The New England Patriots will take on the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Tom Brady will make his first start of the 2016 season, after serving a four game suspension for his alleged role in the Deflategate scandal. Meanwhile, the Browns are winless at 0-4 and look to be headed for another tumultuous season.
In week four, the Bill’s defense blanketed the Patriots offense. Buffalo held the Patriots to zero points. It was a remarkable reversal for a Patriots squad that shutout the Houston Texans in week three.
In Brady’s absence, the Patriots have performed better than expected. Judging by their 3-1 record, many pundits and fans began speculating on how crucial Brady is to the Patriots’ success. After last week’s underwhelming offensive performance, it’s safe to say that rumors of Tom Brady’s lack of importance have been greatly exaggerated.
Let’s look at the numbers: through the first four weeks without Brady, the Patriots have the 28th ranked passing offense according to NFL Stats. Had Garoppollo started all four games in Brady’s absence, it’s safe to assume the Patriot’s passing attack would have been a bigger factor in the offense. Without Garoppollo, the Patriots had to rely on rookie Jacoby Brissett. In week four, Brissett completed 17 of 27 passes for a mere 205 yards. With Tom Brady returning to the field, the Patriots will likely try to ease Brady back into form.
The Browns currently are number one in rushing, while the Patriots rank third according to NFL Stats. Cleveland is averaging over a 149 yards on the ground. The bulk of that production is coming from running back Isaiah Crowell. Through four weeks, Crowell is averaging a robust 6.5 yards per carry this season. Based on the Browns rushing totals in their four losses, they’re committed to running the football regardless of the score. Crowell is facing a leaky Patriot’s defense that’s been susceptible to the run all year.
It’s no surprise that in Tom Brady’s absence, the Patriot’s turned to their rushing game to carry the burden for the offense. What is surprising is how successful that’s been. The Patriots are averaging 135 yards per game. In four games, LeGarrette Blount topped the 100-yard mark twice. Blount’s size and bruising style has helped wear down defenses in the second half of games. Expect Blount to help carry the load while Brady gets his rhythm back.
One of the biggest surprises for Cleveland this season is the play of Terrelle Pryor. The former quarterback turned receiver is having a breakout year. He’s a cerebral player that’s able to contribute in more ways than most athletes on the field. In week three against the Dolphins, Pryor did it all. He had eight receptions for 144 yards; he rushed for 21 yards and a score; and, he completed three of five passes for 35 yards. Had the Browns won the game, Pryor certainly would have received more praise nationally.
There’s no telling what a desperate Browns team will throw at the overwhelmingly favored Patriots this week. At 0-4 Cleveland’s got nothing to lose. The Patriots must not underestimate Pryor anywhere on the field, be it under center or lined up behind rookie Cody Kessler. His athleticism and skills all over the field at multiple positions is a huge matchup problem for Bill Belichick’s much maligned defense.
The return of Tom Brady means the return of the Patriots’ no-huddle offense. Last week against the Bills, Brissett and the Patriot’s offense appeared to take their foot off the gas in crucial 2 minute situations. With Brady back, expect the Patriots to play a less conservative style of offense.
Browns Vs Patriots Betting Lines
Brady’s back and with him, the Patriot’s are a heavy favorite. Last week, the Patriots got embarrassed when the Bills shut them out at home. That embarrassment, coupled with the return of Brady, is a recipe for a serious rebound. Expect the Patriots to win, and to win big.
Play: Patriots -10.5 @ BetOnline.ag