Two teams that had much higher aspirations than a losing record seven weeks into the 2021 National Football League season meet tonight under the lights at FirstEnergy Stadium. Both of tonight’s combatants enjoyed three game winning streaks this season, both are on losing runs and one of them is going to have a losing record after tonight.
The Denver Broncos opened this season with a trio of victories while downing the New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets. You couldn’t find three easier opponents this side of Houston.
They have now dropped three straight games while being outscored by the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Las Vegas Raiders. Certainly a step up in competency from the first three teams Denver met.
Tonight, the Broncos head to Cleveland to meet a Browns team good enough to have been a favorite against the only undefeated team a week ago, to a shrinking favorite against a squad that has lost three straight.
What the heck happened to the Browns?
Quarterback Baker Mayfield will certainly need surgery at season's end if he doesn’t have it sooner. The shoulder injury that sidelined Mayfield is a tear in the left, non throwing, arm. If the Browns were to lose tonight, and a lot of people think that is about to happen, there will certainly be discussions by Cleveland front office people on whether to shutdown their prize quarterback and protect a wounded athlete from getting hurt worse while chasing every team in the AFC North Division.
Mayfield is not the only Cleveland Brown missing in action. Leading ground gainer Nick Chubb is absent for a second straight game. The Browns injury report looks like a grocery list after three weeks of not shopping.
The Browns season started so well, after a narrow opening day loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland won three straight. Their winning run began with a victory over the Houston Texans, one of the best spots of the season for a team to succeed given the talent-challenged Texans were coming off a rare win. The Texans downed the Jacksonville Jaguars on opening day. Cleveland’s next two victories were gained against the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings, two teams that would be considered middle on a scale that ranked the NFL in good, average and bad categories.
The Browns downfall began with a road loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in fifth week action. The two AFC teams traded the lead three times in the fourth quarter with the Chargers winning a slugfest, 47-42. Off that loss, the Browns were favored against the only undefeated squad in the NFL and lost the game straight-up before returning tonight as a bet-on home favorite with a shrinking point spread. Cleveland opened as a 5 point pick before Mayfield was declared out, and the Browns are now favored by 1½ points.
The motivational shift from being favored over the Cardinals to a shrinking line against the Broncos is dramatic, but doesn’t answer the question of the night.
Is it the Broncos or Browns that are going to complete seven weeks of the 2021 season with a losing record?
If I knew that, I would know what side of the contest to wager on tonight.