Cleveland Browns (2-1, 2-1 ATS) at Minnesota Vikings (1-2, 2-1), 1 p.m.
Implied Team Totals: Brown 26.75, Vikings 24.75
Spread/Total Movements: 1 to 2, 52.5 to 53.5 to 51.5
Browns Injuries to Watch: CB Greg Newsome (calf, out)
Vikings Injuries to Watch: RB Dalvin Cook (ankle, questionable)
Brolley’s Browns Stats and Trends
The Browns are 4-1 ATS in their last five games, and they’re 5-1 ATS in their last six road games.
Cleveland is 5-2 toward unders in its last seven games as a favorite.
Nick Chubb had his eight-game, regular-season touchdown streak snapped last week. He’s also back to being a non-factor in the passing game as he didn’t see a target on just 13 routes after catching his only target for three yards in Week 2. Chubb did see 22 carries last week, his most since Week 2 in 2020, but he averaged just 3.8 YPC. Chris Carson (12/80/1 rushing) and Joe Mixon (29/127/1) each got it done in this matchup this season.
Kareem Hunt had been underwhelming with his production through the first two weeks of the season, but he busted out in Cleveland’s first game without Jarvis Landry (knee, IR). After managing 114 scrimmage yards on 23 touches (5.0 yards per touch) through two weeks, Hunt hung 16/155/1 scrimmage (9.7 YPT) for 27.5 FP while playing 41% of the snaps against the Bears. Hunt could stay more involved as a receiver while Landry is out of the lineup after running the fourth-most routes (21) in Week 3. The Vikings have allowed a solid 5.0 catches per game to RBs so far.
Baker Mayfield has yet to hit 19+ FP with just two touchdown passes, but he’s averaging a healthy 9.8 YPA with a 73.8% completion rate. The Vikings are giving up the fourth-most passing yards per game (319.7) to QBs with six overall touchdown passes.
Odell Beckham had a promising first showing in Week 3 in his first action since he tore his ACL 11 months ago. With Landry (knee, IR) out of the lineup, OBJ stepped right into the #1 receiver role with Baker Mayfield and he led the Browns with 5/77 receiving on a generous nine targets (29% share). He also played on 64% of the snaps and it would’ve been much closer to a full workload if the Browns weren’t blowing out the Bears in the fourth quarter. The Vikings are giving up 15.0 YPR to WRs and the fourth-most FPG (47.2) to the position in the early going.
Donovan Peoples-Jones ran the most routes (34) of the secondary receivers followed by Rashard Higgins (25), Austin Hooper (20), David Njoku (20), and Harrison Bryant (9). None of these receivers reached 40+ yards but Hooper did score on one of his three targets. Hooper has yet to reach double-digit FP in the early going, but there’s some hope since Gerald Everett (5/54 receiving) and Maxx Williams (7/94) have made some noise the last two weeks.
Brolley’s Vikings Stats and Trends
Minnesota has covered consecutive games after failing to cover in eight straight games before that.
The Vikings are 5-1 toward overs in their last six games and 8-2 toward overs in their last 10 home games.
Dalvin Cook nearly played last week but the Vikings erred on the side of caution and rested him. Alexander Mattison gave the Vikings exactly what they needed with 32/171 from scrimmage against the Seahawks last week. Cook has 16+ FP in each of his first two games, but this won’t be the easiest matchup against a Browns’ defense that’s giving up just 3.0 YPC to RBs through three weeks.
Kirk Cousins is completing 73.9% of his passes for 306 yards per game and 7.7 YPA with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s posted 22+ FP in each of his first three games thanks to multiple scores in each contest. The Browns limited the Bears to just ONE net passing yard and 1.1 yards per play in Justin Fields’ first career start. Myles Garrett set a single-game franchise record with 4.5 sacks to help the Brown tally nine sacks overall.
Like the sun rises, Adam Thielen scored a touchdown last week. He’s now scored in every game this season (4 total), which gives him touchdowns in 13 of his last 18 games (18 total) since the start of 2020. The Browns have given up two touchdowns to WRs in the early going.
Justin Jefferson fantasy production (12.5<18.5<26.8) and his targets (9<10<11) have risen every week, which culminated in his 9/118/1 receiving performance against the Seahawks last season. Brandin Cooks posted 9/78/1 receiving in this matchup in Week 2
K.J. Osborn finally slipped down the passing game pecking order with just two targets (2/26 receiving) in Week 3 against the Seahawks. He still played a solid 59% of the snaps, and he ran six more routes than Tyler Conklin with 30. Slot CB Troy Hill has allowed just 5/59 receiving on 69 coverage snaps this season.
Tyler Conklin and Osborn are going to be battling it out for #3 receiver role every week, and the TE finally nudged ahead for a week with 7/70/1 receiving. He still ran a route on 62% of Cousins’ dropbacks, which was about the same as Weeks 1-2. The Browns haven’t been tested at TE the last two weeks against the Bears and Texans after they gave up 6/76/2 receiving to the G.O.A.T. Travis Kelce in the season opener.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Week 1-3 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 31.8 (20th)
Week 1-3 – Plays per game: 68.3 (25th)
Week 1-3 – Pass: 49.5% (31st) | Run: 50.5% (2nd)
Week 1-3 – Pace: 27.7 (14th)
Week 1-3 – Plays per game: 71.3 (8th)
Week 1-3 – Pass: 60.6% (17th) | Run: 39.4% (16th)
The Browns have rolled over the same exact game-plan from last season in that they’re playing slow and running the hell out of the ball. Through three games, the Browns are the fourth-highest team in run rate over expectation (+5.1%) and lead all teams in run rate with a lead (63.7%). This is by no means groundbreaking, but I think we’re going to see HC Kevin Stefanski come out and hammer the Vikings front-seven with Nick Chubb and try to control the game on the ground like last week where Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 32 carries. Minnesota’s run defense has been gashed for 4.82 YPC (sixth-highest) for a 53% success rate (third-highest).
Last week we saw the Vikings five-game streak towards the over snapped with Seattle only putting up 17 points. Still, we have a large sample size that shows the Vikings are a shootout team as 16 of their last 19 games have combined for over 47 points with 15 of those contests going over 50 points. The Browns are perfectly positioned to take advantage of the Vikings weak run defense, and if Cleveland holds a lead throughout, we’ll see Minnesota lean more on the pass in an attempt to keep up. The Vikings have shown a willingness to get away from the run when they’re behind this year and have gone 70% pass-heavy when trailing (13th-highest rate). Minnesota throwing to keep up with Cleveland’s scoring gives this game plenty of juice towards the over.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Let me just make it nice and simple — Odell Beckham Jr. has a matchup against a guy who might be the worst CB in football this year, Bashaud Breeland. Based on alignment, Beckham will see Breeland on a good bit of his routes in this game, and Breeland cannot offer resistance. It’s that easy. It’s quite the opposite for Donovan Peoples-Jones who, again based on alignment, will likely see a heaping helping of Patrick Peterson. PP might not be in his prime, but he’s playing better than BB.
The Vikings receivers will also be dealing with some potential good matchups — rookie CB Greg Newsome is going to miss this game for Cleveland with a calf injury, and that means Denzel Ward and likely Greedy Williams will have to hold down the fort against Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. While the Browns don’t play the typical coverage shells in which I want to target Kirk Cousins, he’s putting up major numbers. And though the Browns’ pass rush is nasty, the Newsome injury could be enough for Cousins to put up big numbers in this one.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
I’d like to thank Odell Beckham for returning to the fold and giving the Browns someone other than a running back who is useful for fantasy purposes. His 9 targets in Week 3 were immediately the most by any Brown in a game so far… and given they haven’t thrown the ball much at all, he’s instantly third on the team in total targets — both Kareem Hunt and Austin Hooper have 11. As Wes outlined above, this is not a matchup that scares me, and the Vikings have surrendered the 4th-most FPG to opposing WRs… including the 4th-most FPG to outside WRs. OBJ’s 175 air yards in Week 3 were also the third-most in the league. He might not be the OBJ of old, but he should be good enough to be a WR2 in this matchup. The Vikings have allowed 20 or more FP to a single receiver in every game so far.
By the way, though Bashaud Breeland has struggled, young CB Cam Dantzler has been in coach Mike Zimmer’s doghouse, and tweeted after last week’s game that he is sick of “biting [his] tongue” about his playing time. That doesn’t seem to be the right way to get on Zimmer’s good side!
Mike Zimmer said he’s going to talk to Cam Dantzler about his tweet after the game yesterday.— Matthew Coller (@MatthewColler) September 27, 2021
I can’t imagine that’s going to be a pleasant chat
With the Browns road favorites, though narrow, it might not project to be a smash spot for Nick Chubb, but you likely have to suck it up and start him anyway. Why? Because everybody who has ever had Chubb on a fantasy roster knows that there’s mini-Derrick Henry potential here in the event the game gets out of hand.
As for Hunt, I think he’s always in play as a FLEX, because his ceiling is so high. He’s just volatile. But one thing he did last week — small sample alert! — is he aligned in the slot on 3 snaps. Is 3 snaps enough to make much of a difference? No, but I wonder if he could be deployed more as a slot receiver after his 6/74 receiving performance against the Bears last week.
Otherwise, I still don’t think I’m fully behind Baker Mayfield, but OBJ is back and the Vikings have given up the 7th-most FPG to opposing QBs so far.
Minnesota is the same team every week, with the caveat that we need to monitor Dalvin Cook’s status. Alexander Mattison stepped up in a big way last week against the Seahawks, with 171 yards from scrimmage, but curiously Mattison has killed only the Seahawks in his career. You wonder if Cook (ankle) being less than 100% would lead to more of an even split in this backfield, but that’s never been the case. In his career, Mattison has averaged 18.9 FPG with Cook inactive… and just 5.0 FPG with him active. We’ll see if new OC Klint Kubiak is like his old man and prefers feeding just one RB.
#Vikings Alexander Mattison has five career games with 70 yards from scrimmage or more.— Joe Dolan (@FG_Dolan) September 27, 2021
2019 at Seattle
2020 vs. Green Bay
2020 at Seattle
2020 at Detroit
2021 vs. Seattle
Mattison averages 126.7 YPG against Seattle.
He averages 35.7 yards against all other teams.
You know to play Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen every week, while TE Tyler Conklin certainly threw his hat into the ring to be considered Minnesota’s #3 receiver with his big game last week. He’s on the TE streaming radar against a team that gave up 2 TD to Travis Kelce in Week 1.
As for Kirk Cousins, it’s worth noting that, per SIS, he has completed just 56% of his passes for just 5.0 YPA on 25 attempts when pressured this year, as opposed to 78.7% at 8.4 YPA on 97 attempts when not pressured. The Browns are generating pressure on 45.5% of opponent dropbacks, which is 3rd-most in the NFL.