The San Francisco 49ers gear up to face the Cleveland Browns without their starting QB, Deshaun Watson. He's missing his second straight game with a bruised right shoulder and won't have to play against the 49ers No. 3 defense. This matchup takes on a new level of intrigue as the Browns look to rally around their backup signal caller P. J. Walker. This juggernaut of a 49ers defense aims to exploit this opportunity and spoil Walker's debut in front of the Cleveland faithful. Even though the dynamics have shifted for the Browns, Coach Kevin Stefanski needs to get Walker and the rest of his team ready to adapt quickly because the 49ers will undoubtedly test every aspect of Walker's game.
Date: Sunday, October 15
Start Time: 1:00 EST
Location: Cleveland, Ohio (FirstEnergy Stadium)
TV Info: FOX (Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olson on the Call)
Spread: Cleveland Browns +9.5
ATS Records: 49ers 4-0-1; Browns: 2-2
All-Time Series Standings: Browns lead 12-8 (49ers won previous matchup in 2019 31-3)
Last Week: The San Francisco 49ers beat the Dallas Cowboys. The Cleveland Browns had their bye-week
San Francisco 49ers
Offense: No. 3 Overall, No. 2 Rushing, No. 8 Passing, No. 2 Scoring
Defense: No. 3 Overall, No. 2 Rushing, No. 12 Rushing, No. 1 Scoring
Offense: No. 21 Overall, No. 5 Rushing, No. 30 Passing, No. 23 Scoring
Defense: No. 1 Overall, No. 4 Rushing, No. 11 Passing, No. t-2 Scoring
Turnover Diff: San Francisco 49ers +7, Cleveland Browns -7
Players to Watch
San Francisco 49ers QB Brock Purdy: He threw a career-high four TD passes, scorching the Cowboys and leading his team to 10-0 as a starter for regular season games. Purdy has simply been outstanding through five games. His 121.1 passer rating in those matchups is currently the best in NFL history through 10 starts, and his completion percentage has been 70.4% in those stars. Only future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger has more, with 15 consecutive wins to start his NFL career.
Cleveland Browns QB P. J. Walker: While this is Walker's Cleveland debut, this isn't his first NFL rodeo. Walker has seven starts under his belt over the last three seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Walker is passing up rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who threw three interceptions replacing Watson two weeks ago. Inexperienced Walker is probably facing a long afternoon against a tough team coming into Sunday's game.
Matchups to Watch
49ers EDGE Nick Bosa vs. OT Dawand Jones will be interesting to watch. Bosa can play on either side of the line, making it harder for an offense to prepare to play against him. The odds are that the Niners will test Jones most of the game. Bosa comes into Week 6 with only 1.5 sacks, which is below his norm. However, every sports fan knows that Bosa could easily pull a hat trick against the Browns offensive line and wreck their entire game plan. Dawand Jones has shown considerable improvement since week 2 when he faced T.J. Watt and held his own for most of the game.
San Francisco 49ers:
LG Aaron Banks (Shoulder) Doubtful
Rb Elijah Mitchell (Knee) Questionable
QB DeShaun Watson (Shoulder) Out
AP LG Joel Bitonio (Knee) Out.
TE David Njoku Questionable
C Ethan Pocic (Knee, Foot) Questionable
WR Cedric Tillman (Hip) Out
The Browns are 7-2 at home against the 49ers and have won three in a row in Cleveland. Although the 49ers crushed the Browns in 2019, racking up 446 total yards to their 180 yards. Coach Shanahan was actually Cleveland's offensive coordinator in 2014 when the Browns decided to start Johnny Manziel after 11 games. Drafting a generational quarterback has been a thorn in the side for both of these teams.
The 49ers are rolling at 5-0 for the fifth time in franchise history. Shanahan's offensive schemes keep dominating their opponents week in and week out. They are outscoring the opposition by a league-high 99 points. Six of the previous eight teams in the Super Bowl era that started 5-0 start, and with that point differential, three of these teams ended up winning the Lombardi trophy. It doesn't stop there, because the 49ers have won a franchise record 15 straight regular season games, and are looking to make history against the Browns with a 16th straight. The 49ers are the sixth team to score no less than 30 points in their first five games of the season, and the Niners' eighth regular season game with scoring at least 30 points ranks fifth most.
Just wait, there's more 9ers accolades. They've scored on the opening drive in seven straight regular-season games with four TDs and one FG in 2023. San Fran hasn't allowed a 100-yard individual rusher in 32 straight games, but Christian McCaffrey has scored a TD in 14 consecutive games (Regular Season and Postseason). George Kittle had three TD catches last week, becoming the first San Francisco player to do so since Vernon Davis in 2009. And All-World linebacker Fred Warner had a pick, sack, and forced fumble last week to become the first 49ers player to do that since NaVorro Bowman in 2013.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski has stressed ball security to his team after seeing 10 fumbles in the first four games. ...Walker will be making his eighth career start, having gone 4-3 for the Panthers and led them to an upset of Tom Brady and Tampa Bay last season. Cleveland's running game hasn't been the same, nor would anyone, since star Nick Chubb was lost for the season with a knee injury in Week 2. The Browns are still running for 143.8 yards per, but just 80 in the past two games. Cleveland's number 1 defense faces its toughest test against this juggernaut 49ers team.
I honestly think this game will be one of the best defensive matchups all season but without Watson, I'm afraid the Browns simply can not keep up with the 49ers, maybe not even with Watson. The first half will be slow for both offenses, but the Niners will pull away in the second half, wearing down the Browns' defense with an inexperienced QB simply not being able to keep his offense on the field long enough to give the Browns' defense a break.
Final Score: San Francisco 49ers 35, Cleveland Browns 10
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