Cleveland Browns (3-1, 3-1 ATS) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-1, 3-1), 4:05 p.m.
Brolley’s Browns Stats and Trends
The Browns have covered in four straight road games, and they’re 5-1 ATS in their last six games overall.
Cleveland has played under the total in two straight games thanks to allowing just 13 combined points to the Bears and the Vikings.
Nick Chubb has run for 80+ yards in every game this season, but he’s failed to find the end zone in consecutive games after scoring in eight straight regular season games before that. HC Kevin Stefanski is back to ignoring him in the passing game as he’s seen just two targets in the last three weeks for 2/8 receiving. Kareem Hunt has found the end zone and he’s seen 16 touches in consecutive games, and he’s scored 16+ FP in three games this season. The Chargers are giving up 5.0 YPC and the fifth-most rushing yards per game (114.3) to RBs.
Baker Mayfield has yet to reach 19+ FP and he hasn’t hit multiple TD passes in a game this season. He completed just 45.5% of his passes and he averaged just 4.7 YPA against the Vikings last week. The Chargers held the AFC Offensive Player of the Month, Derek Carr, to under 200 passing yards and 5.8 YPA last week as they pressured him on 45% of his dropbacks.
Odell Beckham is the only usable fantasy receiver on the Browns right now, and he just missed having a massive game if not for some inaccurate throws from Baker. He finished with an extremely disappointing 2/27 receiving on seven targets considering Mayfield missed him for multiple touchdowns. He at least ran nine more routes than the next closest WRs Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones (32 to 23). The Chargers are giving up the second-fewest FPG (26.3) to WRs this season, including just 5/56 receiving to Tyreek Hill in Week 3.
Austin Hooper is still leading the TEs in routes (18 last week), but it hasn’t resulted in much fantasy production. He’s yet to reach double-digit FP and to cross 40 receiving yards in a game this season. The Chargers have given up 12+ FP in three of four games, but Darren Waller, Travis Kelce, and Logan Thomas did it.
Brolley’s Chargers Stats and Trends
The Chargers are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games.
Los Angeles has played under the total in four straight games to open the year.
Austin Ekeler is blistering hot with 100+ scrimmage yards and 22+ FP in his last three games. The Chargers didn’t target Ekeler in the passing game in Week 1 because of his hamstring issue but he still scored a touchdown. He gets a much tougher matchup this week against a Browns’ defense that limited Vikings’ RBs to just 2.8 YPC last week. They’ve given up just one touchdown in four weeks, and they’re allowing just 3.0/26.3 receiving per game to RBs.
Justin Herbert has thrown for seven TDs without an INT the last two weeks after tossing two TDs and three INTs in the opening two games. He struggled a bit overall last week, averaging just 5.8 YPA but he threw three TDs on just 22 passes (13.6% TD rate). Patrick Mahomes roughed up the Browns in the season opener (337/3 passing), but they limited Kirk Cousins to 203/1 passing and they pressured him on a week-high 53.7% of his dropbacks.
Keenan Allen saw 11 targets last week but he turned those looks into just 7/36 receiving, which gives him just 15/86/1 receiving on 23 targets for 3.7 YPT the last two weeks. The Browns limited Adam Thielen (3/46 receiving) and Allen Robinson (2/27) in the last two weeks.
Mike Williams had 7+ catches, 80+ yards, 1+ TD, and 22+ FP in each of his first three games, but he was invisible against the Raiders last week with just an 11-yard catch on four targets. His aDOT skyrocketed to 18.0 yards last week after sitting at 9.8 yards in the first three weeks when he averaged 10.3 targets per game. Justin Jefferson posted 6/84/1 receiving in this matchup last week
Jared Cook is coming off his best game of the season with LA’s receivers struggling against the Raiders. He posted 6/70/1 receiving on seven targets and even Donald Parham got into the act with a touchdown reception. The Browns haven’t allowed a TE to reach 20+ receiving yards since Travis Kelce ripped them for 6/76/2 receiving in the season opener.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 31.6 (28th)
Plays per game: 70.5 (6th)
Pass: 49.8% (31st) | Run: 50.2% (2nd)
Pace: 26.6 (7th)
Plays per game: 71.8 (5th)
Pass: 63.6% (11th) | Run: 36.4% (22nd)
This Sunday’s slate is fairly short on intriguing matchups outside of Chiefs-Bills, but it’s impossible to not be excited about this game. The Chargers look like Super Bowl contenders while the Browns have their eyes set on becoming the class of the AFC North and a deep run in the playoffs, too. If this game stays as tight as the spread suggests, the Browns are going to come out and run the hell out of the ball against this Chargers defense. L.A. sits back in a lot of zone, two-deep safety looks and dare their opponents to run on them against light boxes. As a result, the Chargers are giving up 5.14 YPC (second-most) and 122 YPG (fifth-most) to opposing RBs. Through the opening month, the Browns are running the ball 6.5% above expectation in neutral situations (game within a score in 1st-3rd quarter) – that is the fifth-highest rate in the league – so this matchup plays right into their strengths. This is a monster ceiling spot for Nick Chubb. Meanwhile, the Chargers are passing the ball 7.3% above expectation (fourth-highest) as Justin Herbert continues to play like a future MVP. With the Browns advantage on the ground and the Chargers offense running white-hot and throwing a ton, there is a ton of scoring upside here. This is the No. 1 game in the pace/play model for the week, just edging out Chiefs-Bills.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Only Davante Adams (11.3), Cooper Kupp (11.3), and Diontae Johnson (11.7) are being provided with more targets/game than Keenan Allen (10.5). That volume will be one of the keys toward Allen potentially providing a profit this week. Browns’ slot CB Troy Hill will be tasked with containing Allen on Sunday — Hill and Cleveland are giving out 61% of their FPG to receivers out of the slot.
It’s worth noting that the Chargers feature a two-deep safety look on quite a bit of their snaps, which both the Cowboys and Chiefs chose to run heavily against. Given Baker Mayfield’s injury, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Browns do the same.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
As Wes notes above, this is probably a good week for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, but Chubb’s strangehold on the backfield that he had in 2020 seems to be waning. Here’s Scott Barrett from the Week 5 XFP Report:
“Kareem Hunt has seen better volume than Nick Chubb in back-to-back games — two games Cleveland won. Over this span he averages 18.5 XFP per game (RB7) to Chubb's 14.1 (RB19). Chubb has seen 44 carries to Hunt's 25, but Hunt has seen 11 targets to Chubb's 1. Perhaps more alarmingly, Hunt has seen two opportunities inside the 5-yard-line to Chubb's 1. It’s still early yet but I’m worried this backfield will look a lot more like 2019 than 2020 — when Hunt out-scored Chubb in 6 of 8 games both were active.”
Hunt being more involved as a receiver could correlate to Baker Mayfield looking awful in Week 4 as he struggles to get over a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. Mayfield doesn’t have a finish above QB16 this year and has thrown just 2 TD passes.
Mayfield playing with partially torn labrum in non-throwing shoulder https://t.co/bppDaUUq4L— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) October 7, 2021
Most notably were Baker’s struggles throwing the ball to Odell Beckham Jr.. The targets were there. The air yards were there. The production… was not. But don’t necessarily blame that on OBJ, who seemed to be getting open rather easily against the Vikings in Week 4… only to post 2/27 on 7 targets. But in his second game of the season in his return from an ACL tear, Beckham also saw a significant rise in snap share from 64% to 79%, and ran a route on 32 of Mayfield’s 36 dropbacks (PFF). So why wasn’t the production there? Well, the video below might lend some insight. And at least we have an explanation for it, even if it’s hard to expect Mayfield to be 100% any time soon. OBJ is a volatile WR3, but he looks good.
look at how Odell manipulates Harrison Smith on the out to break the route upfield…— Sean Alcide (@Sean_Lyric) October 3, 2021
…only to have the ball… nvm, man.
that’s a freaking TD, Baker. do better. pic.twitter.com/hrNMQ6ha1g
To me, the Chargers are easy. Justin Herbert is a borderline QB1 and always a defensible start, but it’s worth noting that the Browns are a tough matchup, giving up the 9th-fewest FPG to opposing QBs, though Myles Garrett (ankle/knee) is questionable.
Austin Ekeler is the overall RB2 in fantasy despite being limited in Week 1.
I think the matchup is easier for Keenan Allen than it is more Mike Williams, but I’m not freaking out about a down week for Williams when he had to dance with Casey Hayward for a while against the Raiders. I’m more intrigued by Allen who, despite producing solidly as the overall WR17, is one of Scott’s favorite “underachievers” so far.
“Among TEs, Cook ranks 8th in air yards per game (49.3), 9th in targets per game (6.3), 10th in XFP per game (10.7), 12th in FPG (10.0), and 13th in route share (69%). So, any way you want to look at it, and although it’s not too sexy, Cook is producing like a fringe-TE1 on fringe-TE1-levels of volume. And that’s just about how he should be viewed this week, in this neutral matchup, but with Justin Herbert and Los Angeles’ offense fully roaring.”