Before every season, fans like to go down the schedule and pencil in wins and losses for every game. And when Eagles fans did that this summer, they almost certainly penciled in Sunday’s game against the Browns as a “W” for Philly.
That likely has just as much to do with the expectations placed on both teams prior to the season as it does with the fact that, even when people thought the Birds were going to be good this season, they knew that their upcoming stretch of games was going to be a tough one, and the Browns were likely one of the easiest of the bunch. Naturally, that’s the one you chalk up as the win.
Now? Not so much. The Browns are sitting at 6-3 in one of the toughest divisions in football while the Eagles, playing in far and away the worst division, are just 3-5-1 coming off their latest loss to the New York Giants. Cleveland has looked like the better team all season and will enter Sunday’s game as three-point favorites at home, according to TheLines.com.
We’ve already broken down some matchups to watch and offered up predictions of our own — as well as picks for every game this week. Now, as we do every week, let’s take a look at how the local and national media sees this game playing out…
• PhillyVoice staff: For the second week in a row, we’re divided in our picks, with four taking the Browns and two taking the Eagles. Here’s a bit more from yours truly, who is one of the two predicting an Eagles’ victory:
The Eagles probably have no business winning this game. They’re really bad — the types of questions Doug Pederson and Co. have been fielding in press conferences in recent weeks are the kind you face when your season is totally off the rails. And, despite their first-place standing in the NFC East, that’s where the Eagles are through nine games this season. They’re just a bad team.
So, why do I have them beating the Browns? Because I don’t think the Browns are as good as their record suggests. I think they’re just a middle-of-the-road team that, while perfectly capable of blowing this Eagles team out, is also capable of laying an egg. Head coach Kevin Stefanski will be pumped up to face his hometown team, but the Eagles are a desperate team, especially after losing to the Giants last week. If the Eagles lose this one, they’re going to be in real trouble as their next three games all feel like guaranteed losses, with a game against the Cardinals to cap off that stretch that feels more and more like a loss with each passing week.
If the Eagles can find it in them to remember how to stop the run, that will go a long way in this one. And, if Pederson suddenly remembers that his team is at its best when they present a more balanced attack on offense, then they can certainly sneak out a win against Cleveland. Hey, someone had to pick them, right?
• Inquirer.com: All four of their writers are taking the Browns in this one, and three of the four have Cleveland covering the three-point spread. Here’s how EJ Smith sees it playing out…
The Eagles have shown no evidence this season that they’re capable of turning things around the way they’ve done the last few seasons. They’re one of the worst teams in the league by almost every metric, even if they’re getting healthier and are a solid team on paper.
The Browns aren’t quite as good as their record may suggest. They’re middle-of-the-pack both offensively and defensively according to Football Outsiders, and they have a negative point differential. They managed only 10 points against a putrid Houston defense, and there are ways the Eagles can win this game. But the Birds just lost to a Giants team that’s considerably worse than the Browns. There’s no reason to believe this is the week the offensive issues sort themselves out. …
I don’t think this game will be over by halftime because I don’t think the Browns are a dominant team, but I don’t expect this one to be close.
• NJ.com staff: Each of their six writers are picking the Browns over the Birds on Sunday, including Mike Kaye.
This game will come down to the defense’s ability to stop the Browns’ rushing attack. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are the best running back tandem that the Eagles will face all year, and while the defense is playing well against running backs in the ground game, this duo is something else. The pair ran for over 200 yards against the Texans last week. Chubb and Hunt won’t put up those types of numbers against the Eagles, but they will control the clock and the scoreboard, ultimately creating more chaos in Philly.
PICK: Browns 20, Eagles 16
• Bleeding Green Nation staff: You don’t see this very often — especially in a game in which they’re only three-point dogs — but just three of their nine writers over at BGN are taking the hometown team.
• ESPN staff: All but one of their experts are picking the Browns over the Eagles.
• Tim McManus, ESPN.com: Browns 30, Eagles 20
• Jake Trotter, ESPN.com: Browns 12, Eagles 9
• Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com: Browns 24, Eagles 22
Carson Wentz just played one of his better games of the season, with the most healthy teammates around him since Week 1, in a 10-point loss to the Giants. If that doesn’t convince you these Eagles are closer to bad than unlucky, then nothing will.
NOTE: The predicted score for this game was updated (two points added to the Eagles’ total) following Friday’s news that Myles Garrett won’t play on Sunday after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
The Eagles are playing a second straight road game and didn’t look good last week against the Giants. The Browns won a tight one in bad weather last week against the Texans by running the ball well. They will try and do that in this one, but I think the Eagles will be up to the challenge. Philadelphia’s offense will get back on track as well. The Eagles will win a close one.
• Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk: Browns 27, Eagles 20
The team that got ripped for not picking Carson Wentz is now very happy it didn’t.
• Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk: Browns 24, Eagles 23
The Browns still have a good chance at an AFC wild card berth, and they’ll get another step closer with a win over an Eagles team that has looked awful.
• USA TODAY Sports staff: Just one of their seven writers is picking Philly to beat Cleveland.
• SB Nation staff: Nine out of 10 are picking the Browns over the Eagles.
• Bleacher Report, NFL staff: Browns 24, Eagles 21 (PUSH)
Our only split of the week comes in a fittingly unpredictable matchup between the talented but oft-lifeless (but potentially desperate?) Philadelphia Eagles and the talented but astonishingly inconsistent (but possibly rejuvenated?) Cleveland Browns.
Sobleski on Philly: “Cleveland’s defense is a major concern. If Myles Garrett doesn’t make multiple game-changing plays, the defense isn’t capable of holding a lead. Joe Woods’ unit is far too reliant on turnovers and/or adverse conditions to be successful on a consistent level. If Carson Wentz remains calm and doesn’t panic in the pocket, he could easily pick apart the Browns D.”
Gagnon on Cleveland: “Wentz is a mess, and the Philly defense made Daniel Jones, Alfred Morris and Wayne Gallman look good in Week 10. Baker Mayfield is due for one of his sporadic strong performances, and there’s little reason to believe Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt can’t keep rolling in this spot. The COVID-19 situation is worthy of some caution here, but it’s only a field goal with the much better team at home.”
The Browns are indeed dealing with some COVID-19 exposure and are actually about as banged up as their depleted opponent in this spot. But can anyone trust Wentz and the Eagles at this point? Sit this one out if you can.
• Sheil Kapadia, The Athletic: Each week, former Eagles beat writer Sheil Kapadia (now a national football writer for The Athletic) makes picks against the spread for every game. This week, he’s taking the Eagles not only to cover but to win in a tight one.
Miles Sanders was outstanding as a pass-catcher last season, but the Eagles’ offense has struggled to make use of him this year. When Carson Wentz targets Sanders, he’s averaging just 3.4 YPA; that’s tied for last among all players who have been targeted at least 25 times. The Browns rank 31st in coverage against running backs, according to Football Outsiders. This would be a good game to get Sanders going. The Eagles’ next four games after this one are against the Seahawks, Packers, Saints and Cardinals. I think they find a way to win ugly here.
• Bill Bender, Sporting News: Browns 24, Eagles 21
The Browns have dealt with ugly weather in their last two games, but the return of Nick Chubb ignited the running game. Chubb and Kareem Hunt works against the Eagles’ 26th-ranked run defense, even if Carson Wentz — the quarterback Philadelphia traded Cleveland to move up in the 2016 NFL Draft for — makes it interesting.
• Vinny Iyer, Sporting News: Browns 20, Eagles 17
The Browns’ running game is at full strength, so Cleveland can take games out of Baker Mayfield’s hands. They’re also getting better play on defense behind Myles Garrett. The Eagles have a more ambigious identity and Carson Wentz is suddenly struggling despite some reinforcements in the passing game. Their defense will play better and keep them in this tough game in the Cleveland weather, but Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt will make the difference again for the Browns in a low-scoring game.
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