The Cleveland Browns haven’t won a division title since way back in 1989 and their chances of taking the extremely tough AFC North this year got longer on Monday with the news that star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. was done for the season with a torn ACL suffered in Sunday’s wild win against Cincinnati. The Browns opened as 2.5-point home favorites on the NFL odds for Week 8 against the Las Vegas Raiders.
AFC North | 2020 NFL Expert Analysis
Beckham was hurt Sunday while attempting to chase down a Bengals defender following a Baker Mayfield interception. On the former Heisman winner’s first passing attempt, he tried to force a throw to Beckham down the sideline. The ball, however, was underthrown and picked off by Darius Phillips. Beckham turned around to chase the Cincinnati defensive back the other way, but crashed into Phillips and Cleveland fullback Andy Janovich, who also was trying to make the tackle.
The Browns were left with just three other active receivers: Jarvis Landry, rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones and Rashard Higgins. The latter two made large contributions down the stretch of a 37-34 victory.
Beckham recorded 23 catches for 319 yards and three touchdowns this season. He had three carries for 72 yards and a touchdown too. He is scheduled to earn $15.75 million next season and $12.971 million becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the league year. It’s far from a sure thing that Beckham is even ready for the start of the 2021 season.
“Obviously, it’s a big loss,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Monday. “As everyone knows, he is a huge part of what we do. Now we will just have to huddle up and find some different ways and find some different people and put them in that role. Ultimately, we are just trying to do what our players do best. That is our job to figure that out.”
Asked if the Browns need to make any external moves to address depth at wide receiver, Stefanski said, “I think we will see how that all plays out.” The NFL Trade Deadline is Nov. 3.
Then again, OBJ getting hurt isn’t all that news. Beckham Jr. played 43 out of a possible 48 games in his first three NFL seasons. But now Beckham will have played only 39 out of 64 games over the past four seasons.
It’s been a rough week or so for Beckham as he was recently banned from LSU’s facilities for two years after giving out $2,000 worth of $100 bills at the national championship game last season.
Cleveland (5-2) also remains without Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb. He’s not expected back from a knee injury until Week 10.
BENGALS: Will Cincinnati have top running back Joe Mixon back this week? He missed Sunday’s game vs. the Browns with a foot injury and coach Zac Taylor said Mixon is considered “day-to-day.” Giovani Bernard took over as the featured back Sunday and rushed 13 times for 37 yards in the loss to the Browns, adding five catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. Left tackle Jonah Williams is in question this week vs. the Titans with a neck injury. The Bengals could also potentially be without C Trey Hopkins (concussion) on Sunday. Cincinnati is currently a 5.5-point home dog. Bengals rookie QB Joe Burrow has five 300-yard passing games this season, tied with Daniel Jones (2019) and Kyler Murray (2019) for the second-most 300-yard passing games by a rookie quarterback in NFL history. Only Andrew Luck (six games in 2012) has more.
RAVENS: Baltimore comes out of its bye week for a huge game Sunday vs. the unbeaten Steelers. The Ravens are 3.5-point home favorites. During their bye last week, the Ravens acquired defensive end Yannick Ngakoue from the Vikings in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick and 2022 conditional fifth-round pick. Ngakoue, who had five sacks for the Vikings through six games, joins a Baltimore front seven that has pressured the passer on 10.5 percent of its snaps in 2020 — the 13th highest rate in the league. It’s not clear yet if running back Mark Ingram will play this week as he’s dealing with a high ankle sprain.
STEELERS: Pittsburgh is the NFL’s last unbeaten team. In Sunday’s 27-24 win over previously unbeaten Tennessee, the Steelers scored a touchdown on the opening drive for the first time since Week 15, 2018. Dionte Johnson capped off the Steelers’ 16-play opening drive with an 11-yard touchdown, his first of two scores on the day. Prior to Sunday’s game, the Steelers and the Titans were the only two teams to not give up points on their opponents’ opening drives this year. Now, just the Steelers remain as the only team to keep opponents scoreless on their first possession.
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