This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Los Angeles Rams in Week 13. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, and general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
Getting Back on Track Again
- The Browns enter this week’s game against the Rams with a 7-4 record, but the loss to the Denver Broncos last week stings big time and has fans a bit pessimistic. The team stayed out West for practice this week so they didn’t have to do another cross-country trip. How do they get back on track? As I’ve done throughout the season, let’s talk about the things that Cleveland has going for them.
- Defensively, the big news is that DE Myles Garrett practiced on Friday and is ready to go for Sunday. When he couldn’t lift his arm last week, I thought there would be like a 75% chance that he would either be done for the season, or miss this week’s game. But not only is he playing on Sunday, but he has the mobility back in the shoulder. It’ll still be sore, but it sounds like he should be able to make an impact on gameday again. Matthew Stafford has historically been a weapon, but Cleveland’s defense has thrived against non-mobile quarterbacks this season. Having Garrett allows the the rest of the pass rushers to go after Stafford all game long, hopefully preventing their passing game from getting going.
- Offensively, QB Joe Flacco gets the start this Sunday, Cleveland’s fourth starting quarterback of the season. Even though QB P.J. Walker gutted out two wins for Cleveland, it was clear that he wasn’t a guy who could be trusted to take this team to the playoffs. And even though you hate to see QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson lose his job due to a concussion, I think it’s necessary to roll the dice and see if Flacco can provide a spark to this offense. The Browns have lacked the downfield passing game with Walker and DTR; but they lose the mobility factor with Flacco. That’s where you have to rely on the team’s offensive line, which should be good in pass protection, to keep Flacco upright and healthy.
- I like looking at the scoreboard for the Browns’ games after their losses this season. After losing to Pittsburgh in Week 2, they came out and dominated the Titans 27-3. After losing to the Ravens in Week 4, they stunned the 49ers 19-17. And then after losing to the Seahawks in Week 8, they shut out the Cardinals 27-0. Granted, all three of those bounceback wins game at home, but I think we’re due for another rebound this week.
Stopping the Rams
- Even though I like that the Browns are facing a non-mobile quarterback this week, I can’t ignore the intriguing weapons that Los Angeles has. WR Puka Nacua leads the team in receiving as a rookie. WR Cooper Kupp returned earlier this season, but has been a little “off” lately. With that said, we know Kupp can be one of the toughest receivers in the league to defend when he’s on his game. DBN’s Curtiss Brown also pointed out how rookie RB Kyren Williams has provided a jolt to the Rams’ offense. The Browns will get LB Anthony Walker back for a good voice for the defense, but the one player still missing is CB Denzel Ward (shoulder).
- Fans might be worried about the Rams beating the Cardinals 37-14 last week, because it makes it seem like their offense is red-hot heading into this game. But Los Angeles also beat Arizona earlier in the season, only to lose three straight games after that. The Rams’ record is 5-6, but four of those wins are against Seattle and Arizona. Against all other teams, they are 1-6 (including 0-2 against the AFC North). Will the Browns make that 1-7?
- In general, though, DBN’s Matt Wilson notes that Rams QB Matthew Stafford is having the worst season of his career, and it’s unclear if his nagging thumb injury is contributing to that. Wilson also noted that the Rams’ defense only has 9 takeaways this season, which could help a Browns team that has been having issues winning the turnover battle despite their win-loss record.
- One of the things that drove me nuts about DTR was his ball placement, which was terrible. Yes, the receivers still dropped a lot of passes, but you can say it was both parties’ faults. In general, the ball placement for all Browns quarterbacks has been inconsistent, but DTR’s was the worst, even on simple throws. Hopefully, Joe Flacco can be accurate on those passes and use his tall frame to get the ball over the line, resulting in less drops even if Cleveland still maintains a short passing attack.
- I will be in Los Angeles for the game, trying to shoot some videos along the way. It’ll be the first road game I’ve ever attended for the Browns.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 4 point underdogs against the Rams.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “I like a lot of the statistical things I talked about: the Browns not having a two-game losing streak this season, Los Angeles having a 1-6 record against teams other than Seattle and Arizona, and Myles Garrett being good-to-go. I think Joe Flacco provides a slight spark to produce a couple of drives, while the defense is back on track against Stafford.” Browns 20, Rams 13
Thomas Moore: “The quarterback carousel has spun once again in Cleveland, this time landing on veteran Joe Flacco, who last threw a pass that mattered almost 11 months ago and whose last touchdown pass came in Week 2 of the 2022 season.
“Today’s game against the Rams is a winnable one for the Browns, but so was last week’s game against the Broncos and we all know how that turned out. Still, Flacco just needs to be a calming force, the Browns need to stop turning the ball over, and the defense needs to get back to delivering an overall solid performance and everything should work out OK for the good guys.
“The Browns last win against the Rams in Los Angeles came in 1993 with another unexpected quarterback at the helm in Vinny Testaverde. What does that have to do with today’s game? Probably not much, but it is still an interesting historical nugget. There is little chance that this version of Cleveland’s offense can put up 42 points the way the 1993 team did, but breaking 14 points should be good enough.” Browns 17, Rams 10
Barry Shuck: “After a listless first half against the Steelers and an entire game of minimal production against Denver, I have very little faith in this Browns’ offense. The defense plays lights out, gets the ball back, causes turnovers, and yet the offense is horrible on third-down conversions, and seems acceptable every time Dustin Hopkins comes out on the field like their last drive was a success. Exceptional teams score touchdowns and get field goals as defeat. The QB situation continues to get worse each week. I don’t know if Joe Flacco is the answer, but Walker isn’t and DTR is being paid to learn as he goes. Five weeks in a row the Browns passing game has been rated dead last (65.8). Fourth-best rushing attack in the league and yet last week against the Broncos, the fourth-worst run defense, the offense threw 42 times. The first play with Walker in for a concussed DTR, an end around with a fumble, and another seven for the Broncos. Our top pass catcher is ranked 32nd which isn’t even a receiver. Best receiver is ranked 38th. The offense is just pathetic. The defense rocks, but can’t drive the ball down the field. If Cleveland didn’t have this stingy defense, there is no way they would be thinking playoffs. Here’s a stat: Hopkins’ 99 points are 41% of the Browns total scoring. What NFL offense has their kicker as their main scoring tool?” Rams 27, Browns 16
Jared Mueller: “How in the world can anyone confidently predict a Browns game at any point the rest of the season? Myles Garrett could have a season-long issue with his shoulder, we might be guessing at who is starting at quarterback (either do to injury or performance) and, at least to start Week 13, 30% of the roster was listed on the injury report.
That said, Cleveland has been up and down this season and got run off the field in Week 12. The week together in LA should be helpful for bonding and health, hopefully. The Los Angeles Rams are talented but not deep.” Browns 27, Rams 24
Curtiss Brown: “We live in a society in where the Cleveland Browns have gone thru 4 quarterback changes mainly due to injuries, losing their starting running back and right tackle (as well as their left tackle) and the team is 7-4. Good lord. Anyway Cleveland fans will find a negative in this like they always do (we have fans still angry about trading Josh Dobbs when Josh has been atrocious). Anyway, this game is kinda important. Playoff seeding, late season push to get into the playoffs and trying to overcome overwhelming adversity. The Los Angeles Rams are a mediocre team but they have played better as of late. However, this team is shaky in terms of depth, and their offensive line struggles against physical defensive fronts. Cleveland had a rough outing (it happens) and the team usually responds in the face of adversity. Talking myself into Joe Flacco leading this offense is something I didn’t expect to say but I rather see him than P.J. Walker (no disrespect to P.J.). I also expect the defense to have a bounce back game even if Myles Garrett is in the lineup
This game should be competitive and I expect Cleveland to respond but the Rams have the wizard in Sean McVay and Cleveland will have to be prepared for what he does. Heart says Cleveland, mind says Los Angeles. Pick will probably change tomorrow or Saturday, I don’t know.” Rams 24, Browns 20
Matt Wood: “I won’t lie… it’s funky right now. Defense was shaky, the QB spot is a question mark and our pets heads are falling off. Other than that? We are cool.
And I think the Browns are going to smack the Rams right in the teeth. Mainly I think the AFC is miles ahead of the NFC and the Browns flex those muscles Sunday.
Flacco gets the start because DTR can’t go and he doesn’t wet the bed. Offense gets it going on the ground and the defense bounces back.” Browns 27, Rams 12
Ezweav:“The uncertainty is so thick you can cut it with a kitchen knife…or something. We don’t know who will be playing at QB or whether Myles will play. It’s on the road but might be a home game in terms of crowd and such. Kevin Stefanski is third all time in NFL history following a loss. Also the Yams are weird this season.
So what to make of it all? I’m guessing we’re going to be fired up and show out better than we did in Denver, but they’ll also be up for our challenge. I was VERY encouraged by DTR last week but really have no feel for how Joe Flacco might do if that’s what ends up happening.
Thus, continuing the season-long shout out to NTN.” Rams 11, Browns 5
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.