Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#267 Arizona Cardinals vs.
#268 Cleveland Browns
Sunday, October 17, 2021 at 4:05pm EDT
FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland
Written by Eric P.

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The Cleveland Browns play host to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon from FirstEnergy Stadium. In what is expected to be one of the better AFC against NFC matchups of the season, Sunday's game presents two teams who should be right in the thick of the playoff hunt come to the end of the season. The Cardinals remain the only undefeated team left in the NFL and have had no issues playing away from home and traveling out east. They've already taken down Jacksonville and Tennessee in away games, as well as the Rams, and if they can get through the Browns they'll be feeling great about their playoff chances. Cleveland has won both of their home games on the season and after last week's shootout loss against the Chargers, the Browns know that Sunday presents a crucial chance for them to bounce back. The last time these two teams squared off against each other was back in 2019, a 38-24 win for the Cardinals. Both teams have changed quite a bit since then and Sunday's game is sure to be one that fans will want to tune in for.

Cardinals Look To Remain Unbeaten

The Cardinals have been one of the league's most surprising teams this season and while many expected them to contend for a playoff spot, seeing them as a serious contender through five weeks is impressive. They've dominated opponents and done it against quality teams as well. They've already taken down the Rams and Titans on the road, winning those two games by a combined 42 points. Arizona has done it on both sides of the ball thus far and going on the road won't be daunting to them in the slightest. Injuries do remain a concern though. Two players already find themselves on the IR, while another six have been ruled out indefinitely. That still leaves another ten players questionable or doubtful coming into the weekend. Linebacker Isaiah Simmons (head), Kyler Murray (shoulder), DeAndre Hopkins (illness), and Chase Edmonds (shoulder), all find themselves on the line about whether or not they'll be able to give it a go. That could mean some serious production loss on the offensive side of the ball, coming at a bad time with Cleveland's offense on the other side of things. This means the defense will have to step up in a big way and it'll be interesting to see if they're up to the task.

Arizona's offense has looked unstoppable in the early goings this season but they'll have their hands full trying to keep pace with Cleveland. The Cardinals rank fourth in the league in scoring offense and have been getting off to fast starts as a stun to their opponents. What has separated the Cardinals in most of their games is their balance on the offensive side of things. They rank in the top ten in both rushing yards per game and passing yards per game in the NFL and could contend for the best depth in the league on that side of the ball. The depth could be tested on Sunday though, with Murray and Edmonds questionable and Hopkins doubtful. The good news is that Rondale Moore and Christian Kirk have developed into two of the best receivers in the league but moving up on the depth chart and getting better corner coverage than they're accustomed to, could be problematic.

The defense has been a shortcoming of the team in recent years but it hasn't taken long for the Cardinals to establish themselves as a force on that front as well this season. They rank sixth in the league in points allowed per game and the turnovers have been a huge proponent of their success. They rank sixth in defensive interceptions per game and first in defensive fumbles per game. Being without Chandler Jones and potentially Isaiah Simmons will hurt though, and the defense will need to showcase its depth on Sunday. Budda Baker and Jordan Hicks are tied for the team lead in tackles and they'll need to be sharp to slow down the Browns in this crucial matchup.

(edit: Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury and All-Pro Chandler Jones will miss the game due to COVID-19)

Browns Aim For Home Bounce Back

Cleveland has had an up and down season in what was expected to be a campaign year in the making for one of the league's saddest teams over the years. Last week's game was the most exciting in the NFL so far this season, dropping their game to the Chargers 47-42. Their other loss came to the Chiefs, with their wins over the Vikings, Bears, and Texans. Their lack of a high-quality win still leaves some questions as to their potential for the season and welcoming the league's lone undefeated team to town seems like good a time as any to prove themselves. While to a lesser degree than their opponent on Sunday, the Browns still pride themselves on getting things done efficiently on both sides of the ball and winning the possession game. They too have quite a few injuries that they're navigating as well coming into the weekend. They have ten players either on the IR or out indefinitely, with another 18 players questionable heading into Sunday. Nick Chubb (calf) remains the biggest question mark of all given his impressive start to the season, while his backup, Kareem Hunt (wrist), also might be unable to take the field. Defensively, Denzel Ward (neck), Greedy Williams (shoulder), and Jadeveon Clowney (elbow) are all questionable as well, which could also hurt their defensive explosiveness. The injuries will need to be monitored closely but expect at least a few of those guys to give it a go considering a few have at least been seen at practice this week.

After years of pitiful offensive play, the Browns finally appear to have an offense that can carry them into a successful season. They rank sixth in the NFL in points per game on the backs of the top rushing attack in the league, from both rushing yards per game and rushing attempts per game perspective. Without potentially Chubb and Hunt though, it would be a massive blow to an offense that has essentially been a one-trick pony this season. Baker Mayfield has been solid but far from spectacular, as the team ranks 25th in the league in passing yards per game. The Browns might be welcoming back Jarvis Landry this weekend from the IR and if he returns, it'll add another dangerous weapon to be opposite Odell Beckham Jr. for Mayfield. This team needs the ground game to control the clock and move the ball though, so fans will need to keep an eye on the status of the running backs to get a sense of how Sunday afternoon's game might go for the home team.

Defensively, the Browns rank 11th in the league in points allowed per game, and their pass rush has been elite, ranking third in the league in sacks per game. With the uncertainty for many of Arizona's offensive stars, Cleveland's ability to get after the quarterback will be a massive key to victory. Whether it's Murray or a backup at quarterback for the Cardinals, not allowing him to remain comfortable in the pocket will be crucial. Myles Garrett remains the leader of the defense, with a team-high 21 tackles on the season and seven sacks as well, good for first in the NFL. The secondary continues to be a work in progress, which is problematic considering the wide receiver core that they could see on Sunday, but as long as Garrett and company are getting to the quarterback, the secondary shouldn't be put in too many uncomfortable situations.

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Arizona might be dealing with injuries and other stuff but there is still a great deal of optimism that they can have at least Murray and one of his other questionable weapons out there on Sunday. Even if Hopkins is unable to play, the wide receiver group is still one of the strongest in the league and is a lethal combination of skillsets for defenses to slow down. Defensively, they could be without Jones but the secondary mainly remains intact. For the Browns, the injuries at running back are much more concerning given their reluctance to do much besides run the ball. If Chubb and/or Hunt are unable to play this weekend, it could be detrimental to Cleveland's game plan. Additionally, according to, for Arizona, they are 4-0-1 ATS in their last five games in Week 6 and are 5-0 ATS in their last five games in October. For the Browns, they are 0-4 ATS in their last four games in Week 6.

Prediction: Cardinals (+2.5)

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Sunday's game presents two of the league's best offenses playing against each other and should see points scored without an issue. Even with the potential injuries to members of the offense for both teams, there are still plenty of weapons left to put on a show for fans. Also, for all the injuries on the offensive side of things, there are also quite a few injuries for both defenses, meaning that fans could be seeing some depth on both sides of the ball. The Browns had a combined 89 points scored just last week against an offense in the Chargers that is built like Arizona's. For the Cardinals, their games against likely playoff teams have seen over 50 points combined consistently scored. Additionally, according to, for Arizona, the over is 5-1 in their last six games after allowing less than 15 points in their previous game. For Cleveland, the over is 6-1 in their last seven games against a team with a winning record and is 5-1 in their last six games in Week 6. In meetings between the two teams, the over is 4-1-1 in the last six meetings overall.

Prediction: Over 49.5

Written By Eric Ploch , "Eric P."

Eric grew up surrounded by sports, whether it was spending the weekend catching games in person or on tv, or heading out to the fields to play whatever sport was in season. What started as a hobby, soon became a passion, as he became the sports editor of his high school newspaper, then wrote for his university newspaper during his undergrad years. After obtaining a degree in Sports Operations and Promotions, and spending 8 years deeply immersed in the sports world, Eric decided to take his love for analytics and predictions, and his experience, to online sports fans everywhere. James is now an integral part of our team here at StatSalt and has also been a very successful sports bettor over the years. Be sure and follow him daily.