NFL Football: Chicago Bears vs. Cleveland Browns Preview, Prediction & Odds -- Sept. 26, 2021

by Big Al Staff

Game time: 1 p.m. ET, Sept. 26, 2021
Venue: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH
Where to watch: FOX

Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks


DraftKings: Browns -7; O/U 46.5; Browns -335, Bears +260
BetMGM: Browns -7; O/U 46; Browns -303, Bears +250
Caesars: Browns -7; O/U 46.5; Browns -330, Bears +265

Season record
Bears: 1-1
Browns: 1-1

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Bears - Browns preview and analysis


Recent form
Bears: won 20-17 vs. Bengals in Week 2
Browns: won 31-21 vs. Texans in Week 2

Despite the uncertainty facing the starting quarterback position, I have this belief that the Chicago Bears will cover Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

Starting quarterback Andy Dalton’s status for this Week 3 game is up in the air after what appears to be a leg injury. Head coach Matt Nagy confirmed it wasn’t an ACL injury given how Dalton went down without contact, but it’s possible it could be a knee injury..

All signs point to Justin Fields, the 11th overall pick of this year’s NFL Draft, to make his first pro start. Chicago fans are parading in the streets, and this could be the first of something depending on 1) if Dalton is out for multiple weeks, and 2) if Fields leads Chicago to some wins.

There was a steep dropoff once Field came in for Dalton; after a strong 9-of-11, 56-yard and one touchdown performance in the first half for Dalton, the rookie went 6-of-13 for 60 yards and an interception. Chicago won 20-17 over the Cincinnati Bengals despite a late rally from Joe Burrow and co.

Chicago’s offensive line has given up three sacks each in the first two games, which could be a welcoming sight for a Browns defense that has only recorded three sacks total through the first two games.

But while the excitement of Fields possibly getting a start is good news for the Bears, the Browns are coming into Sunday’s matchup heavily banged up on offense. Already dealing with the absence of Odell Beckham Jr (despite a good chance he will return this week) the Browns will now be without fellow star receiver Jarvis Landry for the next few games due to an MCL sprain.

Landry had only one catch for nine yards in the Browns’ 10-point win over the Houston Texans in their home opener. The wide receivers group in Cleveland is going to be heavily tested and more contribution will be relied upon from young receivers Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Demetric Felton caught two passes for 51 yards and a touchdown last week for the Browns.

The Browns do have that running game with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt leading the charge, but I’d caution relying on the two stars if Baker Mayfield can’t get into a groove in the passing department. The Bears held Joe Mixon to 69 yards on 20 carries as Burrow struggled in the first three quarters. Chicago will stack the box and focus attention on the backs if the other receivers don’t step up.

Prediction


If this is Fields’ first start, what better place to do it than the state he played college football at? There’s this sense of comfort going back to a place you’re familiar with, and I’d venture to guess he’ll do well with eyes on him. Ultimately, I think Cleveland wins this game, but wouldn’t be shocked if the Bears kept it a one-score outing. Browns win by 6

Betting trends


The Bears are 4-8 against the spread in their last 12 as a road underdog.

Chicago is 1-5 ATS in its last six after scoring seven points or fewer in the first half of consecutive games.

The Browns are 6-7 ATS as a home favorite and 11-3 straight up in their last 14.

Players to watch


Bears: It’s been an abnormally quiet start for receiver Allen Robinson II. Despite catching a touchdown last week against Cincinnati, Robinson has been held to eight total receptions for 59 yards through two games. One way for Fields to get comfortable is to find his No. 1 receiver early and often. It won’t be easy with Denzel Ward shadowing him all game.

Browns: Tight end David Njoku has gotten off to a promising start through two games. The former first-round pick leads the Browns with eight receptions and a team-high 94 yards. Cleveland fans have been clamoring for a breakthrough for Njoku to become a top tight end. Maybe this is the year it happens.

Key injuries:


Bears: QB Andy Dalton (knee, questionable), DT Eddie Goldman (questionable)

Browns: WR Jarvis Landry (knee, out), WR Odell Beckham Jr. (questionable)

Statistical leaders


Bears:
Passing: Andy Dalton -- 262 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: David Montgomery -- 169 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Darnell Mooney -- 92 yards
Defense: Robert Quinn -- 1.5 sacks

Browns:
Passing: Baker Mayfield -- 534 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Nick Chubb -- 178 yards, 3 TD
Receiving: David Njoku -- 94 yards
Defense: Myles Garrett -- 1 sack

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