When the New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns square off on Sunday, two of the better defenses in the NFL will meet. New England’s is currently ranked fourth in scoring, giving up an average of just 17.3 points per game (excluding two Mac Jones pick-sixes). Cleveland’s meanwhile, is 12th with a 21.8-point average.
Heading into their Week 10 bout, the question will therefore be whether or not the two defenses will rule the day again and prevent their offensive counterparts from consistently putting points on the scoreboard. Let’s use our crystal ball as well as the numbers provided by DraftKings Sportsbook to find out.
Patriots vs. Browns: O/U 45.5
With the over/under set at 45.5 points as of Thursday morning, and the Patriots listed a 2.5-point favorites, a final score in the area of 24-21 seems like the most realistic outcome as projected by the oddsmakers. A score such as this would be consistent with New England’s recent output: the team has scored 24 or more points in five straight games.
The Browns, on the other hand, have been a bit more erratic as far as consistent scoring is concerned. While they are averaging 24.9 points per game on the season (24.1 if defensive scores are not considered), they have failed to reach that mark in four of their last six games: Cleveland scored 42 against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5 and 41 versus the Cincinnati Bengals last week.
In between, however, was a string of games that saw the Browns put up only 14, 17 and 10 points. Going against a defense such as New England’s, it would not be a surprise if the team’s final score ended up closer to those numbers rather than the 40-plus scored against L.A. and Cincinnati.
As for the Patriots, they have proven themselves capable of scoring more consistently. However, some of it was tied directly to the defense: New England has registered a pick-six in back-to-back games and will now go up against a team that has taken care of the football so far this season, turning over only eight combined times.
Considering all of that it would not be a surprise if the under would prevail in the end — and if defense once more ruled the day.
Mac Jones and Baker Mayfield: Over 2.5 combined passing touchdowns
Mac Jones has thrown 10 touchdowns so far this season, with Baker Mayfield having 8 on his year-long résumé. Neither of the two quarterbacks has thrown more than a pair of TDs in a single game this year, which each of them doing so on three separate occasions. Likewise, Jones has failed to throw a touchdown in two games; Mayfield in three.
Heading into their Week 10 meeting, it would therefore not be surprising if the combined number of passing touchdowns would come in below 2.5. That said, one key factor cannot be left out of the equation: the running back position.
New England and Cleveland are both facing major questions at running back this week. Patriots backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson are both in concussion protocol, while the Browns could be without their clear top back, Nick Chubb, after he was sent to the Covid-19 reserve list. We also already know that the team will not activate Kareem Hunt off injured reserve ahead of the matchup.
With the running back situations less than ideal on both sides, and with the two run defenses both productive so far, the Patriots and Browns might be more inclined to throw the football. As a result, more passing touchdowns could happen.
Despite the season-long trend, the two quarterbacks combining for three or more touchdown throws therefore certainly seems possible.