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Sunday Night Football: Cleveland Browns vs. New York Giants Prediction and Preview

Sunday Night Football: Cleveland Browns vs. New York Giants Prediction and Preview

Sunday Night Football: Cleveland Browns vs. New York Giants Prediction and Preview

The Cleveland Browns will try and pick up the pieces after a tough Monday night loss at home to the Ravens as they travel to New York to play the Giants on "Sunday Night Football." New York has won six of the last seven meetings between the two teams, including a 27-13 decision in the most recent encounter during the 2016 season. In that game, Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes while Josh McCown threw for 322 yards in a losing effort at home for the Browns.

Cleveland (9-4) lost in the game of the year last week, falling at home to Baltimore 47-42. Baker Mayfield had one of his best games of the season with 343 passing yards and two touchdowns while also running for another. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt did the heavy lifting on the ground with 115 combined rushing yards and three scores. The problem was the Browns couldn't make any key stops on defense and have up too many big plays. This defense has now surrendered 107 points the last three weeks to the Jaguars, Titans and Ravens.

The Giants (5-8) saw their four-game win streak end last week, falling 26-7 at home to Arizona. Daniel Jones returned from a hamstring injury but didn't look healthy, finishing with 127 passing yards. The offense couldn't muster much and the defense saw their streak of four straight games allowing 20 points or fewer come to an end. With Jones still not 100 percent, head coach Joe Judge will turn back to Colt McCoy, who was under center two weeks ago when New York shocked Seattle.

Sunday Night Football: Cleveland at New York

Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 20 at 8:20 p.m. ET


Spread: Browns -6.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Intangibles

How flat will the Browns be after last week? They are now two games behind the Steelers in the AFC North with just three left to go. A win by Pittsburgh on Monday night over Cincinnati or a loss by Cleveland to New York gives the Steelers the division title. Previous versions of the Browns would lose this game on Sunday and show a very unfocused effort. In some ways, they've grown up, but we'll see what happens under the spotlight. Cleveland has a road game against the Jets next week so they'll return to MetLife Stadium after Christmas. The Giants are home for the second straight week and have a road trip to Baltimore next week on the docket. New York is one game behind Washington in the NFC East standings but owns the head-to-head tiebreaker. I expect a much better effort from the home team than what the Giants showed last week against Arizona.

2. Are you for real?

Those who follow me on Twitter know that I'm not a fan of the Browns. Yes, they are 9-4 on the season, but what is their best win? They've beaten the Bengals twice, everyone in the weak NFC East, as well as the Texans and Jaguars. The win over Indianapolis in Week 5 was impressive, same for the victory in Tennessee two weeks ago, but even so, Cleveland has lost to the Ravens twice as well as the Steelers and the Raiders. The run game is really good and Baker Mayfield shows flashes of brilliance, but I'm concerned about their consistency in a playoff setting with a porous defense.

3. Are you for real II?

Before last week, the Giants had won four straight games. They sit 5-8 now and would be multiple games out of first in any other division besides the NFC East. The defense has been a very pleasant surprise and has even more room to grow with some changes in the offseason. The questions come on offense with Colt McCoy replacing a clearly less than 100 percent Daniel Jones at quarterback and poor skill position players. Wayne Gallman was able to run on the bad defenses of Cincinnati and Seattle, but he also struggled against the likes of Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. During their 0-5 start to the season, there were closes losses by 10 points to the Steelers and by eight in Los Angeles against the Rams. This game will show me if they are "NFC East playoff-caliber" or just a bad team in a bad division.

Final Analysis

If the Browns score on their first or second drive, this could be a long night for the Giants, who probably can't keep up from an offensive standpoint. If Cleveland struggles to put last week's heartbreaking loss past them, then this one will be close throughout. In that case, I give the edge to New York, who has Graham Gano at kicker while Cleveland trots out Cody "Double Doink" Parkey, who has already missed three field goals and two extra points this season.

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Prediction: Giants 23, Browns 21

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.