Both teams come into this match-up with a 1-1 record. Washington is coming off a lopsided loss to the Arizona Cardinals, 30-15. Cleveland is coming off a close divisional win in which they clipped the Cincinnati Bengals, 35-30.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Protect Your Future!
Washington believes that they’ve found their future franchise quarterback. However, two games into the season, Dwayne Haskins has yet to get it going. He has struggled to push the ball downfield consistently, and his numbers are evidence of that. Haskins is averaging just over 200 yards passing per game, and comes into this match-up with only two touchdowns to one turnover. However, it all starts with the big men up front, and Washington’s pass protection has been underwhelming thus far.
Seven. That’s the number of times Haskins has been sacked this year, four of which came against the Cardinals this past week. At this current rate, Haskins will be lucky to finish the season healthy. Only Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz have been sacked more, with eight apiece. It won’t get any easier for Washington this Sunday.
Last week, it was All-Pro DE Chandler Jones. This week, it’s superstar DE Myles Garrett. Garrett provides a tough challenge, as he’s coming off a year in which he tallied ten sacks in only ten games played. Let’s hope Garrett can refrain from any extracurricular games of ‘Whack-a-Mole’ (had to bring it up) as the Washington O-line is already at less-than-full strength. They’ll be without All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff, as he was placed on IR with an ankle injury following last week’s game. Guards Morgan Moses and Wes Martin will have to elevate their game in order to keep Haskins upright.
The Browns D-line could also be missing key pieces coming into Sunday’s tilt. Defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Olivier Vernon have yet to log a practice session this week. If they are unable to go, it will allow Scott Turner to shift his focus to Garrett.
Second-year receiver Terry McLaurin is coming off his best game of the season, in which he logged seven receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown.
“Scary” Terry may be the most simplistic, yet accurate, nickname I’ve seen handed to a player. This kid terrifies opposing defenses and cuts into opposing coordinators’ sleep. Cleveland ranks 27th in pass defense, allowing just over 277 yards per game. Unfortunately, Washington’s passing attack is dreadful, as they rank second-to-last, averaging an anemic 179 yards per game. Nonetheless, Washington must get the ball into McLaurin’s hands even if it means going to him over-and-over. He is their one true playmaker.
What better match-up to get the passing attack moving than against a struggling, hobbled Cleveland secondary?
The Browns sport a lethal one-two punch with running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The dynamic duo is fresh off a game in which they gashed the Bengals for 210 yards and four total touchdowns. After two weeks, Cleveland ranks second in the league in rushing, averaging 176.5 yards a game.
Enter the “Washington Five.” Filled with five, ferocious, former first-round picks, Washington’s D-line will need to play big in order to prevent Cleveland from running rampant. Washington ranks 12th in the league, allowing 108.5 yards on the ground per game. Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne will need to anchor the interior line in order to limit Chubb’s physical north-south type of play.
Washington can’t get too comfortable. Hunt is arguably just as talented of a back and brings a whole different skill-set to the field. Hunt is more of a shifty, elusive speedster. “It’s just a matter of those guys figuring out which one they want to contain more,” Chubb said in reference to this week’s upcoming game against Washington’s defensive front. Washington will need the likes of veteran Ryan Kerrigan and rookie Chase Young to contain the edge and prevent Hunt from bouncing outside.
The Washington Football Team’s defense ranks first in the league with a whopping 11 sacks. The Cleveland Browns’ protection ranks first in the league, having only given up one sack. Something has to give this upcoming Sunday. Washington will need to use its depth to stay fresh against one of the better O-lines in the league. Eight players share the wealth in sacks, with rookie phenom Chase Young leading the way with 2.5.
If Washington can limit the ground-and-pound, this has the makings of a miserable day for Baker Mayfield. The often-hyped, 2018 former first-overall pick is now in his third NFL season and has yet to show much of a continued progression. If Chase Young can wreak havoc in the backfield, it’s almost a guarantee that Mayfield will make a mistake, as he’s shown a history of poor decision-making when flustered.
Another thing to keep an eye on, is the return of CB Kendall Fuller. Washington was without their best all-around DB for the first two games of the season. He returns just in time, as the Browns have two All-Pro receivers that are coming off of 1,000-yard seasons in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr. The return of Fuller should give the ferocious pass rush up front some added time to do their thing.
Washington’s offense has been anemic both on the ground and in the air. However, Terry McLaurin is a superstar in the making, and Cleveland’s defense can be had, especially through the air. Haskins will need time to get it to him, though, and Myles Garett could spell trouble.
On the other hand, Cleveland possesses a lethal ground game, while Washington has formed a brick wall up front. The Browns have copious amounts of talent on paper, yet it never seems to equate to very many wins. They’re just a team that knows how to lose. I expect Baker Mayfield to make a couple of bone-headed decisions, as he always seems to do. This game will ultimately come down to Washington’s ability to stop Mayfield through the air. It won’t be pretty, but I think he’ll be able to do the bare minimum.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Washington win this, but I see the Browns taking this (barely) in a close affair, 20-17.