Commentary

What NFL experts are predicting for Sunday’s Patriots-Browns game

With the OBJ talk now over, experts make their picks for Sunday's battle vs. the Browns in Foxborough.

Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield throws a pass against the Steelers during an Oct. 31 game. Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini

Odell Beckham, Jr. would have been great in New England. 

Two years ago. 

In 2021, with a rookie quarterback learning his way through the NFL? The Patriots would have been desperate to add the diva to the mix. 

There’s no denying that Mac Jones could use more weapons at wide receiver, but the headache that is OBJ, who signed with the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday, would have been too risky. Remember Tom Brady’s increasing obsession with getting the ball to Randy Moss in the receiver’s final years with New England? It’s a similar process that began happening between him and Rob Gronkowski, sometimes to the detriment of the team. 

Brady managed to get away with a lot of the looking in one direction, and away from those outside of the Brady Camp. But Jones? Did the Patriots really want to give him the problem that OBJ would, no doubt, have become when he didn’t get the ball 10 times a game? 

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For a team that prides itself on its running game and even distribution of the ball on offense, how does OBJ even fit? 

He would have been great here, when Brady was still at the helm. 

For Jones, OBJ would have likely been more of a deterrent to progress than he would have been a propellent. 

This week’s predictions 

Globe staff: Five out of six pick New England (-2.5). 

Joe Giglio, NJ.com: Browns (+1). “In a toss up game, I’ll take the point and back the more experienced quarterback.”

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 27, Browns 21. “The Browns are playing back-to-back road games and put a lot into winning a big division game last week at Cincinnati. The Patriots are back home for the first time in three weeks after winning two road games. Their defense is playing much better and they will do a solid job of putting the game on Baker Mayfield with the possibility Nick Chubb is out. Mac Jones will do enough on offense to get the victory.”

CBS Sports staff: Six of eight pick New England (-4). 

Michael Hurley, CBS Boston: Patriots (-1.5). “Everyone on both teams is either injured, dealing with COVID, or wanted by the FBI. (Mac Jones, you are under arrest for grabbing Brian Burns’ leg in the football game.) Kind of tough to make a sound judgment either way, but the Patriots are playing some good football these days.” 

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Frank Schwab, Yahoo! Sports: Browns (+1.5). “Breaking a big rule here and buying into something we saw last week. The 2021 NFL is a week-to-week league and nothing seems to stick. Still, I liked what I saw from the Browns. I don’t know how this happened, but I finally believe it: The Browns are a better offense without Odell Beckham Jr. Much better. And Baker Mayfield is a much better quarterback without OBJ. I think they get a big win here.” 

ESPN staff: Six out of nine go with the Pats. 

Jimmy Kempski, Philly Voice: Browns (+2). “The Odell Beckham news cycle is crazy to me. Who cares where he lands? He’s a baby, he isn’t good anymore, and the Browns are better off without him. In this matchup, the Browns are the more talented team, and the home field mystique at Gillette Stadium over the last two decades probably had more to do with the Patri*ts having the best quarterback ever, plus some occasional cheating. That’s all it was. They’re 1-4 at home this season.” 

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Browns 23, Patriots 20. “The.Browns got their complete groove back in Cincinnati. The Patriots did dispatch Carolina to match records with this week’s opponent, but they are stil very dependent on big defensive plays and the run to win games. The Browns will run hard on New England’s front with Nick Chubb and defensively force Mac Jones into more mistakes opposite Baker Mayfield.”

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Bill Bender, Sporting News: Browns 27, Patriots 24. “We have missed on Cleveland picks the last two weeks, but a different team surfaced in the victory against the Bengals. The Pats are hot, but they have lost to Dallas and New Orleans, teams with top-10 rushing offenses. This is the kind of victory that shows Cleveland can get back in playoff contention.”

Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 24, Browns 20. “It would be great if the Patriots had OBJ for this one. New England can likely pull this one off without him.” 

Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 27, Browns 17. “This game could have major ramifications in the AFC playoff race, and I believe the Patriots are going to show they’re real contenders with a big win.” 

FiveThirtyEight: Patriots, 56 percent (-1.5). 

Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com: Browns 24, Patriots 21. “Both teams spoke all week about expecting a physical battle. Bill Belichick is coaching like he coached the 1994 Browns, a style of football that the 2021 Browns are also happy to play. The running game matters more for both of these teams than it does for most, and there’s no question which team is better at it. These Patriots will find a way to win plenty of strange, ugly games with their rookie quarterback this season, but I believe the Browns are better built for it, with or without Nick Chubb.”

NFL Pickwatch: Fifty percent, each. 


It says here: Patriots 31, Browns 17. Even with the uncertainties of Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden (yes) has been key lately.

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