March 3, 2024

Joe Flacco is the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, that’s why I’m watching. On Sunday, Cleveland plays the Rams at SoFi Stadium, at 4:35 pm EST. Los Angeles is ranked seventeenth in total offense averaging 341 yards, 227 yards passing, 114 rushing and 21.1 points per game. They’re ranked sixteenth in total defense allowing 331 yards, 218 yards passing, 113 yards rushing and 21.3 points a game. The Browns are ranked 21st in total offense averaging 321 yards, 181 yards passing, 140 yards rushing and 21.7 points a game. They’re ranked first in total defense allowing 248 yards, 142 yards passing, 106 yards rushing and 19 points a game. What am I watching?

Browns Offense Vs. Rams Defense. Los Angeles’s defense is average. Sixteenth in total yards allowed, sixteenth in scoring and nineteenth in first downs allowed. However, they’re next to last in the league in third down conversion rate. The Rams play a five-man front and have 22 sacks on the year. The strength of their defensive line is defensive tackle Aaron Donald (5.5 sacks, 54 pressures and 18 quarterback hits) and nose tackle Bobby Brown (5 sacks and 35 pressures). Los Angeles’ weakness is their young secondary. Four of their five defensive backs give up 12.5 yards a catch. Both cornerbacks Cobie Durant and Tre Tomlinson allow QBRs well over 100. Also, the Rams defense only has nine takeaways, last in the league. The Browns will need to run the ball. In the Rams’ last game against the Cardinals, they allowed 4.5 yards a carry. The short passing game will allow the Browns to soften up the pass rush and help to set up the down-the-field passing attack. I have a feeling we’ll see the same offense the Browns ran with Jacoby Brissett but with better results. With a fifteen-year veteran at quarterback, I expect fewer dropped passes and big games from wide receivers Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore. The strength of the Browns offensive line is their guard and center positions. The tackles will have to play better than they did against Denver.

Browns Defense Vs. Rams Offense. As with the Rams defense, their offense is also average. They run a lot of jet sweeps with wide receiver Puka Nacua. Although Rams quarterback Matthew Strafford has been sacked twenty times in ten games, no offensive lineman has given up more than two sacks. Strafford gets rid of the football quickly and can make any throw. Los Angeles runs the ball very well with Kyren Williams and Royce Freeman. Wide receiver Nacua is Strafford’s primary target but also has wide receivers Tutu Atwell and Cooper Kupp. The Browns will need to pay attention to tight end Tyler Higbee. He had two touchdown catches against Arizona and the Browns allow a QBR of 90 to opposing tight ends. The Browns defense must stop the run and apply pressure. For the season the Rams passing attack has a QBR of 81.3 (25th) and their completion percentage is 31st in the league. Cleveland’s pass rush needs to be disruptive. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will have to be very creative in both his pass rush and his coverage schemes. Cornerback Greg Newsome must play better in the absence of Denzel Ward. No one knows how much defensive end Myles Garrett will play, but he’s never gone two games without a sack.

The keys to the games are no turnovers, stopping the run on early downs to force passing situations and on offense running the ball effectively to avoid long passing downs. The Rams are playing well right now, so the margin of error is small.


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