This is going to be a tough game for the Browns, that’s why I’m watching. Cleveland travels to Denver for a 4:05 pm (EST) game at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium. The Broncos are ranked 23rd in total offense averaging 301 yards, 191 yards passing, 110 yards rushing and 21.7 points a game. They’re ranked last in total defense allowing 400 yards, 240 yards passing, 160 yards rushing and 26.8 points per game. The Browns are ranked seventeenth in total offense averaging 326 yards, 183 yards passing, 143 yards rushing and 22.7 points per game. They’re ranked first in total defense allowing 243 yards, 144 yards passing, 100 yards rushing and 18 points per game. What am I watching?
Browns Offense Vs. Broncos Defense. As mentioned above, the Broncos are ranked last in total defense. They’re in the bottom three in run defense and have the lowest tackle grade. Denver is also in the bottom ten in pass rush grades and bottom five in coverage grades. However, during their four-game win streak, they’ve held opposing quarterbacks under a 92 QBR. Opposing tight ends give Denver trouble, they give up a coverage rate of 114.7. The Browns will need to open the offense up a little more. Because Denver has trouble stopping the run, the Browns will need to commit to the run and again use it in opening up the short passing game. Cleveland will need to be better at passing the ball in the twenty-to-thirty-yard range. Find David Njoku early and often. If the short passing and running game can work effectively, that will open up the down-the-field passing. Again, be patient. No turnovers.
Browns Defense Vs. Broncos Offense. Denver has a very good offensive line. They’re tenth in pass blocking and top five in run blocking. However, Denver quarterback Russell Wilson has been sacked 32 times which is tied for sixth in the league. The problem is Wilson holds on to the ball too long. He creates his own sacks. Over Denver’s four-game winning streak, Wilson has been very good. He has a 98.0 QBR, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. After eleven weeks the Browns defense is holding opposing quarterbacks to a QBR of 71.6 and 143.7 yards per game. Both are number one in the league. The Browns secondary is holding wide receivers to 71.5 rate (third lowest in the league) and running backs to the fifth lowest in the league. The Browns defense will have to force Wilson to hold onto the ball with pressure. Cleveland will be without their best cornerback Denzel Ward, so they might be forced to play more zone than man-to-man coverage. Wilson is a veteran, so the zone coverage will have to be very creative. I expect defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to show Wilson something different is his blitz packages as well. Force turnovers.
The keys to a Browns victory are how well the secondary can play in the absence of cornerback Denzel Ward and on offense how rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robertson handles his first road game in a hostile environment.