Welcome to this week’s edition of NFL Breakdown. We focus on three games you need to check out and all the info that you’ll need ahead of the contests. We are almost halfway through the season and it has been quite a ride so far. There is plenty more to come this year, so let us jump right in. This week, our attention is on the matchups between the Browns vs Raiders, Dolphins vs Rams, and Seahawks vs 49ers.
Cleveland Browns vs Las Vegas Raiders
- Spread: Browns -2.5 (-110)
- Point Total: 50.5 (-110)
The Raiders are an enigma. Sitting at 3-3, they have beaten the Panthers, Saints, and (hello) Chiefs. Their losses came at the hands of the Patriots, Bills, and last week against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Las Vegas gave up 369 yards and 4 TDs to the Bucs, letting Scott Miller get away with 109 receiving yards. Derek Carr has only thrown two interceptions so far this season, one in each of the last two weeks. The only other starter with that few? Aaron Rodgers.
Cleveland has remarkably made the breakdown three weeks in a row. That will be explained later. The Browns are one of just three teams to hold a winning record with a negative point differential (Bears, Bills). Currently 5-2, they’ve poured on the points against the Football Team, Cowboys, and Bengals, but gotten absolutely smoked in divisional games against the Ravens and Steelers. For every Derek Carr and Aaron Rodgers this season there is a Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has thrown five interceptions in his last three games, the Raiders have stolen three all season.
The only reason the Browns made it in again this week is for some reason, Draftkings currently has them as a 2.5 point favorite over the Raiders. In what world should their 25th ranked defense be able to put a lid on Carr and Las Vegas? What do the oddsmakers know that no one else knows? Sure, they’re neck and neck in points allowed per game, points scored per game, and the Browns have only lost twice. But be honest, their five wins came against Cincinnati (twice), the NFC Least, and the Colts. Raiders will win, and with even less firepower in Cleveland, it won’t be close.
Miami Dolphins vs Los Angeles Rams
- Spread: Rams -3.5 (-110)
- Point Total: 46 (-110)
In the words of the illustrious Marshawn Lynch, “You know why [we’re] here.” Riding a two-game win streak and coming off of a bye after shutting out the divisional opponent New York Jets, it’s Tua Time. Apparently, Dolphins head coach Brian Flores saw enough from rookie Tua Tagovailoa in one series against the Jets to run him out there. The Dolphins have a history of questionable decision making (see: Laremy Tunsil, Minkah Fitzpatrick). Tua looked good in his debut against the worst team in the NFL, completing both of his passes for a blistering 9 yards. No one is suggesting Tua might not be ready, however, at this point, the Dolphins do not appear to be in serious contention for anything that Ryan Fitzpatrick could lead them to.
Sean McVay’s Rams sit at 5-2, but could very easily be 7-0. A three-point loss to the Bills in week three and a great run after the catch by Deebo Samuel in week six are the difference. Like the Browns, however, the Rams have benefitted greatly from a schedule that has seen them play the entire NFC East already. Losing Todd Gurley in the offseason and trotting a carousel of backs out each week has somehow been a winning formula. LA is ranked 4th overall in rushing so far this year and average the second-most attempts behind the Chargers.
Why in the world would you throw your number five overall rookie QB at Aaron Donald? This appears to be a very high risk, very low reward for Flores and the Dolphins. The Rams currently allow the second-least points per game, third-least passing touchdowns per game, and are fourth in sacks per game. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said, “you go out there and you look at it — he got under duress and made an accurate throw,” per ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe. Under duress. Against the Jets. On two throws. Why not let Fitzpatrick run it out there one last time and get Tagovailoa in against the Cardinals, Chargers, Broncos, Jets, or Bengals? Maybe Tua comes out and lights it up, but the likely outcome is an extremely tough start to a career against Donald and CB Jalen Ramsey. Rams and a bonus, the under for this one.
Seattle Seahawks vs San Francisco 49ers
- Spread: Seahawks -3 (-110)
- Point Total: 54
The Seattle Seahawks are doing what they usually do. Winning games and making their fans sweat. In the last five years, Seattle has only been in the top 10 in point differential twice. The defense that once struck fear into the hearts of opposing teams is long gone. They are currently in the bottom third of teams in points per game and are dead last by a mile in passing yards allowed per game. Last week they let Kyler Murray put up his second-highest passing yard total this season. His first? Against the New York Jets. Somehow, quarterback Russell Wilson has managed to salvage this season. He currently leads the league in touchdowns and passer rating, despite throwing three picks last week against Arizona.
Injuries have come to define the 49ers 2020 season. They sit in last place in perhaps the best division in football but still have a 4-3 record and are ninth in average scoring margin. Coming off an impressive win in which the intercepted Cam Newton three times, Jarrett Stidham once, and gave up only 256 total yards and two field goals, the Niners will try to keep it rolling in Seattle. Their hodgepodge defensive line and banged up secondary will have its hands full this week.
Imagine losing this many starting players on a Super Bowl squad and still finding yourself one game out of first place in your division. Head coach Kyle Shannahan has done a great job of finding ways to win games, even against unassuming opponents. Seattle provides the first real test for this 49ers team. The Seahawks are 3-0 at home this season and the 49ers are 3-0 on the road. Shannahan is 2-4 against Seattle while coaching the 49ers and has lost the first game they played each of the last three seasons. Jimmy Garoppolo is without Deebo Samuel and San Francisco is onto yet another running back. A steady diet of George Kittle will keep this one close, but Russell Wilson will not be denied this division matchup. Seahawks by a touchdown.
Week 6: 2-1
This season: 8-4
*Odds via DraftKings