The 49ers and Browns aren’t going anywhere this season, yet Sunday’s matchup between the two disappointing teams should be interesting.
Can Niners quarterback Blaine Gabbert continue to make a good impression on his coaches, teammates and fans? Can San Francisco (4-8) get another win on the road against the Browns (2-10), who have lost seven straight? And will Cleveland QB Johnny Manziel -- given the start after being benched for his off-the-field antics -- look like Johnny Football of his Heisman days or Johnny The Bust?
This week, 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula said the 49ers can’t take Manziel lightly.
"He can use his feet and make it backyard ball," he told reporters. "So we have to be real smart how we approach that from the pocket to the back end."
Manziel has a knack for making good things happen when he starts to scramble, but the Browns overall have struggled this season. They rank 26th overall in the NFL offensively and don’t have much of a running game, coming in with the worst-ranked rushing offense in the league.
Yet Manziel has shown he can be dangerous. In his most recent game, before being benched, he completed 33 of 45 passes vs. the Steelers for 372 yards.
Gabbert, meanwhile, has given a spark to the 49ers in his four starts since taking over for Colin Kaepernick. He’s completed 63 percent of his throws for five TDs and three interceptions and led his team to a 2-2 mark, including last week’s road victory in Chicago, when he ran for a game-tying TD late in the game and threw a 71-yard pass in overtime to Torrey Smith for the win.
This week, 49ers offensive coordinator Geep Chryst said he’s been impressed how well Gabbert has played even in pressure situations and against the blitz. He says Gabbert has been a smart quarterback and expects to see the same against Cleveland Sunday (10 a.m. kickoff).
"Blaine’s done a nice job of not panicking," Chryst said. "(He takes) what profit may be available, and we’ve been rewarded."
Oddsmakers have made the Browns 3-point favorites.