The Ravens were totally unproven riding high off of two wins against tankerrific teams. They were a team that got smoked by Kansas City before scoring 15 fourth-quarter points after the Chiefs took their foot off the gas. These are the reasons that I thought it was crazy that they were favored by seven points over the Cleveland Browns last Sunday. I was elated that the Browns punched the Ravens in the mouth, but I wasn’t surprised. Heading into a Monday night tilt with the San Francisco 49ers, I’m feeling somewhat similarly, but with a giant caveat.
The 49ers are 3-0, but mostly unproven because the teams they beat are a combined 3-9 right now. They’ve beaten up on the Bucs and Bengals — albeit on the road — and squeaked by the Mason Rudolph-led Steelers at home 24-20. That’s where the caveat comes in. They’re coming off of a bye week, so they’re rested, at home, and had extra time to prepare for the Cleveland Browns.
Jimmy Garoppolo has been fine. He’s thrown five TDs and four interceptions. Their three leading pass catchers are pretty anonymous in tight end George Kittle, and receivers, Deebo Samuel, and Marquise Goodwin. Maybe I’m supposed to know who those guys are, and just because I don’t know them, it doesn’t mean they aren’t good. I didn’t really know much about Ricky Seals-Jones either, and he fits perfectly into a scheme where nobody pays any attention to him. As of right now, these names don’t terrify me.
When the game lines opened, the Browns were three point underdogs. I looked this morning, and they’re now 3.5 point underdogs. Obviously, this means that bettors are increasingly putting money on the 49ers. It makes sense to me that the Browns are underdogs, especially playing a night game on the West Coast. Just like the Ravens matchup, however, it wouldn’t shock me at all if the Browns defense shut down the 49ers offense.
In their game against the Steelers, the 49ers turned the ball over five times. Garoppolo threw two interceptions and fumbled twice, losing one. If that’s not “Advantage Browns,” I don’t know what is. Of the nine times that Garoppolo has been hit this season, the Steelers hit him seven times even if he was only sacked once. I bet the Browns are studying that tape so that they can try and replicate that level of pressure. I think it’s also safe to say that the Browns defense is starting to show an elite ability to impact games.
The bottom line is I wouldn’t be shocked to see the 49ers or Browns squeak out a victory. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Browns handled the 49ers like they did the Ravens. The only thing I’d be shocked about is if the 49ers hammered the Browns. I think the 49ers have the early advantage due to having a week to prepare, but I would bet on the Browns’ talent winning out throughout the course of the game, provided they execute to the degree they did against Baltimore.