Browns vs Vikings Preview & Free Pick [October 3rd 2021]

Cleveland (2-1) at Minnesota (1-2)
When: Sunday, October 3rd, 2021
Where: U.S. Bank Stadium,
Minneapolis, MN
Time: 1:00 ET | TV: CBS
Opening Odds: Cleveland -1/50.5

One of the best matchups in the early slot Sunday afternoon has the Cleveland Browns visiting the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. It will mark the return to Minneapolis for Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski, who spent 14 years in the Vikings organization before landing his current gig in Cleveland. The Browns could easily be 3-0 if it weren’t for their Week 1 collapse at Kansas City, but they have bounced back the next two weeks with strong efforts over Houston and Chicago. The Browns defense held the Bears to just 47 total yards in a 26-6 win last week and defensive end Myles Garrett had a franchise-record 4.5 sacks, and leads the NFL with 5.5.

Minnesota comes in with a losing record but could also be 3-0 because their two losses were by a combined four points – overtime loss at Cincinnati (27-24) in Week 1 and a one-point setback at Arizona (34-33) in Week 2. The Vikings defense came up big in the second half in last week’s 30-17 win over the visiting Seattle Seahawks. The Minnesota offense is clicking behind quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has 918 passing yards and is averaging more than 300 yards per game. He also hasn’t turned the ball over while throwing eight touchdowns.

Cleveland is a slight 2-point road favorite in this one with a total set at 51.5. The Browns are 7-1 straight up in their last eight games as a favorite, but just 1-7 ATS in their past eight games as the road favorite. These teams have not played since the 2017 season when Minnesota went into Cleveland as 11-point favorites and won 33-16. The quarterbacks in that game? Case Keenum and DeShone Kizer.

The Browns defense has been playing exceptional and recorded nine sacks last week against the Chicago. But they will face a Minnesota offense that has scored over 24 points in each of the first three games. They easily rattled Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields and the nine sacks led to 67 yards lost for Chicago. Cleveland’s offense is very good as well led by quarterback Baker Mayfield. Jarvis Landry will likely miss this game with an injury but they did just get Odell Beckham Jr. back onto the field and he had five catches for 77 yards last week. Minnesota allows 119.3 rushing yards per contest and 4.8 yards per carry – fifth-worst in the NFL and will face a Browns duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Cleveland is averaging 28.7 points per game behind a run game that is No. 1 in the league in rushing touchdowns per game (2.7) and in yards per carry (5.1). Cleveland will play without rookie cornerback Greg Newsome II (calf), who has already been ruled out.

The Vikings beat the favored Seahawks last week despite not having star running back Dalvin Cook. He suffered a minor injury the week before and is questionable to play in this contest. If he can’t go, Alexander Mattison seems more than capable of filling in. Mattison rushed for 112 yards on 26 carries against Seattle. Cousins passed for 323 yards and three touchdowns without an interception on 30-of-38 attempts. Justin Jefferson caught nine balls for 118 yards and a touchdown, while Tyler Conklin caught seven for 70 yards and a score. The Vikings, who are 6-2 against the spread in their last eight games as an underdog, will host the Detroit Lions next week.

This should be a terrific game, but I’ll give the edge to Cleveland in this one. They are the better all-around team and the Vikings defense isn’t very good. They can’t stop the run and that is a problem against the best rushing team in the league. Cleveland wins by at least a field goal.

Pick: Browns -2
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