Cleveland Browns vs Minnesota Vikings Preview and Picks - 10/03/2021

by Big Al Staff

Cleveland Browns vs Minnesota Vikings Preview and Picks - 10/03/2021

Game Time: 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, October 3rd, 2021 
Venue: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Where to Watch: CBS

Opening NFL Odds at USA Sportsbooks

FanDuel:  Spread: Browns -2.5;  : O/U 52.5
Caesars: Spread:  Browns -1.5; : O/U 53
BetMGM:  Spread:  Browns -2; : O/U 53

Season Record

Browns: 2-1 (AFC North)
Vikings: 1-2 (NFC North)

Winter is coming.  The Browns are writing checks that only Baker Mayfield can cash… if he can.  The Browns have assembled a team loaded with offensive weapons.  A team with an above average defense led by the most exciting pass rusher since we all noticed Aaron Donald of the Rams.. Defensive End Myles Garrett is the real deal.  Baker is being asked to fill a promise that started with the draft 4 seasons ago. When the worst team in the league selected Baker and filled the roster around him.  We are now in the make or break contract year and Baker is the only winning QB1 who didn’t get a big extension yet… this year’s result will determine if Baker gets a huge contract to go with all those commercials… or if he ends up on the pile of Browns quarterbacks buried deep in our memories.  

The Vikings are struggling again.  The last 4 seasons of Vikings football has felt like an ABC afterschool special about multiple personality disorder.  2017 = 13-3, playoffs, lost conference championship playoff round.  2018 = 8-7, no playoffs.  2019 = 10-6, playoffs, lost in Divisional playoff round.  2020 = 7-9 no playoffs.  They are on track to miss their alternate playoff year… then what?

Football ON FIRE but, after a 5-1 Saturday and 2-1 in NFL Sunday, MNF lost but MLB WON. ASA was 71% last MONTH with Totals Titans as they did it again with a WINNING August and MASSIVE summer! Totals Titans have certainly played a role in the success! Not only 5-2 last month but 23-14 L4 months combined! CFB 15-7 / 68% YTD! NFL 8-3 RUN! O/U TOP 10*... Get Asa’s picks; they're  available right now at the Shop Picks page, where you can find all of the Best Bets from our champion sports handicappers.

Browns vs Vikings Preview and Analysis

Recent Form

The Browns opened the 2021 season against the Kansas City Chiefs and played really well.  They lost, but made a good game of it 33-29.  Game 2 brought a little chicken soup for the soul when the Houston Texas came to town.  Houston won their home opener but should lose most of the rest of the way.  Cleveland won 31-21.  Game 3 brought even more chicken soup with the floundering Chicago Bears and an easy win 26-6.  

The Vikings had a rough season opener with the Cincinnati Bengals that went to overtime… and they lost 27-24 (a close one).  Game 2 was rough again against the Arizona Cardinals that brought another loss 34-33 (a closer one!).  Game 3 let the Vikings breathe a bit with a win over the Seattle Seahawks 30-17. The Vikings will go into this game with the Browns knowing the Browns have more talent, but needing the win to get to .500 and avoid a season long battle to shed a losing record.

Offensive Analysis 

The Browns are 9th in points per game 28.7.  They have weapons all over the field. They are 7th in yards per game 410.  Baker Mayfield is stuck between two worlds:  Is he a game manager with talent around him or an elite quarterback pushing his team forward?  RB Nick Chubb is averaging 5.5 yards per carry, but has lost 1 fumble.  WR Kareem Hunt is only pulling down 34.7 yards per game and he leads the team in receiving yards.  The stall in the passing game has been Jarvis Landry missing a game and Odell Beckham Jr missing two games.  This has forced Baker to throw to tight ends Austin Hooper and David Njoku too early in the progressions  and to look further down the depth chart to Anthonyy Schwartz and backup tight end Harrison Bryant.  All are back and all are healthy against Minnesota.  A top ten offensive team will be healthy and ready to play better… Lookout Vikings.

The Vikings are 8th in points scored 29 ppg, 3rd in ypg 425.  They look like an offensive juggernaut, but they have lost more than they have won. QB Kirk Cousins is a passing machine 88-119 for 918 yards and 8 TDs.  He has been sacked 5 times.  He has a 118.3 passer rating.  Yet, if you plunk down in a sports bar everyone will tell you “he is terrible”.  The highest paid receiver on the team is Adam Thielen… but the star is 2nd year player WR Justin Jefferson.  The unexpected manna from heaven is rookie 5th round pick K.J. Osborn, who is second to Justin Jefferson in receiving yards.  They have talent.  The running game is solid enough with RB Dalvin Cook getting 96 yards per game… the problem of course is in shootouts the running game takes the backseat. 


Defensive Analysis

The Cleveland Brown are the 3rd best team in preventing yardage 248.7 yards per game per opponent.  They give up 20 ppg which ranks them at 7th, but a lot of these points have been “settled for” field goals.  The Browns hold steady and play strong.  With DE Myles Garrett at 5.5 sacks already and the cornerback and safety combo of Denzel Ward and Ronnie Harrison Jr holding down their spots.. This defense has a lot of speed and muscle.

The Vikings are 20th in giving up points per game 26 and 28th in giving up yards 409.7.  This defense is why the Vikings' highly effective offense isn’t winning games. They don’t stop anybody because they can’t stop anybody. The Linebackers Eric Kendricks and Nick Vigil are doing it all #1 and #2 on the team in tackles and they each have a sack.  That should tell you that the Vikings D-line is soft.  The linebackers have combined for 63 tackles, but only 5 tackles for loss.  The action is all happening after the opponents have made it through for positive yardage.  DE Danielle Hunter leads the team in sack 4 with a super impressive -37 sack yards .. After him they need a lot more.

 

Browns vs Vikings Prediction

Our prediction for Sunday, October 3rd is… Browns 41 - Vikings 21

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NFL Betting Trends

The Browns are 4-2 ATS over the last 3 seasons when the O/U has been set greater than 49.5
The Vikings are 2-4 ATS in home games when total is 49.5 or greater over last 3 seasons.
The Browns are 2-5 ATS in October the last three seasons.
The Vikings are 5-2 ATS in October the last three seasons.



Key Injuries

Browns: CB Craig Newsome (calf) Questionable * LB Keanu Neal (covid) Questionable
Vikings: LB Anthony Barr (knee) Questionable *  RB Dalvin Cook (ankle) Questionable

 

Players to Watch

Browns:  Baker Mayfield.  All eyes on Baker this time.  He has 3 objectives:  Win, Prove he is elite, and repair Odell Beckham’s trade value (this is the hidden mission until the deadline).

Vikings: K.J Osborn.  This young wide receiver should get targeted early and often.  He will have an open field if Cleveland tries to shut down Justin Jefferson and soon every football fan will know his name.

Starting Lineups

Browns:  QB Baker Mayfield, RB Nick Chubb, WR Odell Beckham Jr, WR Donovan People-Jones, WR Rashard Higgins, TE Austin Hooper, LT Jedrick Wills Jr, LG Joel Bitono, C JC Tretter, RG Wyatt Teller, RT Jack Conklin

Vikings:  QB Kirk Cousins, RB Dalvin Cook, WR Justin Jefferson, WR Adam Thielen, WR K.J. Osborn, TE Tyler Conklin, LT Rashod Hill, LG Ezra Cleveland, C Garrett Bradbury, RG Udoh Olisaemeka, RT Brian O’Neill

Statistical Leaders

Browns 
Passing: Baker Mayfield 780 yards
Rushing: Nick Chubb  262 yards
Receiving: Kareem Hunt  104 yards
Tackles: Myles Garrett 14

Vikings:
Passing: Kirk Cousins 918 yards
Rushing: Dalvin Cook 192 yards
Receiving: Justin Jefferson 254 yards
Tackles: Eric Kendricks  37

Coaches:

Browns:  Kevin Stefanski
Vikings:  Mike Zimmer

 

Weather Forecast

Partly Cloudy.  70* for the high. Humidity 60%

 


All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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