The New Orleans Saints have a future Hall of Fame quarterback for this coming NFL preseason. The Cleveland Browns have three clowns battling for a starting job. Yet, the NFL Week 1 preseason odds favor the Browns, even when we all know they are terrible. But why do I like Cleveland to win its preseason opener on Thursday night? Well, because the game doesn’t really count.
In Depth Analysis on the Cleveland at New Orleans NFL Preseason Week 1 Odds & PickNFL LiveOpening NFL Lines: Browns -2.5 (38.5)
Who Starts For Browns?Cleveland has one of the more interesting quarterback battles going on between Brock Osweiler, acquired in a salary dump trade with Houston, second-year Cody Kessler and rookie DeShone Kizer. Apparently Osweiler will start this game, although I wouldn’t read too much into that.During the team’s scrimmage over the weekend, Osweiler looked the most comfortable and had the best numbers, but he managed two field goals in four drives. Kessler and Kizer faced second- and third-team defenders and got no points.In 11 possessions, the offense managed three field goals, with no touchdowns. There were few points, little production and no big plays, though coach Hue Jackson shrugged it off. Jackson, by the way, is 0-8 as a head coach in his NFL career.“There was some spotty play on the field, but it wasn’t about who won or anything like that,” Jackson said. “It was just competing and trying to do some different things.”Jackson said Osweiler will start vs. the Saints, though.“Brock hasn’t really gotten any first team reps and this will give him that chance,” Jackson said. “We look forward to seeing what he can do with this opportunity throughout the week and against the Saints.”Osweiler has been working exclusively with the second-team offense, but Kessler’s struggles mean Cleveland has to give Osweiler a real look. The best-case scenario for the Browns would be Kizer winning the job outright. This could all simply be a ploy to prop up Osweiler’s trade stock, but his starting chances have to be taken seriously at this point.Osweiler has made the most of his situation, and this is the first indication he’s distancing himself in the race. Starting a player means he will get the majority of first-team reps during practice in advance of the game.
Saints Bring In KickerNew Orleans obviously knows its starting quarterback will be Drew Brees. But there is an open competition at kicker. The team has signed kicker Patrick Murray as competition for second-year pro Wil Lutz (and possibly for punter Thomas Morstead since Sean Payton pointed out Sunday night that Murray does both).Murray certainly has an upside worth examining. The 26-year-old had a good rookie season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014, making 20 of 24 field goals, before he tore his ACL in 2015. Then in 2016, Murray played in two games with the Cleveland Browns (making 1 of 2 field goals and 3 of 4 extra points) before he reinjured his knee.
Will Peterson Play?Of course the Saints’ big news this offseason was signing future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson to form a nice 1-2 punch with Mark Ingram. It has been four years since Peterson last appeared in an NFL preseason game. And he hasn't touched the football in a preseason game since 2011. But Peterson has said his switch to a new team and a new offense might just inspire him to buck that trend.He already has changed his routine from years past by joining the Saints for their entire offseason workout program, OTAs and minicamp in the spring. Peterson has acknowledged that he’s still absorbing his new playbook.“When it comes to the physical part of it, I don’t think that’s gonna be an issue. It’s more mentally fully understanding the offense,” said Peterson, who missed 13 games with a torn meniscus in his knee last year.”
Saints Shifting On DefenseThe Saints are still determining which of their edge rushers will be able to make the biggest impact this season, but as they search for methods to pressure the quarterback, coaches are looking at other ways for the defensive ends to get on the field.Alex Okafor has worked as the starting right defensive end for much of training camp, but he’s also moved inside recently in the Saints’ “NASCAR” package — a substitution group with an extra dose of speed.A defensive end rushing from the inside is hardly unique, but if Okafor or another edge player can make an impact on the interior, it could be of huge importance for the Saints, especially with top defensive tackle Nick Fairley out for the season. Fairley was placed on season-ending injured reserve in June and his career appears to be in jeopardy because of a heart issue.
New Orleans vs Cleveland Game History
- Total Meetings: 17
- First Meeting: October 1st, 1967. Tulane Stadium. New Orleans, LA
- Last Meeting: September 14th, 2014. FirstEnergy Stadium. Cleveland, Ohio.
- All-Time Series: Cleveland Browns 13-4-0
- Largest Margin of Victory: Cleveland Browns 42-7 (1967)
- Longest Win Streak: Cleveland (1967-1981)
- Current Win Streak: Cleveland 2 (2010-2014)