Can the Browns get on track now that their schedule lightens up a bit?
The Cleveland Browns hope to get on track Sunday afternoon in Denver when they take on the Broncos. These two teams played last year in the Mile High City with Cleveland taking it, 17-16. It was a quarterback duel between Case Keenum, who is now with Washington, and Baker Mayfield, who threw two touchdown passes in the win. That victory snapped an 11-game losing streak for the Browns in the series that spanned all the way back to 1991.
So far, Cleveland has failed immensely to live up to the hype that was bestowed upon them by the national media. All of the pomp and circumstance included a Sports Illustrated cover and many asking if they had the best roster in football. Fast forward to Week 9 and the Browns are sporting a 2-5 record with a three-game losing streak. Mayfield has flopped a bit, as he struggles to cut down on turnovers, while the defense has dealt with injuries and allowed 20 points or more six times already.
Denver is 2-6 on the season and had a small victory during the week when they didn't deal cornerback Chris Harris Jr. before the trade deadline. The team enters this contest with Brandon Allen under center as Joe Flacco was placed on injured reserve on Friday because of a bulging disk in his neck.
The Broncos have four losses this year of one score or less. With a stop here and there, their record would be so much better.
Cleveland at Denver
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 3 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Cleveland -3
Three Things to Watch
The Broncos are home for the third time in the last four weeks, so there won't be any travel weariness, especially with the coming next week. It's been a rough first half to the season and one has to wonder if all the losing (and how it has happened) is starting to affect team morale, the vibe in the locker room. On the other side, you've got a Cleveland team coming off a 27-13 loss at New England. This is their second straight road game and fifth overall so far. They've played one of the toughest schedules in the league and can't afford to look ahead even though they've got a three-game homestand up next. Cleveland's season isn't over by far, but they also don't have a ton of margin for error right now.
2. Please let me introduce myself
As mentioned above, Brandon Allen will be under center Sunday. Not only will the 6-foot-2 signal-caller out of Arkansas be making his first career start for Denver, but he'll also be throwing his first regular-season pass as well. Allen was taken in the sixth round by Jacksonville back in the 2016 draft and was waived before the '17 season. He spent some time on the Rams' active roster and practice squad before they waived him in August. This past preseason, Allen completed 63.8 percent of his passes while throwing for 431 yards and no touchdowns to three interceptions. One has to think that with a weak offensive line, Browns pass rusher Myles Garrett could be introducing himself to Allen early and often.
3. Can Cleveland take care of business?
Baker Mayfield has 12 interceptions in 2019 to just six touchdowns. The quarterback has been a massive disappointment after most expected him to take the next step in his progression with stud wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Mayfield has had at least one turnover in every game and is facing one of the best secondaries in football. Chris Harris Jr. was not dealt and he's been doing great stuff so far. Even better is safety Justin Simmons, who leads the team with 45 tackles as well as nine passes defended. Browns running back Nick Chubb will have to put last week's struggles behind him, as Cleveland can't win without some balance on offense.
I thought Cleveland was going to struggle this season despite all the hype. So far, I was right about a Browns team that is committing too many turnovers and penalties. Denver is a play or two away from having a winning record and being in a different mental state. It's tough to play in Denver, and while everyone is ready to hand this one to the road team, I'll go against the grain and take the Broncos despite Brandon Allen being under center.
Prediction: Broncos 16, Browns 13
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.