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In-Depth Prediction, Preview, and Odds

Browns vs. Patriots Prediction

Sunday, October 27, 2019 at 4:25pm EDT
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough

This article covers a past game!

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In-depth Coverage

This is an in-depth analysis of this game, covering every possible detail and angle. Use the table of contents to navigate between each section, or just jump on in!

Have thoughts or feedback? Let us know!

Table of Contents

Last Updated: Sunday, October 27, 2019 at 12:19pm EDT

Introduction

Coming off another dominating performance in which their defense is setting up to be one for the history books, the New England Patriots look to hit the midpoint of the NFL season unbeaten as they host the struggling Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

The Patriots have outscored opponents by a whopping 175 points and already recorded two shutouts in storming to their first 7-0 start since winning their first 10 games in 2015. New England completed a season sweep of the New York Jets with a 33-0 thrashing Monday night, forcing six turnovers.

The latest impressive performance has led oddsmakers to install the Patriots as 12-point favorites for this game -- the fifth time they have been double-digit favorites thus far. The over/under has been established at 46.5 points, a somewhat high number considering New England has conceded just 48 all season.

Cleveland (2-4) is in desperate need of a win to stay within touching distance of Baltimore in the AFC North and coming off its bye week. The Browns lost back-to-back games before the week off, including a 32-28 home loss to Seattle on Oct. 13 as Baker Mayfield was intercepted three times and negated a 122-yard, two-touchdown effort by running back Nick Chubb.

Cleveland Browns Review

The Browns enter this contest 2 1/2 games behind the Ravens in the AFC North and currently tied with Pittsburgh for second. In some respects, it feels like Mayfield has regressed under center this season -- he has three games with two or more interceptions and no multi-touchdown efforts despite the offense being upgraded in the offseason with the acquisition of Odell Beckham Jr.

Mayfield's 11 interceptions are the most in the NFL and three shy of his total from last season in nearly 2 1/2 times as many attempts. Though there is the positive of running back Kareem Hunt being eligible to practice for the first time since starting his eight-game suspension, he is of no use to the team for this contest with two games yet to serve.

Coach Freddie Kitchens is hoping the less is more approach for Mayfield, who was given the entire bye week to heal a hip injury suffered in the loss to Seattle and did not throw a pass. He returned to practice Monday and "looked good" according to Kitchens. The Browns also appear to be rejiggering their offensive line for this game, a very large gamble given New England's dominant defense thus far.

Star defensive limeman Myles Garrett had an adventuresome bye week, getting punched by a "fan" who asked to take a picture with him. Kitchens was most pleased by the self-restraint shown by Garrett in not retaliating, and the 23-year-old has yet to decide if he will press charges.

“It’s sad that we have to talk about things like that, but we always stress for our guys to be careful,’’ Kitchens told Cleveland.com. “But who could ever see something like that coming? You see guys all the time and you see people all the time that are wanting to take pictures or get autographs and things like that."

New England Patriots Review

New England (7-0) continues to put up ridiculous numbers on the defensive side of the ball as it easily dealt with another overmatched opponent. Even with the Jets returning Sam Darnold under center for the second meeting, the game played out as nearly a carbon copy of New England's 30-14 romp in Week 3 as the Patriots got out to a big lead and suffocated their division rivals.

The dominance is all the more amazing considering coach Bill Belichick has lost his defensive coordinators in each of the last two seasons -- Matt Patricia and Brian Flores -- and taken on a more hands-on approach. New England has given up just three offensive touchdowns in seven games, and Monday night's win marked the fifth time it held an opponent under 225 total yards.

A short-handed offense missing top deep threat Josh Gordon and running back Rex Burkhead were hardly troubled when the game mattered. Tom Brady set the tone of the game by marching the Patriots 78 yards on 16 plays with the opening possession, chewing up almost nine minutes before Sony Michel punched it in from three yards.

Brady finished 31 of 45 for 249 yards and a touchdown, with a third-quarter interception the lone blot on his effort. Michel again struggled to find traction behind the offensive line, finishing with 42 yards on 19 carries but did set a career high with three touchdowns

The Running Game

Cleveland Browns Running Offense
vs. New England Patriots Running Defense

Cleveland Browns Running Offense

The good news for the Cleveland Browns is the offensive line has done a much better job in the last three games clearing holes for Chubb than the first three games. The second-year running back has totaled 374 yards on 6.7 yards per carry in that span, with eight of his 56 carries going for 10 or more yards.

The Browns have also been effective running the ball on second down, ranking fourth in the league with 6.05 yards per carry with just two negative rushes on 39 such plays.

After noting that some of his offensive linemen were taking reps at different positions, Kitchens disputed the idea there would be a re-jiggering of the group during his Wednesday Q&A according to Brownswire.com.

"Just because guys are taking different reps are different positions does not mean changes are being made," he said. "I just do not want you guys to get mad at me on Monday that no changes are made. ‘Oh, I thought changes were made.’ Well hell, you are the ones that said it. I did not say it.”

Chubb will have some extra incentive for this game as he faces his former Georgia teammate Sony Michel, but the overriding theme continues to be Kitchens' potential tinkering with the offensive line. It has done a strong job in clearing out running lanes, but has also been inversely effective in giving Mayfield consistent time to throw. The worry is one or two changes may also be one or two changes too many and affect Chubb.

New England Patriots Run Defense

By their lofty standards, the Patriots had an OK effort stopping the run against the Jets on Monday night. They yielded 81 yards on 20 carries, marking the fifth time in seven games they held an opponent under the century mark.

Chubb, though, presents a different challenge than Jets running back Le'Veon Bell as the second-year running back hits the first hole he sees and hits it at almost a freight train-like speed. The closest player who fits that mold is Pittsburgh's James Conner from the season opener since New England missed out on facing Saquon Barkley when it beat the New York Giants in Week 6.

The Patriots opted to completely remove a potential distraction Thursday and deal disgruntled defensive lineman Michael Bennett to the Dallas Cowboys for a conditional draft pick. Bennett was suspended for Monday night's win for conduct detrimental to the team, which was reportedly voicing displeasure about his role to line coach Bret Bielema.

"I didn't take away nothing. I got suspended and lost money," he told The Athletic on Wednesday. "What are you supposed to take away from that? There's no love lost. That's just how it is."

Stats

Cleveland

Team Rushing Statistics

Carries — 136 (26th)

Carries Per game — 22.7 (22nd)

Rushing Yards — 719 (17th)

Rushing Yards Per Game — 119.8 (13th)

Average Yards Per Carry — 5.29 (2nd)

Rushing Touchdowns — 9 (T-7th)

Individual Rushing Statistics

Nick Chubb -- 114 carries/607 yards/5.32 yards per carry/6 TDs

Baker Mayfield -- 8/35/4.38/1

Dontrell Hilliard -- 7/31/4.43/2

D'Ernest Johnson -- 4/21/5.25/0

Odell Beckham Jr. -- 2/15/7.50/0

Jarvis Landry -- 1/10/10.00/0

New England:

Team Rushing Defense (Opponent Offensive Rank)

Opponent Carries — 126 (32nd)

Opponent Carries per game — 18.0 (32nd)

Opponent Rushing Yards — 523 (30th)

Average Opponent Rushing Yards Per Game — 74.7 (31st)

Average Opponent Rushing Yards Per Carry — 4.15 (18th)

Opponent Rushing TDs — 2 (30th)

Individual Defensive Statistics

Jamie Collins Sr. -- 23 solo tackles/8 assists/31 tackles/2.5 stuff/6 TFL

Jason McCourty -- 25/6/31/0/0

Jonathan Jones -- 18/7/25/0/0

Dont'a Hightower -- 18/6/24/2/4

Danny Shelton -- 12/10/22/0/2

Stephon Gilmore -- 17/5/22/0/0

Lawrence Guy -- 14/7/21/0/0

Kyle Van Noy -- 12/8/20/1/2

Devin McCourty -- 15/5/20/0.5/0

John Simon -- 10/8/18/1.5/2

Ja'Whaun Bentley -- 14/3/17/0/1

Patrick Chung -- 13/4/17/0/1

Elandon Roberts -- 8/6/14/0.5/0

Adam Butler -- 6/5/11/1/3

Who has the Edge?

Chubb makes this a winnable matchup, but like most things with the Browns, there is always a sense Kitchens is trying to be clever by too half with talk of possibly tweaking the offensive line or shuffling players. The bottom line is that Cleveland has one of the best running backs in the league facing a defense that could be one of the best of all-time.

Sometimes Occam's Razor is the best approach. Use the best running plays you have and hope for the best.

Advantage: Push

New England Patriots Running Offense
vs. Cleveland Browns Running Defense

New England Patriots Running Offense

Just because the Patriots do not rip off huge chunk plays in the ground game does not mean they will shy away from the run. The offensive line continues to be the weak link for this team, and against a robust Jets run defense, New England finished with only 74 yards on 34 carries as New York held the Pats under three yards per rush in both meetings.

Yet offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel was making some subtle tweaks that gave the running game some pop. The most notable one was using tight end Ben Watson as an H-back in red zone packages, with Michel the beneficiary of a textbook lane opening for the game's first touchdown.

Michel may have taken a step back in terms of yards versus the Jets, but he also did record seven first downs on his 19 carries. And facing a Browns defense that has good pass rushers but mediocre run-stoppers -- Cleveland ranks 31st with 5.05 yards allowed per carry -- this could be the game where Michel finally gets his first 100-yard effort of the season.

Cleveland Browns Run Defense

The Browns have struggled against the run all season, but it took on an alarming trend in the three weeks leading up to the bye, giving up 206 yards per game on 5.78 yards per carry. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and four other opposing running backs finished with 66 or more yards in that span, and while the Patriots are having plenty of issues running the ball, the Browns need to make sure that keeps happening to make New England as one-dimensional as possible.

That also plays into Cleveland's primary defensive strength -- its pass rushers. The Browns must create 2nd and 3rd and long situations to limit Brady's options and allow Garrett and Olivier Vernon among others to do what they do best and rush the quarterback.

Stats

New England:

Team Rushing Statistics

Carries — 209 (T-5th)

Carries Per game — 29.9 (T-6th)

Rushing Yards — 683 (20th)

Rushing Yards Per Game — 97.6 (22nd)

Average Yards Per Carry — 3.27 (30th)

Rushing Touchdowns — 12 (1st)

Individual Rushing Statistics

Sony Michel -- 119 carries/390 yards/3.28 yards per carry/6 TDs

Rex Burkhead -- 24/112/4.67/1

James White -- 21/62/2.95/0

Brandon Bolden -- 13/47/3.62/2

Julian Edelman -- 5/29/5.80/0

Phillip Dorsett II -- 3/21/7.00/0

Damien Harris -- 4/12/3.00/0

Antonio Brown -- 1/5/5.00/0

Tom Brady -- 14/3/0.21/3

James Develin -- 2/3/1.50/0

Josh Gordon -- 1/1/1.00/0

Jarrett Stidham -- 2/-2/-1.00/0

Cleveland:

Team Rushing Defense (Opponent Offensive Rank)

Opponent Carries — 183 (11th)

Opponent Carries per game — 30.5 (5th)

Opponent Rushing Yards — 924 (5th)

Average Opponent Rushing Yards Per Game — 154.0 (3rd)

Average Opponent Rushing Yards Per Carry — 5.05 (2nd)

Opponent Rushing TDs — 5 (T-20th)

Individual Statistics Defensive Leaders

Joe Schobert -- 43 solo tackles/19 assists/62 tackles/1 stuff/4 TFL

Jermaine Whitehead -- 29/7/36/1/1

T.J. Carrie -- 24/3/27/3/3

Sheldon Richardson -- 20/7/27/0/0

Mack Wilson -- 16/10/26/0/1

Myles Garrett -- 14/6/20/0/8

Damarious Randall -- 15/5/20/0/2

Larry Ogunjobi -- 15/4/19/2/5

Terrance Mitchell -- 15/3/18/1/2

Eric Murray -- 12/6/18/1/1

Morgan Burnett -- 7/9/16/1/3

Olivier Vernon -- 11/4/15/1/1

Christian Kirksey -- 6/5/11/1/2

Who has the Edge?

This is a movable force versus resistible object matchup given the struggles of both units. For all of New England's struggles in terms of gaining yards, if you keep banging away at the wall, eventually the wall yields. In this case, Cleveland is a soft wall -- the Browns rank 29th in the league in percentage in allowing four or more rushing yards at 49.7 percent.

This is a matchup Cleveland must find a way to win, but there is no guarantee it can do so.

Advantage: Push

The Passing Game

Cleveland Browns Passing Offense
vs. New England Patriots Passing Defense

Cleveland Browns Passing Offense

Mayfield's NFL-worst 11 interceptions would stand out regardless of the opponent, but this week it really stands out because of New England's ball-hawking secondary. The 18 INTs accumulated by New England after seven games are the most by any team since the 1996 Green Bay Packers recorded 20 in 1996.

To put that in a warped perspective, opponents have a 7.4 interception rate against the Patriots defense. The second-best team in the 21st century was the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who had a 6.1 percent mark by recording 31 interceptions.

Again, though, the Browns offense -- on paper at least -- is the highest concentration of skill opponents the Patriots have faced this season. Beckham and Landry should be able to get open on some plays, and perhaps a big play. But that requires patience, which is something that Mayfield has shown a lack of at times, but also in part because of the lack of time afforded him by the offensive line.

“They move guys around up front, they try to give you to give the perfect look or perfect protection and they mix stuff up,” Mayfield said at his Wednesday media availability. “They pressure you, they hit you up. If you are a young quarterback, you can see that. They have done that so far this year. We will see how they play us, but we have to be ready for pressure and react.”

New England Patriots Passing Defense

Much was made about New England incessantly throwing a zero blitz package at Darnold on Monday night, which created numerical mismatches at the line of scrimmage and also contributed to the second-year quarterback's skittery footwork and poor weight distribution that led to some of his interceptions.

The key to this working is having two cornerbacks who can lock up their respective receivers in single coverage. There is no doubt Gilmore can do that. For this game, however, the Browns may have to find a way to pick on Jason McCourty and J.C. Jackson. Jackson, who will likely cover the slot receiver, is one of five players with three pass interference penalties and also has a defensive holding infraction.

Of course, with this also being the Patriots, it is very possible Belichick has already schemed an entirely new defensive game plan that does not feature the zero blitz and relies on disguised coverages to flummox Mayfield.

"It’s an offense that you have to be ready to go," defensive back Devin McCourty said at the team's news conference Wednesday. "They have a ton of big plays in the pass game and running game, so it’s a true “do your job” game for us defensively. Between the front, the linebackers and the secondary, is each one of us doing what we’re supposed to do on every defensive call."

Stats

Cleveland:

Team Passing Statistics

Passes Attempted — 201 (27th)

Passes Completed — 113 (31st)

Completion Percentage — 56.2 (31st)

Gross Passing Yards — 1,516 (22nd)

Net Passing Yards – 1,388 (23rd)

Net Passing Yards Per Game — 231.3 (16th)

Average Gain Per Pass Play — 6.40 (18th)

Yards Per Attempt — 7.54 (15th)

Yards Per Completion — 13.42 (3rd)

Passing TDs — 5 (30th)

Interceptions — 11 (Most)

Times Sacked — 16 (T-14th most)

Passer Rating — 65.8 (30th)

Individual Passing

Baker Mayfield — 112 completions/198 attempts/56.6 completion percentage/1,496 yards/5 TDs/11 INT/66.0 passer rating

Odell Beckham Jr. -- 1/2/50.0/20/0/0/85.4

Garrett Gilbert -- 0/1/0.0/0/0/0/39.6

Individual Receiving

Odell Beckham -- 29 receptions/436 yards/15.0 yards per catch/1 TDs

Jarvis Landry -- 25/439/17.6/0

Nick Chubb -- 20/128/6.4/0

Damion Ratley -- 8/103/12.9/0

Ricky Seals-Jones -- 7/143/20.4/2

D'Ernest Johnson -- 6/71/11.8/0

Dontrell Hilliard -- 5/58/11.6/0

David Njoku -- 4/37/9.3/1

Demetrius Harris -- 3/6/2.0/1

Rashard Higgins -- 2/46/23.0/0

Pharaoh Brown -- 2/27/13.5/0

Antonio Callaway 2 2 22 11.0 11.0 12 0

New England:

Team Passing Defense Statistics (Opponent Offensive Rank)

Opponents’ Passes Attempted — 242 (13th)

Opponents’ Passes Completed — 123 (30th)

Opponents’ Completing Percentage — 50.8 (32nd)

Opponents’ Gross Passing Yards — 1,209 (31st)

Opponents’ Net Passing Yards — 1,039 (31st)

Opponents’ Net Passing Yards Per Game — 148.4 (31st)

Opponents’ Yards Per Attempt — 5.00 (32nd)

Opponents’ Yards Per Completion — 9.83 (32nd)

Opponents’ Average Gain Per Pass Play — 3.88 (32nd)

Opponents’ TD passes — 1 (32nd)

Interceptions — 18 (1st)

Sacks — 26 (2nd)

Opponents’ Passer Rating — 35.6 (32nd)

Individual Defense Sacks and Quarterback Hurries

Jamie Collins -- 4.5 sacks/34.5 yards/6 QBH

Chase Winovich -- 4.0/35.0/5

Kyle Van Noy -- 3.5/20.5/7

John Simon -- 3.0/18.0/4

Adam Butler -- 2.5/12.0/3

Michael Bennett -- 2.5/22.5/4

Dont'a Hightower -- 2.0/13.5/5

Danny Shelton -- 2.0/14.0/4

Deatrich Wise Jr. -- 1.0/0.0/5

Interceptions and Passes Broken Up

Devin McCourty -- 5 INTs/6 PBU

Jamie Collins Sr. -- 3/4

Stephon Gilmore -- 3/9

Duron Harmon -- 2/4

J.C. Jackson -- 2/3

Jason McCourty - -1/4

John Simon -- 1/4

Terrence Brooks -- 1/1

Jonathan Jones -- 0/5

Kyle Van Noy -- 0/3

Adam Butler -- 0/2

Who has the Edge?

Even with the talent the Browns have in the passing game, it is a unit that has not responded well to pressure, and that starts with Mayfield. But the stress also shifts in Beckham and Landry's ability to get open in single coverage, and that is a tall order. Gilmore will likely trail Beckham wherever he lines up, so this could be more about Landry being the primary target.

Mayfield and the Browns have to be content to hit singles against this defense, which has allowed just one passing touchdown and three overall. If the Browns do dial up a deep pass, every last one of them has to result in either a completion or an incompletion, and not an interception. New England already has 22 takeaways, and anything more than one in this contest could prove fatal to the Browns.

Advantage: New England Patriots

New England Patriots Passing Offense
vs. Cleveland Browns Passing Defense

New England Patriots Passing Offense

After the failed Antonio Brown experiment, the Patriots continue to struggle with personnel at the wide receiver position. They took another blow this week when they had to put Josh Gordon on season-ending injured reserve with a knee injury, but they also addressed the shortcoming in the vertical passing game by acquiring Mohamed Sanu from the Atlanta Falcons on Tuesday for a second-round pick.

Sanu brings a rare size to the slot receiver role at 6-foot-2, but he is also capable of playing outside the numbers. The eight-year pro blossomed into a reliable receiver in his three-plus seasons with Atlanta and was on pace to set a career high for receptions after totaling 33 in seven games.

"You've watched us play a lot," Belichick said at his Wednesday press conference with regards to where Sanu will line up. "We've moved receivers around for 20 years, so sometimes guys play in one spot, sometimes they play in different spots. It depends on the formation, the game plan, the play, the personnel and so forth, so we'll see how it goes."

With Gordon done for the season and Sanu's arrival, the last piece of New England's receivers puzzle falls into place next week when first-round pick N'Keal Harry is eligible to come off injured reserve. Harry is more of the deep target Gordon is than Sanu, with the belief the newly acquired wideout will pop up in various formations based on how quickly he grasps the offense.

Cleveland Browns Passing Defense

The bye week came at a perfect time for the Browns, who are expected to have starting cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams available for this game. The matchup between the rookie Williams and either Edelman or Philip Dorsett will be one to watch given how understudies T.J. Carrie and Terrance Mitchell have not been all that great.

The pair have allowed 41 completions on 63 passes thrown their way for a combined 522 yards and three touchdowns. The lack of consistency in the secondary also underscores how important it is for Garrett and Vernon to get to Brady without the Browns calling too many blitzes that create single coverage for Edelman and Dorsett.

Brady rarely throws the deep ball anymore, as 75.5 percent of his passes either go behind the line of scrimmage or shorter than 10 yards. Edelman is a master of the shallow cross, and White is one of the best pass-catching running backs in the NFL. Whoever does cover Edelman has to chuck him in the five-yard zone to give Garrett a chance to win his matchup, and Garrett also has to win his matchup to give his secondary a chance to succeed.

Stats

New England:

Team Passing Statistics

Passes Attempted — 278 (4th)

Passes Completed — 183 (3rd)

Completion Percentage — 65.8 (11th)

Gross Passing Yards — 2,038 (5th)

Net Passing Yards – 1,958 (5th)

Net Passing Yards Per Game — 279.7 (5th)

Average Gain Per Pass Play — 6.78 (12th)

Yards Per Attempt — 7.33 (18th)

Yards Per Completion — 11.14 (20th)

Passing TDs — 11 (T-13th)

Interceptions — 5 (T-15th most)

Times Sacked — 11 (26th most)

Passer Rating — 93.2 (16th)

Individual Passing

Tom Brady — 180 completions/273 attempts/65.9 completion percentage/1,992 yards/11 TDs/4 INT/94.8 passer rating

Julian Edelman -- 1/1/100.0/32/0/0/118.8

Jarrett Stidham -- 2/4/50.0/14/0/1/18.8

Individual Receiving

Julian Edelman -- 45 receptions/496 yards/11.0 yards per catch/2 TDs

James White -- 38/283/7.4/1

Josh Gordon -- 20/287/14.4/1

Phillip Dorsett II -- 18/243/13.5/4

Rex Burkhead -- 14/117/8.4/0

Jakobi Meyers -- 13/167/12.8/0

Brandon Bolden -- 9/111/12.3/1

Ryan Izzo -- 6/114/19.0/1

Sony Michel -- 6/51/8.5/0

Antonio Brown -- 4/56/14.0/1

Matt LaCosse -- 3/55/18.3/0

Ben Watson -- 3/18/6.0/0

Gunner Olszewski -- 2/34/17.0/0

Jakob Johnson -- 1/5/5.0/0

Eric Tomlinson -- 1/1/1.0/0

Browns:

Team Passing Defense Statistics (Opponent Offensive Rank)

Opponents’ Passes Attempted — 189 (29th)

Opponents’ Passes Completed — 128 (T-28th)

Opponents’ Completing Percentage — 67.7 (9th)

Opponents’ Gross Passing Yards -- 1,440 (28th)

Opponents’ Net Passing Yards — 1,316 (29th)

Opponents’ Net Passing Yards Per Game — 219.3 (27th)

Opponents’ Yards Per Attempt — 7.62 (13th)

Opponents’ Yards Per Completion — 11.25 (18th)

Opponents’ Average Gain Per Pass Play — 6.33 (19th)

Opponents’ TD passes — 12 (T–9th)

Interceptions — 4 (T-20th)

Sacks — 19 (T-9th)

Opponents’ Passer Rating — 102.6 (8th)

Individual Defense Sacks and Quarterback Hurries

Myles Garrett -- 9.0 sacks/56.0 yards/12 QBH

Larry Ogunjobi -- 3.0/19.0/6

Damarious Randall -- 2.0/9.0/2

Morgan Burnett -- 2.0/19.0/3

Joe Schobert -- 1.0/10.0/2

Olivier Vernon -- 1.0/8.0/5

Chad Thomas -- 1.0/3.0/1

Interceptions and Passes Broken Up

Justin Burris -- 1 INT/1 PBU

T.J. Carrie -- 1/2

Devaroe Lawrence -- 1/1

Jermaine Whitehead -- 1/2

Damarious Randall -- 0/3

Mack Wilson -- 0/2

Terrance Mitchell -- 0/2

Who has the Edge?

The Browns getting Williams and Ward back is important, but another key piece -- Damarious Randall -- has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. Still, this is a Patriots offense that thrives on what opposing defenses give it in the passing game. Brady is a master of finding free yards that keep the playbook fully open, and while Sanu's contributions may be limited with the short turnaround, expect him to contribute something vital.

Advantage: New England Patriots

Intangibles

Cleveland Browns

There is still a sense of mystery with Kitchens in the sense that you're still unsure of what you are going to get from week to week with regards to play-calling and the overall mood of the Browns. Some of that comes with a young team, sure, but this week that could prove disastrous when matching wits with Belichick.

One gets the sense Belichick would love Browns rookie punter Jamie Gillan, who has put 16 of his 28 efforts inside the opposing 20 against one touchback. He also has helped limit opponents to 51 punt return yards.

Austin Siebert missed his second extra point in 12 tries this season versus Seattle but also has attempted just one field goal in Cleveland's last two games. That said, he is still perfect on eight attempts with a long of 48 yards. The rookie also has a 53.8 percent success rate for touchbacks on kickoffs (14 for 26).

Landry has yet to have a game-breaking punt return, averaging 10.6 yards on five runbacks while calling for eight fair catches.

New England Patriots

One of the underappreciated story lines that will pick up steam each week the Patriots play lights-out defense is the hands-on approach Belichick has taken this year with his son after Matt Patricia and Brian Flores left to take head coaching jobs each of the last two seasons. This could be the best defense since the 1985 Chicago Bears but in a completely different manner as it relies on schemes and subterfuge as opposed to the raw power of Buddy Ryan's 46.

Mike Nugent has settled in since replacing Stephen Gostkowski, banging through all but one of his 13 extra points and hitting 3 of 4 field goals in his three games with New England. He still has not had a pressure kick yet or made a field goal beyond 37 yards, but he can only do what's asked of him.

Jake Bailey continues to have a solid season punting and stuck four of his seven efforts inside the Jets' 20-yard line Monday night while conceding only 14 return yards on three runbacks.

Who has the Edge?

As long as Belichick is on the sidelines, the advantage is with the Patriots. Kitchens still causes hand-wringing, and he has to be in charge of his team in this game. That means, like the offense especially, taking what the Patriots defense gives them and executing each play without thinking too far ahead.

Both the punting and kicking games are basically a wash, while neither return game has made a discernible impact to rate one substantially better than the other.

Advantage: New England Patriots

Final Outlook

The Patriots continue to be the pick provided it stays below two touchdowns. Much like the matchup with the Jets on Monday night, it is difficult to see where the Browns get beyond two touchdowns. New England has too much cloak and dagger defensively, and even if Mayfield's receivers are responsible for a sizable portion of his interceptions, there is a feeling the second-year QB is going to swing for the fences too often and play into the secondary's hands.

The Browns would best be served using the play-action to set up the ground game with Chubb instead of the other way around since he is their best weapon in this game. It will be up to Cleveland's offensive line to clear lanes, but Kitchens also has to commit to his second-year running back even if things get tough early.

Latest Updates, Injury Reports, and Line Movements

Randall's absence continues to be a problem for the Browns since it deprives them of their full starting secondary. This line took a sharp turn in Cleveland's favor early Saturday morning to 10.5 points, which offers some consternation as a high-side hook, but there is still not enough to move away from the Patriots.

The over/under has also taken a sharp dive from its open of 46.5 to its current 43. This may be a respectful nod to the Patriots defense and some skepticism about New England beating up on a series of lightweights while also getting just 16 points against Buffalo. The Browns are not as good defensively as the Bills, but it is something to consider.

The drop in the spread does allow an opportunity to create a teaser, with the best combination of the bunch being the Patriots -4.5 with an under of 50 points.

Yardage Prop Plays We Like:

Sony Michel OVER 69.5 yards (-114)

Mohamed Sanu OVER 28.5 yards (-114)

Nick Chubb UNDER 82.5 yards (-114)

The feeling is Brady will target Sanu enough times that the three or four catches Sanu makes in his Patriots debut will be enough to clear a relatively low number. Chubb is slightly against the grain, but Frank Gore is the only running back to have any sort of sustained success in a game versus New England, and that was at home. And there is still some distrust about Cleveland's play-calling.

That is also a reason this space is going nowhere near the Browns receivers. There is just too much going on there on both sides of the ball to make a pick regarding Beckham and Landry with any confidence.

Lastly, Michel is due for a big game. It feels like it has been coming for weeks, but this may finally be the one given Cleveland's struggles in run defense. It would not be surprising to see McDaniel call for more than one draw play to catch the Browns pass rushers off-guard to see what Michel can find.

For the first half, getting the Patriots giving less than a touchdown (-6.5) is too good to pass up, and the over/under being on a flat touchdown total makes that a pick a coin flip. Lastly, New England's first-quarter proficiency -- the Pats lead the league with 70 points in the opening quarter and a plus-63 point difference -- makes the first-quarter line of -3 a must-play.

Prediction: Patriots -12.5 (-105)

Second Opinion on this pick from StatSalt.com

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Even with the realization the Browns are the most talented offense the Patriots have faced this season, Mayfield's propensity for turnovers makes taking the over a risky proposition as it still sits above a TD+FG combination (45). The question when betting over/unders with New England always comes down to "Where are the opposing points going to come from," and it is difficult to see anything beyond 14 for Cleveland.

Additionally, this game is in New England, where the Pats' defense has given up 10 points in three home wins.

The under is 6-2 in New England's last eight games and 19-7 in its last 26 versus sub-.500 teams. The under is also 20-8 in Cleveland's last 28 contests when allowing 30 or more points in the previous game.

Prediction: UNDER 46 points (-110)
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Written By Chris Altruda

A 1994 graduate of Marquette University when they were known as the Warriors and Brooklyn native, Chris Altruda is based in Chicago. Prior to joining our team here at Winners & Whiner, he worked at three major U.S. wire services and also has prior experience in sports handicapping and daily fantasy roster building. Now that the Cubs have won a World Series, he holds out hope the Jets will win a Super Bowl before he dies. Follow Chris daily right here at W&W and on Twitter at @AlTruda73. You won’t be disappointed.