This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Arizona Cardinals in Week 9. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, and general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
It’s Time to Dominate Again
- The Browns dominated the Bengals 24-3 in Week 1, and did the same to the Titans in Week 3 by a score of 27-3. Suffocating defense combined with efficient enough offense in those games. Now, the Browns are facing the Arizona Cardinals, who are arguably the worst team in football. The news also broke on Saturday that Kyler Murray will not be activated, so rookie Clayton Tune will get the start against the Browns’ defense:
Cardinals are not activating QB Kyler Murray off the PUP list by today’s 4 pm deadline, making him ineligible to play Sunday vs. the Browns. His 21-day window to be activated ends next week. This week, rookie QB Clayton Tune is expected to start vs. the Browns and QB Jeff Driskel…— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 4, 2023
- The Cardinals do not have an exotic offense, and they don’t have a surplus of playmakers. The expectation should be that the speed of the Browns’ defense is too much for the Cardinals’ offensive line to handle, and too much for Tune to process if he’s trying to hold the ball for very long. Arizona’s offense is based on very basic plays, because they get in trouble when they try to push the ball. Cleveland’s defense should be craving the opportunity to shut that offense down and not give them an inch.
- The defense will be without CB Greg Newsome this week, which meaning an uptick in playing time for rookie CB Cameron Mitchell. But I could also see the Browns giving much of those reps to S Rodney McLeod in defensive packages. Either way, against a team like the Cardinals, being without one starter in the secondary shouldn’t be a reason to worry, especially with CB M.J. Emerson playing well.
Welcome Back, Deshaun Watson, Part 10
- Here we go again. Browns fans are exhausted with the stories about Deshaun Watson; we want to go into a game once without him being the top talking point. For as much as he has still not been in sync, though, it is clear as day that the offense couldn’t get by any longer with P.J. Walker under center. The team has been limited in not being able to throw the ball downfield for weeks. Granted, Watson hasn’t nailed that component either, but he’s certainly capable of it.
- As DBN’s Matt Wilson pointed out this week, the Cardinals are 25th in run defense, allowing 130+ yards rushing per week. They also struggle with their third down defense. Cleveland’s offensive approach last week did a great job at getting the offense into a lot of 3rd-and-3 or 3rd-and-4 type of situations. Hopefully, the offense can replicate that this week with Watson operating the offense.
- The Browns traded Donovan Peoples-Jones this week, which opens up a significant amount of snaps in the starting lineup. Even though he wasn’t being targeted, he was seeing the most reps, and he was also a good downfield blocker. As much as I think DPJ got a raw deal in Cleveland, when you look at the fact that he was in the final year of his contract and Cedric Tillman was a third-round pick this year, you had to do something to get the rookie some playing time. Therefore, it’s not a bad move per se, but we’ll see how Tillman does and how Marquise Goodwin does with more reps too.
- The Browns promoted WR James Proche to the roster this week, likely to return punts.
- Here are three players to watch from the Cardinals. I always think tight ends are a young quarterbacks safety blanket, so TE Trey McBride is one to watch in particular.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 11.5 point favorites against the Cardinals.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “The number one thing the Browns need to work on to be a serious contender is flipping the turnover margin. Don’t turn the ball over on offense, and keep those turnovers coming on defense. That has to start this week against Arizona, and I don’t think the defense will let Arizona see the end zone.” Browns 27, Cardinals 3
Thomas Moore: “I hate to think of a Week 9 game as a ‘must-win’ but this game is a must-win for the Browns with the Ravens and Steelers coming up next. The defense, which has struggled a bit the past few weeks, has no excuse now that they are going up against a rookie fifth-round draft pick in quarterback Clayton Tune. Speaking of quarterbacks, the idea of watching P.J. Walker again this week was not one filled with joy, but I’m still not convinced that Deshaun Watson is healthy enough to be effective. But the thought of Watson making his return next week against the Ravens after not playing for several weeks is just as converting. The Browns should win, but it might not be as easy as it should be. Browns 17, Cardinals 3
Barry Shuck: “Is this a shoe-in victory, or a game they should win but give away? Hard to tell. The “D” plays its ass off only to have the offense turn the over, stupid penalty, or won’t run the ball when they have been gashing the other team all game. The Browns are ranked dead last in passing once again but can still run the ball and found a new friend in the run attack in Pierre Strong. For the second week in a row, Cleveland’s pass defense remains #1 and does pretty well in run defense. The Cards have a decent defense which plays well against the Browns’ putrid offensive schemes. Expect Dustin Hopkins to be their best asset in scoring points against an offense that can’t score.” Browns 23, Cardinals 13
Jared Mueller: “Woohoo, sports! Football is fun. I really do love it. While last week’s loss was tough, getting to watch and cover the sport is just a joy. The conversations after a loss are not so much.
We have no idea which quarterbacks will play except for that Dorian Thompson-Robinson will not start and Josh Dobbs is with his third team and neither is Cleveland or Arizona.
Either way, the Browns are more talented, have more to play for and the Cardinals will either be bringing back Kyler Murray from a long layoff or have a rookie facing a great defense. Add into it the timezone difference and the home team advantage and it is an easy decision even if the game itself is stressful.” Browns 24, Cardinals 20
Curtiss Brown: “I would give a deep breakdown analysis but I’m not doing it this week. This game is important for the Browns for many reasons.
1. Considering the stakes, they can’t afford to slip up against a team that they are clearly better than in multiple ways.
2. The AFC is slowly starting to round out in terms of playoff seeding and Cleveland has to prove they belong in that conversation.
As for Arizona, this team is 1-7. They aren’t good but they will put up a fight. Like the Browns, they have their own QB situation that isn’t settled because we don’t know if Kyler Murray will play or not. If he doesn’t, Clayton Tune you are up. Arizona has some weapons on offense can’t discredit that so be cautious. As for their defense if you can name 8 players from their defense not named Budda Baker or Kyzir White, I will give you $100 (not really).
Defensively, I expect Cleveland to put together a complete game like they have done before. It’s all about finding what made them one of the best defenses in the league. Whoever is under center for either team will have to play their best in order to come out with a win. I expect a close game, Cleveland barely wins (and fans will find a way to complain like they always do)” Browns 20, Cardinals 13
Matt Wood: “This is where the Browns bounce back. I think Watson plays, and I think the offense looks good. I am also predicting a break of Pierre Strong Jr as he will gash the Cards on his way to his first 100 yard game. Njoku scores and Cedric Tillman has two catches showing some flashes. The defense destroys whatever QB they roll out there and this one is never in doubt.” Browns 30, Cardinals 13
Ezweav: “There’s been a surprising lack of criticism for the way the defense pretty much fell on its face the last few weeks. They should get right this week but something about the widening of the spread makes all of this more nervous than it ought be. We’re clearly a more talented team, probably a better coached team, and we’re at home. It looks like they are starting Clayton Tune. Feels like a trap.
Alas, I think we’ll probably have a few gasps for a variety of reasons. There’s probably still some exploratory activity going on with respect to Watson’s velocity, and that may lead to some WTF style play results. But we’ll probably also make a few ‘WOW’ plays either offensively or defensively and in the end it’ll be plenty.
Wouldn’t be surprised if Watz is on something of a pitch-count. Would be great if he finished the entire game. Either way we’ll be ok.” Browns 22, Cardinals 13
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.