On Sunday (12/17/23), the Cleveland Browns host the Chicago Bears. In this article, find a full breakdown of this cross-conference matchup between two teams vying for playoff positioning. Also, get our Bears vs. Browns best bet, which is the Bears +3.
Chicago Bears Vs. Cleveland Browns Prediction
Don’t look now, but the Bears are back in the playoff hunt. After three wins in their last four games, Chicago is now 5-8 and very much alive in the race for a Wild Card spot in the NFC. Meanwhile, the Browns sit at 8-5 despite a litany of key injuries throughout the season, which is a testament to the team’s impressive coaching staff.
However, those injuries may reach a breaking point this week, particularly on the offensive line with rookie tackle Dawand Jones suffering a season-ending knee injury that lands him on IR along with Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills. Cleveland is hurting upfront and will face a Bears pass rush that has found its groove since adding Montez Sweat. Last week, they pressured Jared Goff on 41% of his dropbacks and sacked him four times.
Overall, the Bears rank 6th in EPA/play on defense since adding Sweat in Week 9. It’s not all Sweat, though, as the defense has gotten healthier lately on all three levels. That’s rarely the case this time of year. Meanwhile, injury attrition has resulted in a dip for the Browns’ once unimpeachable defense. They still rank 7th in EPA since Week 9, below the Bears.
Justin Fields has progressed significantly this season as a passer, and the arrival of elite wide receiver D.J. Moore has been a big reason why. Fields ranks 15th in passer rating, and the market still isn’t accounting for how well he’s played after he missed time earlier this season. The Browns have slipped in run defense, ranking outside the top 20 in EPA and success rate since Week 9, so the Bears should be able to run the ball as well.
Ultimately, we can catch a Bears team continuing to trend up in health and on-field performance against a Browns team that may be at a breaking point. Cleveland’s offense has been horrendous, ranking 28th in DVOA, and their defense isn’t performing at a level that should make them 3-point favorites in this game over a surging Bears team.
Chicago Bears Vs. Cleveland Browns Prediction: Bears +3
Chicago Bears Vs. Cleveland Browns Best Odds
The Browns opened in this game as 3.5-point favorites universally, but money has hit the Bears all week, driving the spread down to the current number of 3. That shift is significant, given how key 3 is in betting NFL spreads. With a total of 37.5 points, it’s expected to be a lower-scoring game that could be affected by weather conditions.
Chicago Bears Vs. Cleveland Browns Key Injuries
The Bears mostly have a clean bill of health entering this game other than Yannick Ngakoue’s broken ankle landing him on IR last week. Wide receiver D.J. Moore and safety Jaquan Brisker are notable players listed as questionable to monitor. The Browns have a litany of players on the IR, as you can see below. Keep an eye on the status of Denzel Ward, who has missed the last three games with a shoulder injury.
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Chicago Bears Vs. Cleveland Browns Key Matchups
In this midwest matchup, there are some fascinating players to take stock of. Let’s break down some of the key matchups that could determine the winner.
Bears’ Offensive Line Vs. Browns’ Defensive Line
In order for Justin Fields to have another successful day, the Bears’ offensive line will be crucial. Chicago has been much improved up front this year with a top five offensive line in pass and run block win rate per ESPN. Braxton Jones is ninth in PFF’s pass block grades at the tackle position, although I’m more concerned about rookie Darnell Wright.
A first round pick out of Tennessee, Wright has had a solid rookie season, but his recent progression will be put to the test this week. Myles Garrett looks to be fully healthy again, and on Sunday, he registered seven pressures against the Jaguars, which was his second-most of the year.
Joe Flacco Vs. Bears’ Pass Defense
It was fun watching Joe Flacco win a game for the Browns instead of against them on Sunday, but there’s a reason he didn’t have an offer from a team until a few weeks ago. He ranked 37th out of 41 qualified QBs in PFF passing grade last year and I suspect he’ll revert back to that Flacco soon.
If the Bears ramp the pressure up, like I broke down above, I don’t trust 38-year-old Joe Flacco to hold up in the pocket. His return has been a fun story, but his accuracy has been poor – he ranks 25th out of 28 qualified quarterbacks in completion rate over expectation (CPOE) in the past two weeks.
Cornerback Jaylon Johnson could also create a lot of problems. He’s PFF’s top graded cornerback in coverage this season and he’ll likely shadow Amari Cooper, taking away the team’s best receiving option. I’d expect a rough game from Flacco here.