Browns vs. Lions: 3 key match ups to watch

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns head to Detroit on Sunday to face the Lions. Here are three things to watch for as the Browns look for their first win of the season.

The Cleveland Browns take on the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field in Detroit.

The Lions come into the game at 4-4 after defeating the Green Bay Packers last Monday night to break a three-game losing streak. The Lions have only beaten one team with a winning record this season, and their four wins have come against opponents who are a combined 15-18.

That plays into Detroit’s hands, of course, as the Browns are coming off their bye week with an 0-8 record and a 1-23 mark under head coach Hue Jackson.

Here are three match ups to keep an eye on Sunday afternoon.

Browns run defense vs. Lions rushing attack

The run defense has been one of the few bright spots for the Browns this season as the Browns are tops in the NFL as they are allowing just 2.9 yards per carry. The Browns are also fourth in rushing yards allowed (84.2 per game) and have given up just three runs of 20 yards or more.

The Lions are not a good team when forced to run the ball as they are 30th in yards per carry (3.2), 29th in rush yards per game (79.9) and tied for 27th with just three rushing touchdowns.

If things go according to plan, the Browns should be able to control things when the Lions try to run the ball, which could lead to several second- or third-and-longs, or even to the Lions abandoning the run altogether.

That would be nice, of course, but it could also work in Detroit’s favor, which leads us to our second point.

Cleveland Browns
GREEN BAY, WI – NOVEMBER 06: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions calls out instructions in the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 6, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford vs. Browns pass defense

As good as the Browns have been in stopping the run, they have struggled just as much against the pass. The Browns enter the game having given up 16 touchdown passes, the third most in the league, and are allowing opposing quarterbacks to post a rating of 103 against them.

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Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford is sixth in the league in passing yards, and has thrown 14 touchdown passes against just four interceptions. His favorite targets are wide receivers Golden Tate (50 receptions for 562 yards and two touchdowns) and Marvin Jones (33-515-5), and the Lions are averaging 25.8 points per game.

The good news for the Browns is that the defense is finally once again healthy, as defensive end Myles Garrett, who missed the last game against Minnesota, and defensive backs Jason McCourty and Jabrill Peppers, who have not played in a month, are all back in the lineup.

Having the No. 1 defense on the field at least the Browns a fighting chance.

Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer vs. Browns offensive coordinator Hue Jackson

The first half of the season has been one of baby steps for rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, who is at the bottom of just about every statistical category for quarterbacks.

Kizer hasn’t been helped by Hue Jackson’s play calling, however, as the Browns abandon the run at a moment’s notice and simply refuse to develop a game plan that takes into account Kizer’s limitations.

Sunday could be another long afternoon for Cleveland’s passing attack as, according to Pro Football Focus, Kizer is at his worst when facing a zone defense, while the Lions are among the league’s best when playing a zone defense.

The Lions also have a solid run defense as they are allowing just 3.6 yards per carry and giving up 89.9 yards per game.

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If Jackson can’t figure out a game plan to make Kizer comfortable, and if Kizer continues to miss plays when they are available, it will be another long day for the offense.