San Francisco 49ers vs. Cleveland Browns Preview: Prediction, Best Bets, Odds, Depth Charts (10/15/23)
It could be a defensive slugfest when the Cleveland Browns (2-2) host the undefeated San Francisco 49ers this Sunday (10/15/23) at 1 p.m. ET in week 6 of the 2023 NFL season. The 49ers are heavy favorites at -9.5 against the spread, while the over/under is set at 36.5.
This article provides 49ers vs. Browns analysis, predictions and betting recommendations and explains why the best bet in this matchup is the under on 36.5 total points.
49ers vs. Browns Prediction & Best Bet
This matchup already had all the makings of a low-scoring, defensive slugfest. Now it looks like it could also be a bad weather game with winds approaching 25 mph, which would likely depress the scoring even more than the two dominant defenses. That makes the under the best bet in this game, even at the very low line of 36.5.
Another key factor in this game that supports the under is the Browns QB situation, as Deshaun Watson is expected to miss his second consecutive game. Former XFL superstar and Carolina Panthers QB PJ Walker will get the start if Watson can’t go. Rookie backup Dorian Thompson-Robinson struggled in his first career start in week 4, paving the way for the more experienced Walker to leapfrog him on the depth chart.
Both teams could rely heavily on the running game in this matchup, especially if the weather is as bad as it’s expected to be. That is especially true for the Browns given their quarterback situation, and they already were likely to lean on the ground game against the 49ers’ defense, as we discuss further below.
The heavy rushing volume is another reason to like the under in this game. It’s certainly possible that the 49ers could score enough points on their own to push the total higher. They have the best offense in the league and have scored at least 30 points in every game this season. But between the weather and the stout Browns defense, it seems like this is the week that streak ends.
We also like the 49ers to cover the -9.5 spread, mainly because we don’t expect the Browns to be able to do much offensively with PJ Walker under center. However, weird things can happen in a weather game, and if the overall scoring is depressed then it will be harder for the 49ers to pull away. We would back the 49ers but would not bet the house on it.
49ers vs. Browns Prediction & Best Bet: 49ers win 24-9, 49ers cover -9.5 (-110), under 36.5 (-108) (best bet)
49ers vs. Browns Betting Odds
Expectations that Deshaun Watson could miss this game and PJ Walker could be the starting quarterback had a massive impact on the spread, which opened at 49ers -4.5 and jumped to -9.5. It has reached -10 at some sportsbooks and it’s worth monitoring to see if it crosses that key number to -10.5.
The total has also seen a ton of movement after opening at 42 and is now down at 36.5.
The implied outcome of the current odds is the 49ers winning 23-13.
49ers vs. Browns Key Injuries
The Browns have a long list of injury concerns with some key players beginning with franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson, who missed the last game with a shoulder injury and is expected to miss this game. They also could be missing All-Pro guard Joel Bitonio and starting center Ethan Pocic after already losing RT Jack Conklin to IR before the season.
On defense, the status of All-Pro edge rusher Myles Garrett is also worth monitoring. When you also include RB Nick Chubb, the Browns have one of the most concerning injury reports of any team in the league right now.
The 49ers are comparatively one of the healthiest teams right now. Only backup RB Elijah Mitchell appears to be at risk of missing this game.
49ers vs. Browns Key Matchups
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for 49ers vs. Browns below.
Browns’ run game vs. 49ers’ run defense
If there is one way to attack San Francisco, it’s on the ground. While they are 2nd overall against the run allowing 64.2 yards per game, that is partly attributable to the low volume of rushing attempts against them. They are facing just 17.4 rushing attempts per game, the fewest in the league, which is a consequence of the huge leads they have had in almost every game this season.
On a per-carry basis, however, San Francisco is still a respectable 11th in yards per carry allowed (3.7), but they are just 19th in EPA per rush allowed and 25th in rushing defense success rate. Cleveland is averaging the 5th most rushing attempts per game, the 5th most rushing yards per game, and the 11th-best yards per carry at 4.4. Their advanced metrics are not as favorable, as they are just 24th in EPA per rushing play, 20th in success rate, and 24th in DVOA. Still, expect a heavy dose of Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt in this game.
Christian McCaffrey vs. Browns’ front seven
For as well as QB Brock Purdy is playing, the 49ers are still one of the most run-heavy teams in the league. They are 2nd in rushing attempts per game, 3rd in yards, and 7th in yards per carry. They are also 10th in EPA per rush, 4th in success rate, and 4th in DVOA.
As you may be aware, Christian McCaffrey is pretty good at running the football, and Kyle Shanahan is the best coach in the league at drawing up creative running schemes for him.
Christian McCaffrey’s 14th straight game with a TD (including playoffs) ties Emmitt Smith for the 4th-longest streak in NFL history. pic.twitter.com/EteLhqIOBv
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 9, 2023
The Browns’ dominant defense needs to find a way to slow down McCaffrey if they want any chance of competing in this game.