Arizona Cardinals (5-0, 4-1 ATS) at Cleveland Browns (3-2, 3-2), 4:05 p.m.
Brolley’s Cardinals Stats and Trends
The Cardinals are 4-1 ATS overall and they’re 4-1 ATS in their last five road games.
Arizona is 10-1 toward unders in its last 11 road games.
The Cards own the second-best point differential at +62 points, behind only the Bills at +108.
Kyler Murray has cooled off the last three weeks after opening the season with seven TD passes and 34+ FP in the first two weeks. He has just three passing scores in the last three games and he bottomed out with 13.7 FP last week with Arizona failing to reach 31+ points for the first time. Kyler has yet to reach 40+ rushing yards in a game this season, which matches his longest drought without 40+ rushing yards in a game since Weeks 6-10 of his rookie season in 2019. Justin Herbert ripped the Browns for 398/4 passing and 4/29/1 rushing last week.
DeAndre Hopkins has yet to see 10 targets in a game this season, which is his longest drought without double-digit targets since he was a fledgling rookie with the Texans in Weeks 3-7 of 2014. He posted 6/87/1 receiving on nine targets last week, which was just the second time he’s topped four catches in a game. Mike Williams ripped the Cleveland secondary for 8/165/2 receiving last week.
A.J. Green saw exactly six targets in each of the first four games, but he finally flopped with just a 13-yard catch on two targets against the 49ers last week. He still ran the second-most routes behind Hopkins with 30 (88% share), and the Browns are giving up a solid 178.8 receiving yards per game.
Rondale Moore had a combined 5/29 receiving on five targets in Weeks 3-4, but he popped for 5/59 receiving on six targets and he added 3/38 rushing against the 49ers on a season-high 48% of the snaps. He just missed out on a 27-yard touchdown by getting marked down just shy of the goal line, and he edged out Christian Kirk in routes (20 to 18) for the first time. Kirk managed just 5/39 receiving last week, which gives him 10 or fewer FP in 3-of-5 games. The Cardinals could run more four-WR sets moving forward with Maxx Williams (knee, IR) going down for the season so Moore and Kirk could play bigger roles moving forward. Slot WR Keenan Allen posted 6/75 receiving on nine targets in this matchup last week.
Chase Edmonds was ineffective for the first time in Week 5 as he played through a shoulder injury. He posted season-lows in carries (6), targets (4), catches (3), and scrimmage yards (34). Austin Ekeler posted 22/119/3 scrimmage against the Browns last week.
James Conner has yet to average more than 4.0 YPC in a game this season, but he continued to vulture rushing touchdowns at the goal line with his fifth rushing TD in his last three games. The Browns are giving up 3.2 YPC and they’ve given up just two rushing TDs to RBs this season.
Brolley’s Browns Stats and Trends
The Browns are 2-5 ATS in their last seven home games.
Cleveland became the first team in NFL history to lose despite recording 40+ points and 500+ yards without a turnover.
Nick Chubb has 20+ carries in three straight games and he ended a two-game scoreless drought last week against the Chargers. He’s ripped off 100+ rushing yards in consecutive games and he has 80+ yards in every game this season, but he’s back to being a non-factor as a receiver with 3/17 receiving in the last four games. The Cardinals gave up 85+ rushing yards to individual backs in three straight games before running into the 49ers’ messy backfield last week.
Kareem Hunt is scorching with 16+ FP in three straight games and in four of his first five games this season thanks to five touchdowns. He’s averaging 16.3/110.2 scrimmage per game in his last three contests. The Cardinals have allowed just one touchdown but they’re giving up 139.4 scrimmage yards per game to RBs.
Baker Mayfield topped 19+ FP for the first time this season with 305/2 passing (10.8 YPA) for 23.0 FP in a shootout loss to the Chargers last week. Kirk Cousins posted 244/3 passing in this matchup back in Week 2 and they’re allowing the eighth-fewest passing yards per game (229.4) to QBs.
Odell Beckham mustered just 2/20 receiving on three targets in a game in which Cleveland scored 42 points. He has just 4/47 receiving on 10 targets since a promising first game back from injury when he posted 5/77 receiving. The Cardinals are giving up the 14th-most FPG (39.3) to WRs this season.
David Njoku had just 7/111 receiving without a touchdown through the first four weeks of the season before going nuclear against the Chargers with 7/149/1 receiving in Week 5 on a position-best 21 routes. The Cardinals are giving up the second-fewest FPG (5.6) to TEs this season.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 29.3 (22nd)
Plays per game: 68.2 (14th)
Pass: 55.6% (28th) | Run: 44.4% (5th)
Pace: 31.4 (30th)
Plays per game: 70.2 (10th)
Pass: 49.7% (31st) | Run: 50.3% (2nd)
This is the game of the week between these two hyper efficient offenses. While the Cardinals have gotten so much deserved praise, the Browns have been fantastic in their own right. Arizona is sixth in points per drive (2.73), which is only a nose hair ahead of the Browns (2.62; eighth). Cleveland’s offense has been tough to take off the field and they are second in time of possession per drive (3:17), right behind Kansas City (3:19). Obviously no Nick Chubb (calf) hurts the Browns chances a bit, but I don’t think it’ll do much to change their plans in this spot. Arizona’s run defense has been atrocious to start the year, we just haven’t seen any running backs hit big ceiling games against them besides James Robinson because team’s are constantly behind on the scoreboard to Arizona (more on that below). The Cardinals front-seven is giving up 5.22 YPC (second-most) to RBs, which plays right into the Browns hands. Cleveland is running the ball +8.5% above expectation in neutral situations (game within a score in 1st-3rd quarter) which is the third-highest rate, so if this ball game is as tight as the spread suggests, we will see a huge dose of Kareem Hunt.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals have drastically slowed down their pace because they simply have not been threatened much. They’ve led on 64% of their offensive possessions, which is third-best. Ultimately, playing slower will hurt their team’s fantasy upside over the course of the season because draining the clock leads to lower volume overall and we’re already seeing a residual effect on DeAndre Hopkins. We just haven’t seen Kyler Murray pressed to go blow for blow and score all game long besides Week 2 vs. Vikings.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
The Cleveland run defense is no joke. And they aren’t permitting the high receiving numbers to backs as the other elite run Ds (Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Dallas, etc.). That fact renders Chase Edmonds and James Conner as downgrades.
Check out that target share for Odell Beckham Jr. in a game in which 89 points went up on the scoreboard. Does it seem off? I’ll eat my words if he blows up in this spot, but Week 6 is not the week for an OBJ fix.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Last week, I wrote that Odell Beckham was getting open and QB Baker Mayfield made a horrible throw that prevented him from coasting into the end zone for a long TD against the Vikings. And then we heard that Mayfield was playing through a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder, which at least explains why he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn in Week 4. But Mayfield was cooking in Week 5, going 23/32 for 305 yards and 2 TD while leading the Browns to 42 turnover-free points in a thrilling loss to the Chargers. So OBJ had a big game, right!!!!
Well, does 2 catches for 20 yards and a brutal drop on his only other target count as “big?” Beckham played a season-high 82% of the snaps and ran a team-high 31 routes on Baker’s 33 dropbacks. He just didn’t get targeted. Most things in the world are explainable. The Scientific Method typically works. But in terms of the inexplicable, OBJ’s struggles in Cleveland are right up there with wondering where we go when we die. He’s a WR3, as Cardinal CB Byron Murphy (ribs) is dinged up — and Mayfield will be helped by Chandler Jones (COVID) being out.
Odell Beckham: Can't lie about wanting the ball, but feel like I'm in great spot to win title. https://t.co/bycOa122CN— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) October 14, 2021
There’s really not much more analysis we can do here. I think, as John Hansen said this week, that Kareem Hunt could be a good sell-high guy as the RB6 on the season, but it’s not like you can bench him when he’s scorching hot and teams are on bye weeks… and of course Nick Chubb is hurt.
Here’s Scott Barrett from the XFP Report on this backfield:
“For the third straight week (two wins, one loss), Kareem Hunt has seen better usage than Nick Chubb. Over this span, Hunt ranks 4th in XFP per game (19.2) and 5th in FPG (23.3). Chubb ranks 15th (14.7) and 20th (14.6)… Yeah, so, I’d be panicking at least a little bit if I was a Chubb owner. This was my big concern last year, and this year as well, which I explained in more detail here. Chubb is seeing near-zero usage in the passing game, and that’s a massive handicap in PPR leagues. In the meantime, Hunt should be ranked as a high-end RB2, and he's a good bet to out-score Chubb again this week, in a close script game (-2.5) against the Cardinals.”
Obviously, the analysis changes with Chubb out, and Hunt is expected to be the bell cow in Chubb’s stead. Ironically, Hunt actually averages more FPG in games in which Chubb is active (14.3) than in the four games when he is not over the past few seasons (13.6). I think that’s just small-sample murk, but worth noting nonetheless.
As Brolley noted above, one of the reasons — maybe the reason — Kyler Murray is currently “only” the QB6 is because of his lack of rushing upside so far as he just distributes the ball through the air to his deep set of receivers, and he’ll get to do so this week against a Brown defense that’s had several injuries in the back end, though there appears to be some optimism Denzel Ward (neck), Greedy Williams (shoulder/knee), Greg Newsome (calf), and the other AJ Green (shoulder/knee) can play. But he’s dealing with a shoulder injury.
K1 is (likely) dealing w/ an AC joint injury (again)— Edwin Porras, DPT (@FBInjuryDoc) October 15, 2021
*82% adjusted compltn % (4th)
*78% adjusted compltn % (13th)
*79% adjusted compltn % (9th)
*74% adjusted compltn % (23rd)
More volatile than usual this week
Per @PFF pic.twitter.com/ZtqUtfKm5y
Here’s Graham Barfield from this week’s Stat-Pack on Murray’s rushing (or lack thereof):
“Murray is 12th in scramble yardage per game (19.4).
Last year, Murray averaged 3.2 scrambles per game (third-most) and averaged 30.5 rushing yards (second-most) on those scrambles.”
The Cardinals may have to go with more four-wide, “10” personnel sets this week — new TE Zach Ertz isn’t allowed by NFL rules to play two games in one week — now that TE Maxx Williams, who was emerging as a very useful player, is out for the year with a knee injury. You know you’re playing DeAndre Hopkins, but for the first time last week, rookie stud Rondale Moore ran more routes than Christian Kirk. Maybe I just hopelessly chase upside, but Moore is my second-favorite Arizona WR from this point on in season-long, especially after AJ Green’s dud last week. Still, I think you can make a case for any of these secondary receivers in a matchup against a banged-up secondary.
Why has Hopkins been a disappointment of sorts so far? Let’s go back to Graham:
“DeAndre Hopkins’ target share through Weeks 1-5 is 20.6% (which is 25th among WRs).
Last year, Hopkins’ target share was 29% (3rd among WRs).”
In the backfield, Chase Edmonds is playing through a shoulder injury and had his first ineffective game of the season in Week 6. On top of that, C Rodney Hudson (ribs/shoulder) is out.
Graham’s on a roll, so here he is from Start/Sit this week:
“After toughing out a shoulder injury that kept him out of practice for most of the week, Edmonds was ineffective in Week 5 vs. the 49ers as he bottomed out for season-lows in touches (9) and scrimmage yards (34). Edmonds is still getting drastically out-snapped in the red-zone by James Conner and that combined with his injury and this matchup has our projections significantly lower on him. The Browns are giving up the fourth-fewest scrimmage yards (89.4) along with the fourth-fewest catches per game (3.4) to RBs.”
So it could be another week for “The CEO” James Conner to make his hay — the team does all the work, he slurps up all the points. Conner’s 7 rushing attempts inside the 5 are second-most in the NFL (Jonathan Taylor), and his 5 TD are the most.