Football is back with several interesting matchups in Week One. One of note is the Cleveland Browns traveling to the Philadelphia Eagles. The line is presently Cleveland plus four with an over / under of 41. The over / under is telling in part that both teams will be starting quarterbacks that did not throw a pass in the 2015 season. First, the Browns will be rolling out Robert Griffin III who will be throwing to two wide receivers who have amassed a total of two career receptions in Terrelle Pryor and rookie Corey Coleman. Head Coach Hue Jackson, most recently the Offensive Coordinator with Cincinnati, will be charged with trying to keep Griffin III healthy. Expect a heavy dose of Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson to gain an advantage in time of possession in order to keep a poorest Cleveland defense off of the field.
The Cleveland defense ranked 30th against the pass in 2015. My expectation is more of the same since many of their top defenders have been jettisoned off of the team such as Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner. The youth movement is alive and well in Cleveland as 13 out of their 14 draft picks have made the roster. Help is on the way as Josh Gordon will be made available once Week Five arrives, yet the Browns will have to make due until the New England Patriots come calling on October 9th.
The Philadelphia Eagles have rid of up tempo offense that Chip Kelly prescribed to and have turned over the reins to former Kansas City Chiefs Offense Coordinator Doug Peterson. He inherits a strong offensive line which will assist in bringing along a first year quarterback. The defense had its challenges and is led by Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz. In 2015, the defense ranked 28th in passing and 33rd in rushing. Expect a strong start by Schwartz’s defense in Week One as Cleveland tries to come to grips with a Hue Jackson style offense.
One delicious nugget to this match-up is that Cleveland traded their second overall pick of the NFL draft with Philadelphia, who in turn selected former North Dakota State standout Carson Wentz. Wentz had a short preseason due to a rib injury, yet with the exodus of Sam Bradford to Minnesota, he has been thrown in as the starter. Expect a lot of opportunities to improve, yet Doug Peterson will put him in a position to succeed, namely by ratcheting up the running game with Ryan Mathews. Wentz will have his hands full with a wide receiver core that is less than stellar including Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, and Dorial Green-Beckham.
Expect the Philadelphia Eagles to run the ball down the throat of Cleveland who ranked 31st in run defense, and as noted previously, lost many veterans defenders. Both teams have challenging starts to the season. Cleveland opens up on the road in three of their first four contests. Philadelphia will be on the road for six of their first ten games. Fully expect Carson Wentz to give his best effort in an attempt to make Cleveland pay for bypassing him in the first round of the NFL draft. Both coaches have their hands full to mold their teams into at least five hundred ball clubs in 2016. I expect a low scoring 23 to 10 victory for the Philadelphia Eagles.