Browns vs. Chargers: 5 Bold Predictions
This Week 8 matchup is intriguing in that it pits two teams that share similar problems. Both feature running games that have yet to get off the ground, despite talented first round halfbacks. Both teams have quarterbacks that have turned the ball over way too much; Weeden and Rivers rank as first and third in interceptions, respectively.
Finally, both Norv Turner and Pat Shurmur are on the hot seat and unlikely to retain their current positions next season. This should be an intriguing game as both coaches are offensive, passing-minded play-callers who are fighting for their jobs.
Prediction: Browns win 21-17
1. The Chargers Offense Will Commit Two Turnovers
This is not the same All-Pro Philip Rivers we are used to seeing. The 2012 season has been an unmitigated disaster for the fiery quarterback.
Rivers has a QBR of 41.2, which puts him between Russell Wilson and Kevin Kolb for 30th in the NFL. He is a turnover machine, with nine interceptions and five fumbles. In fact, his 15 turnovers are only two behind league-leader Michael Vick.
His second half implosion against Denver was no fluke. He clearly misses the presence of Vincent Jackson, as his deep ball efficiency has fallen dramatically.
The combination of Rivers and the fumble-prone Ryan Mathews has Cleveland, sixth in the NFL in takeaways, drooling for turnovers.
2. Ryan Mathews Will Score 2 Touchdowns
Due to Rivers’ struggles and, in order to save his job, Norv Turner should be willing to get the ball into Mathews’ hands more often. Chargers fans pining for the injury prone Mathews to become the centerpiece of the offense, point to his 12-carry, 80-yard performance as proof that he can get the job done when given a chance.
The ball should be in the young halfback's hands a lot, as he has 10 receptions in his last two games. He is averaging an impressive 4.5 yards per carry. It certainly helps that the Browns are atrocious against the run, allowing 133.7 yards per game.
3. Brandon Weeden Will Air It out 40+ Times
In six of seven games this season, the rookie has slung the ball at least 35 times. Interestingly, the game where Weeden only aired it out 29 times is Cleveland's only victory in 2012.
The Chargers rank 20th in the NFL in passing defense, allowing the third-most (12) passing touchdowns in the league. Weeden shouldn't be discouraged from dropping back as San Diego ranks 26 in sacks with only 11.
4. San Diego Will Hold Browns Under 70 Yards Rushing
The combination of no Trent Richardson and the San Diego Chargers second-best run defense, giving up an average of 71.2 rushing yards per game, should spell trouble for Cleveland’s running backs.
Offenses have chosen not to run on San Diego, running the ball an average of just 20.2 times per game. As the Browns are averaging 3.5 yards per carry, it would be an aberration for Cleveland’s running game to come alive against one of the league’s best.
5. Jordan Cameron Will Outperform Antonio Gates
The Weeden-Gordon connection is the real deal. Last week, Weeden connected with nine different targets. The focus on spreading the ball out, especially to Greg Little and Gordon should open up the middle of the field for Cameron.
Cleveland’s receivers will have the attention of the Chargers two quality corners, Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer. He has flashed immense athletic ability and potential, but has yet to deliver on his promise. Cameron should draw favorable match-ups from San Diego outside linebackers, who are much more accomplished pass rushers than pass defenders.
Expect a disappointing day from Antonio Gates, on the other hand.
While Gates put up a career high in yards last time he faced Cleveland, this Browns defense has been 7th best in the NFL against opposing tight ends. This, in large part, is due to their athletic linebacker core of D’Qwell Jackson, Kaluka Maiava, and Craig Robertson. In fact, both Jackson and Robertson have two interceptions this season.