“Here We Go Again, Part III”
- Although there was a bye week in between, the Cleveland Browns are set to play their third straight home game against the Eagles. The past two games in FirstEnergy Stadium have been hit with heavy winds (and rain at times), but it was the high winds that made it difficult to throw the ball. The winds will be negligible this Sunday — about 10 miles per hour — but there is a 100% chance of rainfall, per the forecast, and temperatures will feel like 34 degrees.
- Some may say that both teams will have to run the ball — and based on the strengths of both offenses, they should. However, while a steady rain can make for some dropped passes, both quarterbacks should be able to throw the ball well in the rain still. If anything, ball security is what should be emphasized for the running backs, and hopefully Cleveland is doing the wet football drill in practice for Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, etc.
Missing Myles Garrett, and the Eagles’ Offensive Line
- There is no way the Browns can replace the production of DE Myles Garrett this Sunday, as he is out with COVID-19. It’s a shame because besides one clean sheet in Week 2, the Eagles have allowed an average of 4 sacks per week.
- The issues for Philadelphia up front have stemmed from their constant shuffling due to injuries, inexperience, and players being past their prime.
- Left tackle Jason Peters is a 9-time Pro Bowler and former All-Pro player, but he is way past his prime at age 38 and has shown a lot of inconsistency.
- Westlake native Jason Kelce, the Eagles’ center, is a 3-time Pro Bowler and 3-time All-Pro (as recently as last season), but he has had a very mediocre 2020 season; although may fans have attributed that to the weaknesses he’s had to cover up for at the guard positions.
- The line is getting healthier, though, and Philadelphia fans hope that Lane Johnson can stay in the lineup at right tackle after not allowing a single pressure last week against the Giants.
- In terms of potential, the Eagles have the talent to put together a good game on the ground, as they average 5.12 yards per carry, good for 4th in the NFL. But Philadelphia has oddly not shown a commitment to the running game nearly enough, allowing QB Carson Wentz to throw a lot of passes, often resulting in him holding onto the ball too long or making bad decisions.
- Olivier Vernon has two sacks this season, both of which came against the Las Vegas Raiders — the same game that Garrett hardly played due to an injury. Can Vernon rise to the occasion? Porter Gustin figures to be the other player to see additional reps, with Adrian Clayborn remaining a rotational player. Cleveland is also elevating DE Cameron Malveaux to the roster this week for additional depth. If you recall last season, this was around the time of year that DT Sheldon Richardson stepped up in a major way in the absence of Garrett — but there’s no word on whether the team will try utilizing Richardson at defensive end and sliding DT Jordan Phillips in the starting lineup.
What’s the Gameplan?
- For Cleveland, they still need to run the ball a lot. Nick Chubb’s natural instincts returned in the second half last week, while Kareem Hunt looked strong with time to rest following the team’s bye. Wyatt Teller played like a monster again, and Jack Conklin will play this week. Garrett might be out, but those key pieces aren’t going away. It does suck to also lose FB Andy Janovich, but the team is promoting FB Johnny Stanton this week, who has experience in Kevin Stefanski’s offense. He’ll probably only see a handful of snaps.
- As our Eagles affiliate pointed out, Philadelphia has struggled to defend non-running backs from running the ball too. It might be tempting for Cleveland to run some jet sweeps this week, but the team should also be very cautious about doing so — in the rain, those are the type of unfamiliar exchanges that figure to be more likely to get botched. If you don’t botch them, though, a receiver can catch a defense flat-footed in the rain with the change of direction.
- The Eagles are allowing 133 yards rushing per game (26th in the NFL), but only 4.35 yards per carry (15th in the NFL). Cleveland should still have the edge in that department.
- It’s a good thing that the Browns’ defense prepared so well for containment on Deshaun Watson last week, because they’ll be doing the same with Carson Wentz this week. Wentz has run the ball 41 times for 206 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2020. Cleveland needs to continue to show that discipline, even though Garrett also played a big role in that discipline.
- Alshon Jeffery suffered a foot injury in December 2019 and had been out of action for nearly a year before making his 2020 debut last week against the Giants. However, he only played 18 snaps and was targeted just once. Philadelphia hopes to increase his utilization this week, but when you factor in the rain, and Wentz/Jeffery probably not having their 2020 timing down pat yet, it’ll be interesting to see whether that is a positive or a negative for the Eagles come Sunday.
- Travis Fulgham had stepped up as the team’s top receiver, with 30 catches for 443 yards and 4 touchdowns in 6 games. I saw his 10-catch, 152-yard effort against the Eagles, and the thing that stood out was that Wentz trusted ripping the ball to him and Fulgham used his frame very well on that day.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “I can talk about the what-ifs all I want, but I’m simplifying my prediction down to two basic fundamentals: the Browns’ running game is awesome with Nick Chubb and Wyatt Teller, and Carson Wentz is having a terrible season against pretty much anyone — while he makes some good plays, he is making far too many mistakes, and those won’t be patched miraculously, even without Myles Garrett up against him. I think Cleveland controls the game again but by a larger margin.” Browns 21, Eagles 14
Thomas Moore: “Things were lining up nicely for the Browns in Sunday’s game against Philadelphia. The weather is expected to be rainy, which would give the Browns an edge now that Nick Chubb and Wyatt Teller have returned to re-energize the running game. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is a wreck, having taken a league-high 35 sacks and coughed up a league-high nine fumbles, providing further evidence that people should really listen to Paul DePodesta when he talks.
Then reality hit this week. Teller is questionable for the game with his calf injury, right tackle Jack Conklin may not play after coming into close contact with someone who has COVID-19, and defensive end Myles Garrett will most certainly not play after testing positive for COVID-19.
Still, this is the type of game the Browns need to find a way to win if they are serious about making a playoff run this season. The players and the coaching staff have kept it together this season no matter what has been thrown at them for the most part, and Sunday should be no different. Although it will be harder than expected, the Browns will pull out the win.” Browns 17, Eagles 10
Barry Shuck: “The Eagles are not a good team; which the Browns have defeated all the bad clubs on their schedule this year so far. Philly has the third most sacks this year but on the flip side have allowed the league’s most sacks with 35. Baker Mayfield hasn’t been very successful in games in which there is quite a bit of pressure and in fact has a 30.8 QB rating in this category. But the Browns’ offensive line has only allowed 12 sacks and with the return of Wyatt Teller that should continue. Will RT Jack Conklin play or will be resting on the COVID list? His backup, Chris Hubbard, is on that list as well which means Kendall Lamm would be the next man up. This is not encouraging given the Eagles’ ability to get into the offensive backfield repeatedly. What scheme will Kevin Stefanski come up with to keep the pressure off Mayfield? Philadelphia is ranked 24th in rushing defense which plays into the hands of the duo talents of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. This will be the key.” Browns 27, Eagles 23
rufio: “The Browns defense concedes a few big plays and some points, but is able to get a few turnovers from Carson Wentz, who has thrown a league-high 12 INTs and fumbled a league-high 9 times. Even without Myles Garrett, the Browns’ defensive line has to be licking its chops knowing that Wentz has a 9.3% sack rate, also a league-high.
Offensively, the Browns are as equipped as any team to handle bad weather (an inch of rain is forecasted for Sunday) and to overcome the loss of an offensive lineman (or two). Our running game will have all of our players prepared to play in multiple spots, and Nick Chubb will be ready to find the soft spots in any defensive front.” Browns 24, Eagles 13
Ezweav: “It’s hard to say whether the profound about-face of the defense over the last two weeks is indicative of Joe Woods’ turning the corner with this unit, or if it was just a byproduct of two really bad weather games. I think until we see some more consistency in non-bad weather can we confidently claim things are moving in the right direction there, but one can certainly hope.
What is known is that the injury to Nick Chubb in no noticeable way impacted his special set of skills, which he showcased in his return against the Texans. That’s great, and he & Kareem Hunt resume being the best RB duo in the league by several country miles, in addition to being the most formidable pair Cleveland has boasted probably since the days of Jim Brown & Leroy Kelly.
That said, the Iggles are well coached. Wentz may be having a tough year but that guy can and has made plays in this league. Maybe we’ll do as we did last week and beat one of the QB’s that we could have drafted but didn’t, however as usual I think we’ll fall short.” Eagles 26, Browns 25
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.