Something has to give. The Cleveland Browns head to Denver riding a three-game winning streak to take on a Broncos team who have won four straight themselves. The winner of Sunday’s contest will officially be the hottest team in the NFL after Week 12.
So, who will need to be the catalyst for the Browns taking home a victory from the Mile High City? The answer is second-year running back Jerome Ford. It all boils down to a combination of necessity and acquiescence.
Why Jerome Ford? The Browns are facing the worst rush defense in the NFL this week. The Broncos are allowing a league worst 160 rushing yards per contest and an atrocious 5.5 yards per carry. It would be malpractice if Kevin Stefanski did not take advantage of Denver’s glaring weakness this Sunday.
When you add in the fact that Cleveland is starting a rookie at quarterback in Dorian Thompson-Robinson who will be taking his first snaps in hostile territory, it's imperative that the Browns put him in the best position possible to have success. The simplest way for the Browns to make the game easier for DTR is to lean on an efficient running attack. Giving DTR manageable distances on third downs is the best way to ensure that the rookie is able to navigate Denver’s defense.
But why Jerome Ford over Kareem Hunt or even Pierre Strong? While Hunt is a fan favorite and Strong is gaining a strong following as a back people want to see more of, Ford is the obvious coach’s choice to carry the brunt of the load between the 20-yard lines. Before people jump to conclusions that Kevin Stefanski prefers Ford and that's the end of the discussion, people should be aware that running back coach Stump Mitchell determines the in-game running back rotation. Simply put, Ford has earned the faith and the confidence of the coaching staff and as a result, he will lead the running backs in snaps until further notice.
This matchup with a poor Broncos run defense has a 100-yard rushing day for Ford written all over it. If he accomplishes the feat of getting over the century mark, it would be Ford’s third such game of the season, and his second time racking up over 100 rushing yards in the last three games. Ford’s predicted stat line against Denver: 18 carries, 104 yards, 0 touchdowns.
However, Cleveland fans can rest assured that Hunt will be the back once the Browns find themselves in a goal-to-go position. While Ford will be the bell cow between the 20s, it will be ‘Reem time when the Browns enter the red zone. So, Ford gets the totes and Hunt gets to cash in the paydirt, and the Browns get to move on to Week 13 on a four-game winning streak.