Pretty much everyone covering the NFL has chalked up a victory for the San Francisco 49ers over the Cleveland Browns. The 49ers-Browns point spread has climbed to 10 points in most places putting Cleveland’s odds of winning very low.
Those odds are not zero, however.
The Browns do have a chance to win today’s game in Cleveland even if that chance is slim. Not having QB Deshaun Watson, RB Nick Chubb, OL Joel Bitonio & Jack Conklin and WR Cedric Tillman, along with TE David Njoku (who is expected to play) and OL Ethan Pocic being questionable, will greatly impact the offense. HC Kevin Stefanski still has some weapons to work with on that side of the ball if QB PJ Walker can get them the ball.
Outside of the potential on offense, there are six other factors that could lead to a Cleveland victory:
Cleveland’s defense has been great in all but one game this season. While San Francisco has some similarities to the Baltimore Ravens, the Browns unit run by DC Jim Schwartz has enough talent to really muddy up the game and keep the home team in it.
Schedule factors: Game Time/Short Week/Bye Week
Cleveland is coming off of their bye week while the 49ers played on Sunday night football. Not only that, but the visitors will be playing at 10 AM their time as a west coast team flying east three timezones for a 1 PM game.
Historically, Pacific Time Zone teams have performed worse the farther east they are playing. Adding the 1 PM kickoff makes it even more difficult for these teams. On the other hand, teams coming off their bye week historically play better as well.
Weather can be a huge factor in any game. While cold rarely impacts scoring, rain and wind can neutralize a better team. When we talked about the Browns defense muddying up the game, Mother Nature can help with that process.
The current forecast is hovering around a 50% chance of rain throughout the game today.
Let Down Game
We have to be honest about the human psyche. The 49ers are coming off a huge win against a long-standing rival (the Dallas Cowboys) on Sunday night. They know they are playing against a weakened offense.
Given the above factors, few would be surprised if San Francisco struggles to get up for today’s game and finds itself in a dogfight.
“Back against the wall” Statement Game
On the other hand, Cleveland’s players could feel like they have their backs against the wall this week. With everything going against them both with injuries and some of the narratives, the Browns could come out firing especially on defense.
In a lot of ways, Cleveland needs to feel a little bit like everyone hearing this speech from the movie “Independence Day” for the first time:
Any Given Sunday
Finally, the NFL has long proved to be an “Any Given Sunday” type of league where anything can happen. In Week 1, Cleveland trounced the Cincinnati Bengals in a way no one expected. In that same week, the New York Jets beat the Buffalo Bills despite Aaron Rodgers getting hurt four plays in.
The Dallas Cowboys looked like world-beaters early in the season before losing to the lowly Arizona Cardinals.
Anything is possible including a Browns victory over the 49ers this week despite the odds, despite the point spread.
Do you think any of these reasons, or all of them combined, give Cleveland any kind of chance today?