The Cleveland Browns will look to stay in the winning column when they travel to Foxboro, Massachusetts to take on the New England Patriots.
No OBJ? No problem for the Cleveland Browns last week in a dominating 41-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Now, the Browns turn their attention to the New England Patriots, who have won three in a row and four of their last five.
Both teams enter the contest with identical 5-4 records, so this game could very well have postseason ramifications later in the season. A win will be huge for either team, while a loss would hurt, but wouldn’t be the end of the world.
New England has not utilized home-field advantage this year as all four of their losses have been in front of their home crowd. They are 1-4 on the season in Foxboro while the Browns are 2-2 on the road.
Tale of the Tape
Patriots Offense Browns Defense
345.6 yards per game (19th) 309.7 yards per game allowed (3rd)
238.8 passing yards per game (15th) 224.9 pass yards allowed per game (9th)
106.8 rushing yards per game (19th) 84.8 rush yards allowed per game (3rd)
25.6 points per game (10th) 21.8 points per game allowed (10th)
Browns Offense Patriots Defense
380.1 yards per game (11th) 340.3 yards per game allowed (9th)
219.9 passing yards per game (25th) 231.4 pass yards allowed per game (11th)
160.2 rushing yards per game (2nd) 108.9 rush yards per game allowed (14th)
24.9 points per game (13th) 18.9 points per game allowed (4th)
One key factor that is still unknown for the Browns is the availability of running back Nick Chubb, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week. Rookie back Demetric Felton and fourth-year back John Kelly also tested positive. If Chubb and Felton can produce two negative tests 24 hours apart, they will be eligible to play on Sunday since they are vaccinated.
So where does that leave the Browns as far as their game plan goes? That would be D’Ernest Johnson, who made the most of his opportunity on Thursday Night Football in Week 7, when he rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown in a win over the Broncos. Johnson started in place of the injured Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
"“We are extremely confident in D’Ernest. That has not been a question yet. You guys got to see that on display during the Thursday night game. Obviously, very unfortunate news about (RB) Demetric (Felton) and (RB) Nick (Chubb). Obviously, we have been here before,” Mayfield said in his press conference on Wednesday.”"
Offensively for the Browns, they need to just stay the course. Run the football with Johnson, something like 15-20 carries. He has a dominant offensive line in front of him, and now both of the guards are signed long-term. Wyatt Teller and Joel Bitonio both received contract extensions keeping them in Cleveland through the 2025 season.
Mayfield does not have to do more than he did against the Bengals, as he should throw the ball 20-25 times. Last week he completed passes to eight different receivers and the offense was grooving.
The two biggest things offensively for the Browns are cutting down the penalties and converting on fourth down. Cleveland is 7-18 on fourth down conversions this season, which still doesn’t make too much sense as to how many times they have failed in this area.
Defensively, the Browns must apply pressure against Mac Jones, just like they did to Joe Burrow last week. While Jones does a good job of getting the ball out of his hands (2.3 seconds) under pressure, that doesn’t mean he is without mistakes. He has thrown seven interceptions thus far in his rookie campaign, five of which have come in losses.
Myles Garrett leads the NFL in sacks with 12 and would love to get his hands on Jones this Sunday and might have some extra motivation. Last week, Brian Burns of the Carolina Panthers had a strip-sack on Jones and as the ball was loose, Jones held onto Burns ankle, twisting it in the process.
On Wednesday afternoon, Burns said all he wanted was an apology from Jones, but then wished his fellow defensive end brothers a happy hunting season on Jones.
Mac Jones is not Kurt Angle, so he shouldn’t be trying any ankle locks moving forward.
The Cleveland defense was spectacular last week, picking off Burrow twice – one of which was a 99-yard pick-six from Denzel Ward, forcing a fumble from Ja’Marr Chase, and holding the potent Bengals offense to 16 points.
Lastly, the Cleveland Browns defense must get off the field on third downs. Last week they did a much better job than in previous weeks. On the season, Cleveland has allowed the opposing team to convert on 41.88 percent of third-down conversions. New England converts at 44.63 percent.
The victory over the Bengals and all the drama that led up to that victory mean nothing now. The only thing that matters is going 1-0 for the week.