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Patriots depth should provide enough to avoid Browns backdoor cover

The Patriots are the superior team in their Week 8 matchup with the Broncos. Can Cleveland put together a sufficient game plan coming off a bye?

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick talks with quarterback Tom Brady during practice at Gillette Stadium. Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns entered the 2019 season with high expectations. Baker Mayfield was being tossed around as a potential MVP candidate. The offseason moves had people thinking this was a potential Super Bowl contender. And then the season started.

It’s been rough sledding for the Browns, who struggled out of the gate and now have lost two straight to drop to 2-4. They showed serious life in thumping a solid Baltimore Ravens squad and looked like they were going to roll the Seattle Seahawks two weeks ago. Instead, those strong performances look more like outliers for the time being.

This week, they come out of their bye traveling to face the New England Patriots. The Browns opened as a ten-point underdog, but that line has climbed to 11.5 points at DraftKings Sportsbook. The point total sits at 46.

If the line had stayed at ten, I would have been all over the Patriots. They’re the better team, and as good as Nick Chubb has been, the Patriots run defense efficiency has been impressive — ranking eighth in the NFL. This would be the Patriots biggest test to date in terms of quality running backs, but this defense has been ridiculous. I think we see them contain Nick Chubb to enough of an extent.

On the other side of the ball, the Browns defense has been pretty miserable to date. They rank 21st and 25th in pass and run defense efficiency, and face a dynamic Patriots offense that added an intriguing weapon with the Mohamed Sanu trade. Losing Josh Gordon stings, but Sanu should take the sting away to a sufficient extent. And if they can finally get Rex Burkhead back, the run game will be in excellent shape.

The Browns are coming off a bye, so they’ve had plenty of time to prepare. I don’t think it’s enough for an outright upset, but 11.5 does open the door for a backdoor cover. Trailing by 14 in the early part of the fourth quarter, Freddie Kitchens might decide a field goal is worth it over going for it on fourth down to get the lead to a field goal + TD/2-pt conversion. I’m still going to lay the points with New England because they’re a better team and Bill Belichick is an infinitely superior coach to Kitchens. But Cleveland getting a late score concerns me.

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