Cleveland (+7.5) @ Green Bay
Power rankings: Cleveland 15, Green Bay 7
Cleveland COVID-19 update: In case you missed it, COVID-19 took advantage of Cleveland like it was LeBron James. A large chunk of players missed last week's game against the Raiders, but we expect most to be back for the Browns Christmas showdown against the Packers. Most players (including Baker Mayfield) will have their 10 day quarantine expire on Friday (12/24). C JC Tretter and CB Greg Newsome were recently placed on the COVID-19 list and are most certainly out. Mayfield, LT Jedrick Willis, and WR Jarvis Landry are all expected back. S Ronnie Harrison tested positive last Thursday and is likely back, while DE Jadeveon Clowney tested positive either last Friday or Saturday and is more of a question mark. There are others, naturally, but they don't make a big enough impact on the game for me to mention them.
The Browns offense sits at 12th in DVOA and 16th in EPA/play. Baker Mayfield is 24th in PFF passing grades (66.6) while completing 62.8% of his passes (1.1% below expectation) and gaining 7.6 yards per attempt. His offensive line is typically one of the better lines in football, but they'll be without RT Jack Conklin (knee) and C JC Tretter (COVID). Blake Hance is the most likely candidate to fill in at right tackle, who is objectively terrible -- and 5th round rookie Nick Harris is going to play center, who hasn't played a single snap all season. The weaponry is solid, but is missing a true #1 WR -- Jarvis Landry will see most of the targets from the slot with Donovan Peoples Jones, TE David Njoku, and TE Austin Hooper chipping in. Nick Chubb should handle the bulk of the RB carries since Kareem Hunt (ankle, COVID) is unlikely to play. The Browns are far more efficient running the ball (5th in DVOA) than throwing (16th), and prefer a run-first approach, ranking 22nd in early-down situational neutral pass frequency. They're up against a Packers defense that ranks 22nd in DVOA and 17th in EPA/play. Rashan Gary and Preston Smith are both solid edge rushers, while Kenny Clark (who is coming back from the COVID-19 list) generates pressure up front. However, the front 7 struggles in the run game. De'Vondre Cambpell has been one of the better linebackers in football, excelling in coverage, run defense, and as a pass rusher. In the secondary, Rasul Douglas has been a stingy corner while SS Adrian Amos is a weapon in both the pass and run game. The rest of the secondary is grading poorly -- 1st round rookie CB Eric Stokes hasn't found his stride yet, but the Packers need to ride with him as long as Jaire Alexander (shoulder) remains on IR. They are slightly better against the pass (19th in DVOA) than the run (25th).
The Packers on offense are 2nd in DVOA and 1st in EPA/play -- truly impressive stuff considering they only have 3 good players on offense. Aaron Rodgers is 5th in PFF passing grades (82.5) while completing 67.8% of his passes (2.9% above expectation) and gaining 7.9 yards per attempt. The offensive line is weak at all 5 positions, and the only capable receiver is Davante Adams -- though he is the best receiver in all of football. They'll also be without WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (COVID-19), which puts Allen Lazard and Juwann Winfree as the two receivers behind Adams. Aaron Jones will handle the bulk of the RB carries, who still puts up impressive numbers despite the lack of line. By DVOA, they are the top team in the NFL throwing the football and 9th best running it, but prefer a more balanced approach -- they rank 12th in early-down situational neutral pass frequency. The Browns on defense are 15th in DVOA and 20th in EPA/play. A major question is if Myles Garrett (groin) will play -- officially questionable, he's a true 50/50 shot after not practicing all week. Garrett is one of the best edge rushers in all of football, and teams up well with Jadeveon Clowney on the edge. If Garrett can play, he's certainly not going to have an issue winning his matchups against the Packers offensive line. LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has been a weapon in coverage, against the run, and rushing the passer, but the rest of the front 7 is poor. Dezel Ward (outside), Greedy Williams (outside), and MJ Steward (slot) is a solid group of corners, but they struggle at safety. The Browns are free to double Adams since their other corners should be able to handle the Packers receivers one on one. However, the Browns defense does struggle against the pass (23rd in DVOA). They're 16th against the run.
LA Chargers @ Houston (+10)
The Chargers (3rd in DVOA, 9th in EPA/play) are led by one of the best quarterbacks in all of football. Justin Herbert is 5th in PFF passing grades (84.2) while completing 66.4% of his passes (0.1% below expectation) and gaining 7.5 yards per attempt. The offensive line is strong on the left side (rookie pro bowler Rashawn Slater and Matt Feiler) and weak on the right side (Michael Schofield and Storm Norton). Corey Linsley is one of the stronger centers in football, but he'll miss due to COVID-19. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are a strong 1-2 punch at receiver, but there isn't much depth behind them, especially with Austin Ekeler looks likely to miss due to COVID-19. Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley will split carries in his place. The Chargers are 3rd in DVOA passing the football and 12th in rushing. The game script will likely call for more running, but in early-down situational neutral pass frequency they rank 5th in the NFL. The Texans are 17th in DVOA and 25th in EPA/play. Their defensive line has been crushed by COVID-19, with their top 3 players in total pressures (Jacob Martin, 35, Maliek Collins, 28, and Jonathan Greenard, 26) all on the COVID-19 list. However, they could get back DeMarcus Walker, who was activated off IR. Their secondary is poor, save for Tavierree Thomas, who has played well covering the slot.
The Texans on offense are... yeah, dead last in DVOA and EPA/play. Davis Mills will get the nod at QB, who ranks 37th among 39 qualifiers in PFF passing grades -- only Mike White and Mike Glennon are lower. Brandin Cooks, aka the one good player on their offense, is also on the COVID-19 list. If Cooks isn't cleared, that leaves guys like Nico Collins and Phillip Dorsett as their top options. Their offensive line sucks ass. This is depressing, let's not go further. The good news is it's horrid on the other side as well -- the Chargers on defense are 24th in DVOA and 22nd in EPA/play. Joey Bosa is the only player worth mentioning in the entire front 7, but he won't play either, due to, you guessed it, fucking COVID-19. They do have a respectable secondary -- rookie Assante Samuel Jr (outside) and Chris Harris (slot) have played well at corner, where S Derwin James is a true do it all, swiss army knife. With Bosa and the Texans pass rushers out, James will likely be the best pass rusher to take the field. Outside corner Michael Davis is the guy to pick on, QBs have a 90.5 rating when targeting him. Due to the poor front 7, it should be no surprise that the Chargers blow chunks against the run (31st in DVOA) compared to the pass (12th).