NFL Preview: Denver Broncos @ Cleveland Browns - Can Cleveland overcome injury woes?

Week Seven of the NFL starts on Thursday when the Denver Broncos travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns, and with both sides matching a 3-3 record, it's got the makings of a classic.

Despite losing two straight games the Browns come into Thursday Night Football as favourites against the Denver Broncos, who themselves have seen their superb start dented by three consecutive losses.

However, with the Browns struggling with a growing injury list, especially in the running back department, the Broncos could fancy their chances at an upset as they look to get their season back on track.

In anticipation of the clash, Planet Sport takes an in-depth look at the fixture, and Planet Sport Bet's NFL acca means customers get their money back as a free bet if one leg lets you down.

Best bets

Denver Broncos to win 6/4

Cleveland Browns under 20.5 points 11/8

Denver Broncos over 23.5 points 15/8

(All odds are correct at time of publication and are subject to change)

When: October 21, 2021 - 1.20am (BST)

Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland.

How to watch: NFL Game Pass/Sky Sports NFL

Background: Denver Broncos vs Cleveland Browns

Cleveland is 2-1 at home this season whilst Denver is 2-1 on the road

The season started brightly for the Denver Broncos as they raced out to a 3-0 record, but judgement of their true ability was likely clouded by the fact that they played three weakened sides who amassed a combined record of 0-9.

As they've been introduced to stronger teams in recent weeks, their fragility has shown and three consecutive losses have put an end to their early season optimism.

As part of the highly competitive AFC West division containing the trio of the Kansas City Chiefs, LA Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders, the Broncos desperately need to rediscover their winning formula if they are to challenge for a playoff spot.

If they are to find any success on Thursday night, it'll likely come from their stalwart defense. Their points scoring this season ranks 18th in the league, but on points allowed they rank an impressive fourth.

As for the Cleveland Browns, they've majorly suffered from inconsistency this season, sometimes looking like Super Bowl contenders and other weeks looking as though making the playoffs will be a stretch.

NFL, Nick Chubb, running back, Cleveland Browns

Much of their success comes through their offense and in particular their running game. The duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt have so often been the difference-makers for the Browns, but they'll be without the duo for Thursday night's game.

A number of injuries have hindered their season already, and they will also be without centre Nick Harris, offensive tackle Chris Hubbard, and starting quarterback Baker Mayfield on Thursday, after it was revealed he was struggling with an ongoing shoulder injury.

Quarterback matchup: Case Keenum vs Teddy Bridgewater

NFL, Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, quarterbacks

Teddy "Two Gloves" Bridgewater is in his first season as quarterback of the Denver Broncos having been traded to the side from the Carolina Panthers.

Throughout the season, Bridgewater has made an impressive 1,514 passing yards, 10 touchdowns and just four interceptions. However, all four interceptions were thrown in the last two weeks, with three in last week's loss to the Raiders.

If Bridgewater can cut out the interceptions and mistakes, then the Broncos defense will be confident of keeping out an injury-stricken Browns offense on Thursday night.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Cleveland Browns announced that Baker Mayfield will not play against the Denver Broncos - the first start that Mayfield will miss in his NFL career.

The injury means that Case Keenum will make his first start as a Brown, and with just one day's notice too.

One thing favouring Keenum, though, is that he faces one of his former sides in the Denver Broncos.

In his one season in Denver, Keenum recorded a career-high 3,890 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, and he'll need to rediscover that form on Thursday in what will be his first start since 2020.

Key men

Courtland Sutton - Denver Broncos

Courtland Sutton has been Teddy Bridgewater's go-to man so far this season. The Broncos have been without star receiver Jerry Jeudy for the majority of the season and it has meant that Sutton has had to step up - he leads the Broncos receivers with 471-yards and two touchdowns.

On Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sutton caught eight receptions for 94 yards and one touchdown on 14 targets. If he can replicate the same numbers on Thursday it stands his side in good stead.

Von Miller - Denver Broncos

Von Miller is one of the best defensive players in the NFL

A former Super Bowl MVP, there's no denying that Von Miller is one of the best linebackers in the NFL right now. When the Broncos overcame the Caronlina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, Miller made six total tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles - certainly a man for the big occasions.

Miller has also enjoyed a good start to this season, recording nine solo tackles as well as 4.5 sacks. With the Browns being forced into a number of offensive changes, Miller could have a field day.

D'Ernest Johnson - Cleveland Browns

With no Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb, D'Ernest Johnson is set to make his first NFL start. Through the first six weeks of the season, the Browns have been the number one rushing side in the NFL, but without their regular duo will have to rely on Johnson to carry the yards on Thursday.

In just a week's notice, the Browns won't have been able to transition too heavily into passing plays, hence why Johnson will take a lot of responsibility for plays on Thursday.

Also, without knowing when Chubb and Hunt will return, it's a chance for Johnson to nail down a place in the side.

Myles Garrett - Cleveland Browns

Myles Garrett is a former number one overall pick and has adapted well since coming into the league.

Possessing unbelievable strength and speed, Garret so often harrasses every offensive line he comes up against, and he can certainly throw his name into the hat of the NFL's best defensive players right now.

So far in the 2021 season, Garrett has recorded a whopping eight sacks - a league high - and shows no signs of slowing down.

With halloween just around the corner, Garrett recently decorated his garden with tombstones bearing the names of the quarterbacks he has sacked. You wouldn't bet against him adding another to his list on Thursday night.

Previous matchups

The two teams have met each other 30 times with the Cleveland Browns winning 6 games and the Denver Broncos winning 24 games.

November 3, 2019: Cleveland Browns 19 Denver Broncos 24

The last time these two sides met, fourth-year quarterback Brandon Allen took his side to victory, 1,402 days after his last start for the University of Arakansas.

He completed 12 of 20 passes for a total of 193 yards and two touchdowns. Certainly not ground-breaking numbers, but enough to see off the Browns.

Admittedly he was helped by a superb Broncos defense, who managed to limit the Browns to four field goals in the first half, before stopping them twice on fourth down in the second.

December 15, 2018: Cleveland Browns 17 Denver Broncos 16

A rookie Baker Mayfield saw some action at quarterback after an injury to Tyrod Taylor, and he took advantage of a depleted Broncos secondary by throwing for 188 yards and two touchdowns to lead his side to a one-point victory.

The win was a crucial one for Cleveland, who ended up making their first playoff appearance since 2002 thanks to a first win over Denver since 1990.

October 18, 2015: Denver Broncos 26 Cleveland Browns 23

Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning had a rare off game in 2015, throwing three interceptions against the Browns. However, his experience shone through eventually, as he led his side down the field to set up a game-winning field goal in overtime.

The win took the Broncos to 6-0 and, led by Manning, they went on to win Super Bowl 50, - the second of Manning's career and the franchise's third.

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