One week after sleepwalking to a 27-19 win against the Bengals, the 6-7 Browns will head to Arizona to take on Kliff Kingsbury, Kyler Murray and the 3-9-1 Cardinals. With the Ravens recently wrapping up the AFC North and the Browns falling further and further behind in the wild card race, the main headline of this game has manifested into “Baker Mayfield vs Kyler Murray”– embodying the two young, fireballer quarterbacks facing off.
So with that, let’s see what else is in store for this matchup:
The Visiting Cleveland Browns:
In their most recent tilt with the Bengals, the offense and defense, despite the victory, showcased why this team is a far cry and a new head coach away from seriously contending for a playoff berth. Baker Mayfield once again watched his receiving corps drop pass after pass after pass, though Mayfield himself is also partially to blame for a weak 11/24, 192 yards and two-interception performance. On the other hand, Nick Chubb continued to trailblaze the Browns offense, extending his lead on the rest of the NFL in rushing yards with a strong 15 carry, 106-yard day. On defense, the Browns’ withered away defensive line allowed Joe Mixon to do whatever he wanted against them, as Mixon totaled 186 scrimmage yards, 146 in carries. Like most Browns’ wins have ominously been this season, it was another game that looks positive on the scoreboard until you actually watch highlights and/or read the box score.
After hearing startling reports about Odell Beckham Jr. playing through a sports hernia injury, the team has offered no formal announcement regarding his status for the rest of the season. For the ninth week in a row, Beckham appears on this week’s injury report with a groin injury and has subsequently been limited in practice all week. Fellow wide receiver Jarvis Landry (hip) has also appeared on the injury report again (we do hope he’s not being forced to play through anything serious). Perhaps most troubling at all would be the status of Pro Bowl center JC Tretter (knee), who did not practice at all until Thursday, when he was limited. The loss of Tretter would deal a critical blow to an already ravaged offensive line, one which has performed extremely poor, collectively, as a whole. The trio of Damarious Randall (illness), Greedy Williams (shoulder) and Denzel Ward (ankle) were full participants in practice this week, minus the former, who missed Tuesday and Wednesday but was a full participant on Thursday. Finally, Olivier Vernon (knee) has been limited in practice all week and his status seems murky for the game this weekend. EDIT:
TE David Njoku is a healthy scratch.
It has been difficult for the Browns to avoid some type of misery in their games this season, with many resulting in disappointing losses or wins with way too much drama or poor play to be able to seriously enjoy them. They will look to rectify that in Arizona and get back to .500 in the process.
The Hometown Arizona Cardinals:
The Cardinals are fresh off the heels of a loss to another AFC North team, the Steelers, last week by a score of 23-17. Kyler Murray made many mistakes and was mostly overwhelmed by a superior Steelers defense, going 20/30 with 194 yards, two touchdowns but mired in throwing three interceptions. The Cardinals could get nothing going from their running game, as trade deadline acquisition Kenyan Drake carried it 11 times for just 37 yards as the team’s leading rusher. The Cardinals’ workable defense did a reasonable job against Devlin Hodges and the Steelers offense, holding them to just 292 total yards of offense.
Notable name Kyler Murray has had an up and down season of a rookie year, but he’s been exciting and showed flashes of brilliant athleticism and talent at times as well. On the season, Murray boasts a 64.1% completion percentage, 3,060 passing yards along with a decent TD:INT ratio of 16:9 in 13 starts for the team. This has all been achieved with Murray having little beyond an aging but still useful Larry Fitzgerald as targets.
For the Cardinals injury-wise, young wide receiver tandem Andy Isabella (shoulder) and Christian Kirk (ankle) were limited in practice all week, leaving their statuses up in the air for Sunday’s game. Tight end Maxx Williams (knee) did not practice Tuesday, was limited on Wednesday, but was a full participant on Thursday, giving him better than even odds at being able to suit up. Finally, offensive linemen J.R Sweezy (illness) and Justin Pugh (back) both missed practice on Tuesday before being full participants for the rest of the week, meaning they’ll probably be good to go for Sunday.
The Cardinals have never seriously been playoff contenders this season and have been mostly playing for pride since Week 1. As a side bonus, they’ve had plenty of opportunities to evaluate touted rookie Kyler Murray to see if he’s the real deal. They’ll look to end the Browns’ chances of making the playoffs.