Every game looms large for the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons, who are in tight division title races as they prepare to square off Sunday in Atlanta. Cleveland had a three-game winning streak snapped last week, falling 23-7 to Houston, while Atlanta won its second straight — 19-17 at Carolina — following a five-game skid. The Browns are a half-game behind Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the AFC North, putting them in the mix for both the division title and the wild-card chase.
It's division title or bust for the Falcons, who are tied with New Orleans for the NFC South lead despite being two games below .500. "It's been a different year, for sure, but you play to be relevant in November and December," Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan told reporters. "As quirky as this year has been, we're relevant, and we've got to keep going." It's the first meeting between the teams since 2010, when Roddy White had 101 receiving yards and a touchdown in a 20-10 road win for Atlanta.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Falcons -3. O/U: 47.
ABOUT THE BROWNS (6-4): Cleveland's offense should get a lift this week from the return of All-Pro receiver Josh Gordon following a 10-game suspension, adding a big-play threat to a solid, balanced attack. The Browns waived running back Ben Tate this week, meaning rookies Terrance West (408 yards, 3 TDs) and Isaiah Crowell (358 yards, 5 TDs) will carry the load on the ground. The matchup with Atlanta is a good one for Cleveland's defense, which ranks 11th against the pass but 30th against the run.
ABOUT THE FALCONS (4-6): Atlanta still ranks last in the league in total defense but has played the bend-but-don't-break style well the past two weeks, holding Tampa Bay and Carolina to 17 points apiece. Five takeaways over the past two weeks have aided that cause, giving Atlanta 18 for the season. The Falcons still aren't getting a lot out of the ground game, but they rank sixth in passing with Ryan spreading the ball to a talented receiving corps led by Julio Jones (67 receptions, 912 yards, 3 TDs) and White (47 receptions, 566 yards, 5 TDs).
1. White has a reception in a franchise-record 121 consecutive games while Ryan has thrown a TD pass in 15 straight contests.
2. Cleveland ranks third in the league with 49 offensive plays of 20 or more yards, while Atlanta is tied for fifth with 44.
3. Atlanta WR Jones needs 88 receiving yards for the second 1,000-yard season of his career.
PREDICTION: Falcons 23, Browns 20