AFC North News & Odds: Can Browns Survive Without Nick Chubb?

Most everyone knows that the Cleveland Browns are one of four current NFL franchises yet to play in a Super Bowl, joining the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions. Did you also know that the Browns have the longest division title drought in the league? They last won the AFC North way back in 1989 when it was still known as the AFC Central.

AFC North | 2020 NFL Expert Analysis

However, the Browns are 3-1 for the first time since 2001 and have a legitimate shot to win the division this year, although it will be tough with very good Baltimore and Pittsburgh teams. MyBookie gives Cleveland odds of +600, with the defending champion Ravens (3-1) at -200 and the Steelers (3-0) at +250.

The Browns’ chances did take a bit of a hit during their Week 4 upset win in Dallas as Pro Bowl tailback Nick Chubb, who finished runner-up for the 2019 NFL rushing title and is second this year as well, injured his knee in the first quarter and will miss at least six weeks.

Chubb rushed six times for 43 yards before having his leg rolled up on from behind during the first quarter. He has been diagnosed with an MCL strain and has been placed on injured reserve. The good news is that Cleveland has the best backup in the NFL in Kareem Hunt, who finished with 11 carries for 71 yards and two scores in the win over Dallas.

Cleveland leads the NFL in rushing with the 1-2 punch of Chubb and Hunt. Could the team pass a bit more with Chubb out? Odell Beckham Jr. was sensational in the Cowboys win with three total touchdowns. Beckham had 2 receiving touchdowns, his first game with at least 2 receiving touchdowns since Week 10, 2018 with the Giants against the 49ers. It was Beckham’s 3rd career game with at least 2 receiving touchdowns vs. the Cowboys — only Hall of Famer Randy Moss (4) has more such games in NFL history.

The Browns are 1.5-point home underdogs this week against fellow 1-3 team Indianapolis. Cleveland has the AFC’s top scoring offense (31.0 points per game) and lead the NFL in both takeaways (10) and turnover margin (plus six). The Colts, meanwhile, have the NFL’s top-ranked scoring defense (14.0 points allowed per game).

Six teams that missed the 2019 playoffs have started this season with three wins: The Bears (3-1), Browns, Colts, Rams (3-1), Steelers and Bucs (3-1). Since 1990, at least four teams each season have qualified for the playoffs after missing the postseason the year before.

BENGALS: Cincinnati clearly got it right picking LSU quarterback Joe Burrow at No. 1 overall in this year’s draft. Burrow passed for 300 yards with one touchdown and one interception for a 92.4 rating in the Bengals’ 33-25 win over Jacksonville in Week 4, his first career victory. Burrow, who passed for 316 yards in Week 2 and 312 yards in Week 3, is the first rookie quarterback to pass for at least 300 yards in three consecutive games in NFL history. Cincinnati is +13 this week in Baltimore.

RAVENS: Reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson has eight touchdowns (seven passing, one rushing), a 111.3 passer rating and ranks second among quarterbacks with 235 rushing yards. Jackson’s matchup against Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow on Sunday will mark the fifth instance in NFL history in which the reigning league MVP and the most recent No. 1 overall pick meet as starting quarterbacks. The reigning MVP has won three of the previous four meetings.​ Last Sunday, Jackson joined Cam Newton as the only players in NFL history with at least 5,000 passing yards and at least 2,000 rushing yards over their first 3 NFL seasons. Jackson is 10th among quarterbacks with seven completions of 25 yards or more this season, yet the Ravens rank 31st in the NFL in passing yards per game (180.8), just ahead of the awful New York Jets.

STEELERS: Pittsburgh, which hosts Philadelphia on Sunday, has an opportunity for just their fourth​ 4-0 start in franchise history, and first since 1979, when they won Super Bowl XIV. Sunday is the 79th installment in the series between franchises that once merged to form one team. In 1943, with the nation in the middle of World War II and many players and coaches serving their country, the “Steagles” went 5-4-1 in the NFL’s Eastern Division. The Pro Football Hall of Fame has 36 enshrined individuals who are Pennsylvania natives. Additionally, 35 Pro Football Hall of Famers attended high school in the state. Pittsburgh is a 7-point favorite for Sunday.


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