Impact of missing players on Cleveland Browns defense versus Miami
The Cleveland Browns will be without several defensive starters, but how will it affect their defense against the Dolphins.
After the Cleveland Browns announced that Oliver Vernon and Eric Murray are out due to injury, it means they have lost five starters for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. Safety Morgan Burnett is out for the year due to an Achilles injury and due to last week’s titanic brawl, Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi are suspended. In all, three of the Browns’ front four are kaput for Sunday, and two defensive backs are out as well.
This has to make a difference to the team, although the Las Vegas point spread has not changed much for Sunday’s game. It actually has gone the other way, favoring the Browns by another point at many Nevada sites. That seems kind of crazy, so it is worth examining the injury situation for both teams to understand why Las Vegas is still strongly favoring the Browns.
Based on statistics, we can estimate the impact of weakening the defense. There is a major difference between the points given up by a very good team compared to a very bad team. For example, the top three defenses in the NFL give up an average of 14.4 points per game this year, whereas the bottom three are giving up an average of 30.2 points per game.
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The Browns are 18th in the league, allowing 22.8 points per game. The Browns are definitely worse off without those five players, but probably not at the bottom of the league. Even without Garrett and Vernon, the Browns still have quality veteran players like Joe Schobert, Denzel Ward Damarious Randall, T. J. Carrie, Terrance Mitchell and Juston Burris.
They also have several hotshot young players, including Greedy Williams, Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki. These players may not be superstars but they are far from the weakest team in the league. As a guess, the Browns might have dropped five or six places without those five players, which would be about three or four points worse. But it is not like two touchdowns or anything as dramatic as that.
We also need to look at the other team. The Browns are not the only team missing some bodies on defense. The Dolphins had to place starting safeties Reshad Jones and Bobby McCain on injured reserve, joining cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Aqib Talib. Plus they traded away star safety Minkah FItzpatrick for a first-round pick from Pittsburgh. That’s five starting caliber defensive backs that will not face the Browns. Baker Mayfield must be salivating waiting for Sunday.
The lack of defensive bodies on both teams implies an offensive showcase, except that the Dolphins have no running game (only 3.0 yards per carry) and their big weapon is veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has an ailing right flipper. Fitzpatrick is sometimes brilliant but his lack of ball velocity means he might be susceptible to interceptions from Ward, Williams and company.
The Browns losses on defense are serious, but the Dolphins may not be the team to exploit the Browns new weaknesses. Perhaps that is the reason that the Las Vegas line is sitting at 10.5 points, favoring the Browns.