In a season of high expectations, the San Francisco 49ers have well exceeded theirs, opening the year with a perfect 3-0 record. The Cleveland Browns have somewhat struggled to live up to the expectations placed on them this off season. These two teams collide on Monday night (8.15 PM ET, live on ESPN).
For the better part of the last decade, the Cleveland Browns have been the laughing stock of the NFL. They became the first team to go 0-16, making them just the second winless team in NFL history. Preceding that winless season in 2017, the Browns went 1-15, making them the only NFL team to go 1-31 in a 32-game span.
The 2017 season was absolute rock bottom for the Browns, who had only had one season of more than five wins since 2008. It was the culmination of one of the worst periods of misery for an NFL franchise and one Cleveland is desperate to escape from. Since drafting Baker Mayfield (the 30th QB to start for the Browns since 1999) first overall in the 2018 draft, Cleveland has begun to do just that.
Under the Oklahoma standout’s time under center, the Browns improved from 0-16 to 7-8-1 in 2018, which was their best record in over a decade. In 2019, they are 2-2 so far, a good but not great record for the high expectations put on Mayfield and this team this year.
Equipped with some bona fide weapons in Odell Beckham Jr. and Nick Chubb in the backfield, the Browns opened their season at home against the Tennessee Titans. They got absolutely annihilated to the tune of a 43-13 final score. Mayfield threw three interceptions and just one touchdown in the loss and Derrick Henry out rushed Chubb as the Titans picked up the victory. This prompted some to suggest that maybe the Browns weren’t who we thought they were or in some cases for those who hadn’t quite gotten on board Cleveland’s playoff train, that they were exactly who we thought they were.
Shaking off that bad loss, the Browns traveled to MetLife to take on the New York Jets. Having seen some minor improvements in the offseason, the Jets too had some expectations, albeit more tempered than the Browns. So as expected, the Browns were favored with the USA online sports betting oddsmakers. In his return to his old home stadium, Beckham dazzled, catching six passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. Mayfield didn’t play his best game but excelled with the deep ball, throwing for 325 yards in the win. Defensively, the Browns held the Jets to just three points.
In week three, the Browns welcomed in the Los Angeles Rams in what was no doubt going to be a tough matchup. Cleveland played well but not well enough to supplant the defending NFC Champions.
That led to week four and a huge matchup. It was the Browns’ first AFC North meeting and it was on the road against the then-division-leading Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens were favored but what ensued was a bloodbath in favor of the Browns. It was a signature, statement win for Cleveland, defeating one of the NFL’s top offenses by 15 points. The Browns scored 40 points as Chubb exploded, totaling three touchdowns and 165 rushing yards.
It was the Browns’ biggest win in years and it came with a message. Not only was Cleveland on the right track but they were coming for it all. Just two years after going winless, the Browns showed they are ready not just to post their first .500 record in over a decade but that they could win the AFC North, a division they currently lead for the first time in a long time.
The Road So Far – San Francisco 49ers
In a division featuring the defending NFC Champion Rams, and not that far removed from winning a Super Bowl, Seattle Seahawks, it may come as a surprise to see that at the top of the NFC West, is the San Francisco 49ers. In 2018, the Niners won just four games, after winning just six (and starting 0-9) the year before. It is fair to say that no one would have expected the Niners to be 3-0 and the NFC’s last remaining undefeated team.
The Niners opened the year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and really showed just how good this team can be under former New England Patriots’ backup, Jimmy Garoppolo. Then we come to new defensive leader, Richard Sherman. After spending his career with Seattle’s Legion of Boom, one of the best defensive secondaries in the history of the NFL, Sherman didn’t waste time making his mark in San Fran, returning his first interception for a touchdown. It was one of three interceptions the 49ers recorded on the day, en route to a 31-17 win.
Week two and three told a bit of an easier story as the Niners played the winless Cincinnati Bengals and at the time, winless Pittsburgh Steelers in consecutive weeks. Against the Bengals, Garoppolo threw tied for a career-high three touchdowns while running back, Matt Brieda rushed for 121 yards on just 12 carries. Against the Steelers, the Niners didn’t play quite as well, needing a late touchdown to overcome a five-turnover game. They picked up the win and their first 3-0 start in over 20 years.
Our Betting Preview’s Cleveland Browns vs San Francisco 49ers Predictions & Picks Verdict
Coming off their bye, the 49ers head into this one ready to continue making the statement that they are the best of the West. The Browns are hoping to make a similar statement as fresh off their biggest win in years, Cleveland is out to prove they can be the top in the North. Both these teams have something to prove and Monday’s matchup should be a good one because of it. The Cleveland Browns vs San Francisco 49ers predictions for this preview are: