Are the Browns actually better without OBJ?

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The Browns are officially 1-0 without Odell Beckham. And not only are they 1-0, but they were dominant in their win against the Bengals. Are the Browns better without Odell?

Last week, one of the dominating headlines was Odell Beckham Junior and his messy departure from the Cleveland Browns. Odell is currently being processed on waivers, and he hopes to go to the Seahawks, 49ers, or Saints.

I wrote about where I thought Odell would go last weekend (read that here), so today, I want to address what I believe is an already developing narrative: the Browns are better without OBJ.
I simply do not think that to be the case.

The Browns 41-16 win over the Bengals is less about OBJ leaving and more a combination of a good Browns defense, a poor Bengals defense, and the Browns being an already good offensive team.

The Bengals Passing Defense

Context matters: seldom do you tell a joke at a funeral. The context of knowing the Panthers have an above-average passing defense and yet allowed 400 passing yards would be astonishing.

So, the context of knowing that the Bengals passing defense is bad is essential; it puts the Browns’ outstanding performance in proper context. ranks the Bengals 20th defensively but specifically ranks them poorly against the pass.

The Bengals have allowed 2,343 passing yards, a mark that ranks 29th in the NFL. They have also allowed the second-most completions on the fourth-most attempts.In other words, teams are throwing the ball a lot against the Bengals and are being rewarded for it with plenty of yards.

Looking more specifically at the Bengals secondary, the Bengals’ cornerbacks are average. Chidobe Awuize and Eli Apple allow a passer rating of 70.4 and 86.0. They combine for allowing 491 yards and three touchdowns.

The problem for the Bengals secondary begins with their starting safeties: Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates III. Bell allows a passer rating of 134.4 and Bates a 100.6. Turning to the Linebackers, they are a little bit more like the cornerbacks, which is to say, they are fine.

Logan Wilson (75.0), Akeem Davis-Gaither (96.7), and Germaine Pratt (89.7) can hold their own in the passing game. But the overarching point is that the Bengals secondary should be expected to allow a lot of passing yards, and they generally have terrible performances. It may be forgotten because it was a week ago, but Mike White passed for 405 yards in Week 8.

The Browns Wide-Receiving Core

The proper context for the Browns offense is that they are a rushing first offense, and they rank first in rushing yards and touchdowns. Passing is a secondary part of the Browns offense; they are 28th in passing attempts but 21st in passing yards.

That is why it was so surprising to see the Browns have such a breakout game against the Bengals. But remember, the Bengals have a BAD passing offense!However, I do not think the Browns had a breakout game against the Bengals.

At least offensively. The defense is healthier than it has been all season, and their performance is what I had expected in the offseason, and I think something that will become more typical. The Bengals had three turnovers to the Browns zero: two Joe Burrow interceptions and a JaMarr Chase fumble.

That turnover difference very quickly explains the 41-16 score. Takeaway, say, the first interception, a 99-yard pick-six, and it would change the score to 34-23. The other two turnovers resulted in field goals for the Browns, which would change the score to 28-23 (assuming the Bengals do not score).

The Browns also did not have a lights-out offensive performance through the air; Baker Mayfield only had 218 passing yards. On the ground, they added another 153 yards. I think that based on the box score, people are going to look at this and say the Browns are “so much better” than they were with OBJ, and I do not think that is reality.

I do think it will help Baker; he has been proven to have a better QBR without OBJ than with. But is it the Browns are going to dominate the AFC offensively? No.

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