Last home game, adverse weather conditions and the Browns still have playoff hopes, that’s why I’m watching. Last week Cleveland beat Baltimore 13-3 and New Orleans beat Atlanta 21-18. This Saturday the Browns host the Saints at 1:00 p.m. (EST) at FirstEnergy Stadium. To say the weather is going to be a factor is an understatement. Cleveland’s playoff chances currently stand at .7% and about seventeen things have to happen for them to stay alive. For right now, the bottom line, the Browns have to win their remaining three games. What am I watching this week?
Browns Offense Vs. Saints Defense. The New Orleans defense currently ranks eleventh in the league, allowing 328 total yards, 195 yards passing, 134 yards rushing and 22.5 points a game. They are led in tackles and sacks by linebacker Demario Davis, (89 tackles & 6.5 sacks) and interceptions by safety Tyrann Mathieu with two. Both linebacker Kaden Elliss and defensive end Cameron Jordan have 5.5 sacks each. They are tied for last in the league with the Colts in turnover margin (-12). The Saints are good against the pass but near the bottom of the NFL against the run. They’re 21st in yards per carry average (4.6) and last week against Atlanta gave up 231 yards rushing. With the expected weather conditions, all the Browns need to do is run the ball. The offensive line, hopefully with the return of center Ethan Pocic, needs to get the push needed to allow Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and Deshaun Watson to run especially on first and second down. If forced to pass the Browns will need to employ a quick passing game to David Njoku, Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones and David Bell. The Saints will pressure in those situations, so the run-pass option needs to be working.
Browns Defense Vs. Saints Offense. The New Orleans offense is currently ranked seventeenth in the league, averaging 344 total yards, 233 yards passing, 111 yards rushing and 20.4 points a game. While quarterback Andy Dalton leads the Saints in passing with 2403 yards, I expect backup QB Tayson Hill to be a factor because of the weather. The Saints are 3-0 when Hill has nine or more carries. He also leads the team in rushing touchdowns with five. New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara leads the team in rushing with 641 yards and three touchdowns, but those three came in one game versus the Raiders. Their best wide receiver is Chis Olave (940 yards, three TDs), but he may not play due to injury. The Saints do have a good tight end in Jwan Johnson, (416 yards, seven TDs). The Browns will be without defensive end Jadeveon Clowney who’s still in concussion protocol and might get safety John Johnson III back who’s coming off his best game of the season. I expect the Saints to employ extra offensive linemen to run the ball. Of the 55 offensive snaps against Atlanta last week, they had six offensive linemen on the field for 24 of those snaps. The Browns will need to stop the run, control the tight end and contain Tayson Hill.
This will be the coldest game in both Browns’ history and Saints’ history and a team’s ability to run the ball will determine the outcome. Points will be at a premium, so kicker Cade York needs to make his kicks. The Browns also need to win the turnover margin. This year the Saints are 0-6 when playing outdoors. The Browns need to keep that streak alive. Enjoy the Game.