. James Hurst at Tackle is a spot that Myles can go nuclear against. Penning has gotten some run as a 6th OL so it will be interesting to see if they deploy him to help against Myles. Even if they do, Browns win this with solid offense and opportunities on defense.” Browns 24, Saints 16
Ezweav: “Watson has made nice strides these three weeks. While this isn’t expected to be a passing bonanza what with the weather, he’s still likely to be able to make things happen with his arm, his legs, and (most importantly) his head, to help the Browns get the running game viable. The return of Ethan Pocic could be major. Hopefully we can open up lanes, but even if we have to go to air more than desired, we should be able to do enough.” Browns 18, Saints 6
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.