While most teams have settled into their starting lineups by now, that’s not the case for the Arizona Cardinals nor the Cleveland Browns. When these two teams collide in Ohio on Sunday, both injuries and trades will have drastically changed the starting players for each team from their Week 1 lineup.
The Cardinals will certainly see a new QB under center this week after Minnesota acquired Josh Dobbs from Arizona. Kyler Murray’s status returning to active duty has been the talk of the week as the player has returned to full practice. If Murray doesn’t start, rookie Clayton Tune will get the call for the Cardinals in his first significant action of the season.
The Bengals settled their QB situation by announcing Friday that Deshaun Watson will start Sunday against the Cardinals. Watson wasn’t available for the team’s 24-20 loss to Seattle last week, leaving his status unknown until Friday’s injury report. Multiple defensive starters are also out, weakening one of the NFL’s strongest defenses.
Oddsmakers have been extremely weary of this contest due so many key players’ statuses undetermined. As a result, few player props have been released to the betting public. Still, there are a few prop bets you should make, including our best bet for the Cardinals at Browns Sunday.
Browns RB Kareem Hunt was not with the team to start the season. After choosing to not re-sign Hunt in the offseason, Cleveland inked the veteran RB to after Nick Chubb was injured in the second game this year. Hunt has assumed the lead role the past two weeks with RB Jerome Ford also suffering an injury two weeks ago.
Even without the lead role, Hunt has been a force over the past three weeks for the Browns. Since Week 6, the seven-year pro has 133 rushing yards on 36 carries and four TDs while he also caught four passes for 36 yards in those three games.
Arizona’s weakness this season has been stopping the running attack. The Cardinals have yielded 12 TDs (eight rushing, four receiving) to RBs in their first eight games, tied for the second-worst defense against the position in terms of scoring. Expect Hunt to cash in one of his carries for a TD Sunday.
Both the Browns and the Cardinals have been slow out of the gate this season. In their eight contests, Arizona has scored only 32 points in the first quarter while they’ve allowed just 44 points to opponents. Cleveland, conversely, have scored a paltry 23 points in seven games while allowing opponents to cash in on their first-quarter drives for 52 points.
Combined, Cleveland and Arizona have combined to score 7.4 total points in the first quarter of their 2023 NFL games. So why pick this bet as an over instead of an under? In the past two games, both the Cardinals and Browns have allowed opponents to score a combined 45 points.
Despite two struggling offenses taking the field, that means both of these teams should snap their first-quarter futility skid and score in the opening period. Therefore, pick the OVER on the 7.5 mark for first quarter total points.
Arizona is 1-2-1 ATS the season on the road, covering only their season-opening spread against the Washington Commanders. The Browns, meanwhile, are 3-1 ATS at home, dropping only a one-point cover to Baltimore October 1.
Even with Kyler Murray potentially returning to the starting lineup, don’t expect the Cardinals to keep this game close. Murray will need a game or two to shake off the rust, and Watson and company can move the ball with their RB corps keeping fresh players on the field throughout the contest.
Our prediction is 27-10 Cleveland. Let's lay the points with the Brownies in this one! Good luck!