Detroit Lions vs. Cleveland Browns: Storylines, prediction for two teams desperate for a win

What are the key storylines and NFL odds for this week's Detroit Lions vs. Cleveland Browns game, and who does our prediction have winning?

Making a prediction for this Detroit Lions vs. Cleveland Browns matchup has been made somewhat easier with the uncertainty surrounding Jared Goff’s availability. With Tim Boyle expected to start, can the Lions push the Browns in this one, or will it be a one-sided affair? Let’s take a look at the storylines around this game, the current NFL odds for Lions at Browns, and make a prediction for how the game may turn out.

Detroit Lions vs. Cleveland Browns predictions | Storylines to watch in Week 11

As we head into the second half of the 2021 NFL season, these two teams now have diverging paths. At 5-5, the Browns still harbor hopes of making the playoffs, while the Lions at 0-8-1 will soon turn their focus to the offseason and the draft in April.

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Nevertheless, the Lions remain determined not to go winless in 2021. They have avoided the ignominy of an 0-17 record with their tie last week, but a 0 in the win column will be something they want to avoid down the stretch. The problem for the Lions is that we have rarely seen them string two good performances together this season. After they battled hard last week for the tie against Pittsburgh, can they back that up in Week 11?

Could Tim Boyle put a nail in the coffin of Jared Goff’s time as a starting QB?

There is no way of disguising it — Goff has struggled in 2021. According to Pro Football Network’s Offensive Value Metric, this is his worst season since 2016. OVM grades a player based on factors within his control, so it is not as though we can just point to Goff’s supporting cast as the reason for his struggles. This season, only one qualifying QB (Sam Darnold) has a worse grade than Goff.

Now, as we will potentially see Tim Boyle in Detroit’s offense, we can really judge Goff’s performances in some context. We’ll get a direct comparison that can give us an indication of whether Goff is part of the problem, or if his struggles are exacerbated by his supporting cast. If we see Boyle have success, the heat will really be turned up on Goff.

Can the Browns offense overcome injury concerns?

The hope was that when the Browns traded away Odell Beckham Jr., the likes of Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz could fill the void. However, Schwartz has been ruled out with a concussion, and Peoples-Jones is questionable with a groin injury. That leaves the Browns potentially heading into Week 11 with Rashard Higgins and Jarvis Landry, the latter of whom has been limited with a knee injury this week in practice.

On top of that, there is uncertainty surrounding RB Nick Chubb after he has been away from the team for a week due to a positive COVID test. If Chubb looks less than 100%, then the Browns’ WR shortage could be exposed. Injuries to Baker Mayfield add further complications, as he was listed with non-throwing shoulder, foot, and knee injuries this week.

The battle of two bad red-zone teams

One element that makes this Lions at Browns game difficult to predict is that neither team has performed well in the red zone this year. The Lions have converted just 47.8% of their opportunities into touchdowns on offense (30th in the NFL). Meanwhile, their defense is the worst unit in the league, allowing touchdowns on 77.8% of trips.

The Browns have not been much better. They rank 23rd on offense with a 54.5% conversion rate and 28th on defense with a 69.4% conversion rate allowed. While this game should not be close, if the Browns struggle to convert in the red zone, they could allow the Lions to hang around and potentially surprise them.

Lions vs. Browns betting line and game prediction

The Browns being 12-point favorites feels pretty much the right number. The discrepancies between the rosters are too large for the spread to be 10 points or less. Meanwhile, the Browns are too banged up and unreliable to be favored by 2 touchdowns or more.

This should be a reasonably comfortable victory for the Browns, although the backup QB factor is a big one. Boyle has little NFL action on tape for the Browns to study, and it appears they were practicing as though they would face Goff.

If Boyle can surprise the Browns and the Lions can stay competitive, they could sneak away with a win. However, the more likely outcome is a Browns win by around 10 points.

Lions vs. Browns Prediction: Browns 27, Lions 17

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