Cleveland Browns (3-1) at LA Chargers (3-1)
- Time: 4:05 p.m.
- Line: Chargers by 2 (46.5)
The skinny: Two AFC powers tied for first in their divisions meet, but with plenty of questions regarding the health of Browns QB Baker Mayfield.
Facts: Mayfield was atop the passer charts through two weeks with an 81.6 completion percentage, but in a Week 2 game against Houston he suffered a partially torn labrum (not his passing shoulder) when attempting to make a tackle. The past two weeks he’s hit on only 52.3% of his throws, going 15-for-33 last week in a 14-7 win at Minnesota. The Chargers will be working on short rest after their 28-14 MNF home win against then-unbeaten Las Vegas. Teams are 5-1 ATS with this disadvantage this season. Cleveland’s Myles Garrett leads the league with six sacks, with 4.5 coming two weeks ago against Chicago and first-time starter Justin Fields. LA’s Austin Ekeler is averaging 5.7 yards a carry, fourth among RBs. Cleveland’s Kareem Hunt is right behind at 5.4 with Nick Chubb at 5.2.
Analysis: The Browns are averaging a league-best 177 rushing yards a game and facing a team that’s fourth-worst at stopping the run. That should take some of the pressure off Mayfield to have to throw 30-plus times a game. And as for the Chargers, how long can they overcome all the penalty yards they’ve been accruing, including 105 last week?
Forecast: Browns 34, Chargers 31
Chicago Bears (2-2) at Las Vegas Raiders (3-1)
- Time: 4:05 p.m.
- Line: Raiders by 5.5 (44.5)
The skinny: Chicago, which just named Justin Fields its No. 1 QB for the duration of the season, will make the second of its three Western trips this year when it stops off across from the Vegas Strip to face the Raiders.
Facts: Hard to believe: Chicago rookie QB Justin Fields averaged 10.3 yards a throw last week in a 24-14 win over Detroit a week after his norm was 0.05 yards a pass in a 26-6 loss at Cleveland. Just as remarkable, the Bears won despite an average starting field position at their 16, the worst launch point for a winning team since 2019. … Since TE Darren Waller caught only 10 of 19 targeted throws in the opener for Vegas, he’s grabbed 14 or 21 the past three weeks for a 12.1-yard average.
Analysis: Even though Bears’ RB David Montgomery will be out for more than a month with a knee injury, backup Damien Williams should be a solid fill-in in the short term and help keep the chains moving — provided the offensive line holds up its end of the bargain. Those guys allowed Fields to get sacked nine times two weeks ago and now face a Raiders defensive charge led by Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue. But the Raiders aren’t much good along the offensive line either, helping to produce only 3.3 yards a carry, which is more than standout Josh Jacobs gains when he isn’t sitting out (3.2). Bears keep it close and make life hard on LV quarterback Derek Carr.
Forecast: Raiders 20, Bears 17
San Francisco 49ers (2-2) at Arizona Cardinals (4-0)
- Time: 4:25 p.m.
- Line: Cardinals by 4.5 (50)
The skinny: The 49ers will try to avoid falling three games behind the Cardinals in the NFC West on the heels of a disheartening home loss to Seattle last week.
Facts: In last year’s two meetings, the visiting team won as a touchdown underdog. In San Fran’s victory in Week 16, 20-12, it rushed for 227 yards, the only game it cleared 200 yards all season. Arizona, the only undefeated team in the NFL, has won three of its games on the road, including two in lopsided fashion as an underdog vs. Tennessee and last week against the LA Rams. San Francisco rookie QB Trey Lance could make his first start with regular Jimmy Garoppolo dealing with a calf injury.
Analysis: The 49ers face an uphill battle here with several of their prime weapons ailing. TE George Kittle (calf) and Garoppolo didn’t participate in Thursday drills. Top RB Raheem Mostert long ago was lost for the season, and his backup, Elijah Mitchell, is questionable with a shoulder injury. Without those guys, it will be a tough go to keep up with Cardinals QB Kyler Murray, the league leader in completion percentage, and his host of star receivers led by DeAndre Hopkins. San Francisco has the potential to play the role of bully in the trenches, but otherwise seems outmatched by the Cardinals’ skill folks. And, if Lance indeed starts, he’ll be trying to be the first rookie QB this year to win his debut. The others are 0-5 in their first outing and 2-13 overall when not facing another rookie passer.
Forecast: Cardinals 26, 49ers 14
NY Giants (1-3) at Dallas Cowboys (3-1)
- Time: 4:25 p.m.
- Line: Cowboys by 7 (52)
The skinny: Last season in Week 5 when the Giants visited the heart of Texas the roof was open and the thermometer read 95 degrees at kickoff, the hottest temp for any game the past three seasons.
Facts: That day last season also was when Cowboys QB Dak Prescott suffered his gruesome ankle injury that knocked him out the rest of the season. Dating to last year, the Cowboys have had a positive turnover edge in each of their past eight games. At this stage in 2020, they were at minus-7 overall. Dallas is playing its third straight home game, coming off consecutive wins over Philly and Carolina. Last season at about this juncture, the Cowboys also had a three-game homestand and in the finale lost to Arizona 38-10, their worst loss of the season. Giants RB Saquon Barkley had a breakout game in the Superdome last week in NYG’s 27-21 win in OT, with a 54-yard score on a pass reception in the fourth-quarter comeback and a 6-yard run for a TD in overtime.
Analysis: Jones again figures to be without starting WRs Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, but that didn’t stop him from throwing for 402 yards vs. New Orleans. But with starters at left guard and tackle also questionable, it’s starting to get out of hand. Dallas is tough enough to beat at full strength, but not with this handicap. And for the Cowboys’ offensively, Prescott and Zeke Elliott have been flourishing lately and with a big hand from another RB, Tony Pollard, who’s averaging 6.8 yards a rush on 37 carries. That’s the best norm for any running back in the league.
Forecast: Cowboys 35, Giants 20
Last week: 8-8 ATS; 9-7 SU
Season totals: 38-25-1 (.603) ATS; 42-22 (.656) SU