Cleveland Browns vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Preview
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
When: Saturday, August 26, 2017, 7:30 PM ET
TV Broadcast: WEWS
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Betting on the Cleveland Browns (+3)
The Cleveland Browns preserved their unblemished record in the preseason with a narrow 10-6 win over the New York Giants on Monday. The much-maligned Browns have now won two consecutive games after going a combined 1-19 last year. Monday’s victory also proved to be the final audition for Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and rookie DeShone Kizer as head coach Hue Jackson has just announced that he will name the Browns’ starting quarterback for the season this coming Wednesday.
So who has the inside track on being Cleveland’s primary signal caller? If Jackson’s banking on experience, then Osweiler definitely has the edge. He is 13-8 in his career in the regular season. Osweiler’s form this preseason, however, has been patchy to say the least. He has started each of the Browns’ two preseason games, completing only 12 of 22 passes for 67 yards and an interception. Cody Kessler, on the other hand, went 0-8 as the Browns’ starter last season. He registered a 65.6 completion percentage and averaged 7.1 yards per attempt last campaign. Kessler has relieved Osweiler as the primary backup in both preseason contests, completing 12 of 17 passes for 97 yards overall.
The Browns may be better served, though, if they hand the keys immediately to Kizer. He has gotten the most opportunity during the preseason, completing 19 of 31 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown. In Kizer’s nine preseason series, he produced three touchdowns and a field goal. Jackson has demonstrated throughout his coaching career that he can handle rookie quarterbacks (e.g. Joe Flacco in Baltimore) and now’s the time for the Browns to roll the dice. Cleveland should go all in for Kizer in 2017.
Betting on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)
The next evolution in Jameis Winston’s game is happening right before our eyes. The third-year quarterback’s improved accuracy has been on display this preseason, completing 71.9 percent of his passes and averaging 7.02 yards per attempt through the first two games. Yes, that’s just a small sample but Winston’s improvement in that department is simply remarkable. Through Winston’s first two NFL seasons, the Bucs quarterback completed just 59.6 percent of his passes (well below league average) and averaged 7.38 yards per attempt.
Winston’s doing a better job this preseason of taking what the opposing defense is giving him. Thursday’s game against the Jaguars was a prime example of that. He spread the ball around in his brief stint against Jacksonville, completing two passes each to Doug Martin, Cameron Brate, Adam Humphries and O.J. Howard, plus one to Mike Evans. Only one pass went for more than 15 yards as Winston led the Bucs to points on each of their opening two drives.
No wonder Bucs fans are feeling pretty optimistic ahead of their first home game of the preseason. The Browns are treating Saturday’s clash as a dress rehearsal for the new season so expect an intense clash between the two sides. Winston’s arm will be tested by a Cleveland defense that’s allowing just 192.5 yards per game through the air this preseason, ninth-best in the NFL.
Tampa Bay (-3) edges past Cleveland, 21-17.
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