It’s hard to imagine an NFL team being less healthy after a bye than they were going into it.
But that is exactly the Cleveland Browns‘ situation as they get set to host the San Francisco 49ers.
Kevin Stefanski’s offense will be without three starters: Deshaun Watson, David Njoku, and Joel Bitonio.
And he’ll rely on fourth-year veteran backup P.J. Walker to make the gameplan work in his 10th career start.
Faithful to the Browns pic.twitter.com/vwXyioyLsz
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 13, 2023
Meanwhile, Jim Schwartz had two weeks to prepare his defense for one of the most explosive offenses in the league.
Here’s how we see things unfolding in Week 6:
Rocco Nuosci: I don’t think anyone loves P.J. Walker against perhaps the best team in the NFL. San Francisco should cruise. 49ers 31, Browns 10
Ben Donahue: Browns are missing too many key players; Niners are a strong team on both sides of the ball; Myles Garrett will pass Reggie White for milestone sack total. 49ers 32, Browns 21
Orlando Silva: After a tumultuous couple of weeks, the Browns are back in action against the hardest possible rival. This time, I expect a big win from SF, with the offense struggling to get things going. 49ers 28, Browns 7
Pat Opperman: This will be closer than many expect, thanks to Jim Schwartz’s mastery over Kyle Shanahan, and quick releases from P.J. Walker. But the outcome won’t be in much doubt. 49ers 24, Browns 13
Cleveland opened as 4.5-point home underdogs to the NFC’s Super Bowl favorite.
As injuries became official, that spread jumped all the way to 10 points, sparking some interest in Cleveland.
Both teams’ offensive lines are liabilities, and this could turn into a surprisingly defensive battle.