Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- Add a sweeping illness and four feet of expected snow to the list of Buffalo worries this week, as four members of Buffalo’s defense sat out of practice Wednesday with an illness, Josh Allen continues to be limited by a UCL injury in his throwing arm, and extreme lake effect snowfall is expected from Thursday to Sunday (Update: this game has been moved to Detroit and will be played at a neutral site).
- David Njoku remained a non-participant in practice to start the week for the Browns after two missed games and a bye week following a high ankle sprain. He is within his expected return window now (four weeks post-injury) so monitor his practice statuses to finish out the week (Update: he got in a limited session Thursday).
- Isaiah McKenzie popped on the injury report on Thursday with the same illness spreading around the league – monitor his situation on Friday and into the weekend.
How Cleveland Will Try To Win ::
The Browns are set to play their second to last game with Jacoby Brissett under center with the suspension of DeShaun Watson almost complete. We’ve seen this team start games with a slow-to-moderate pace of play and increased rush rates, but they are most definitely a team that will dial up the aggression if forced to do so, as evidenced by a second half pace of play that ranks seventh in the league, and a pace of play when trailing by seven or more points that rank third in the league. We’ve also seen the Browns attempt to shorten the game against top offenses recently through the utilization of increased rush rates and a slow pace of play in the first half. This gives us a good idea of what to expect here, with a high likelihood that Cleveland starts the game with high rush rates and a slow pace of play before adjusting to the game flow in the second half. That does two things for us – it gives us a very clear expectation for the first half game environment, but it also provides a path to the game opening up in the second half. The final wrinkle to the expected game plan from the Browns involves the injuries and illnesses running rampant throughout the Bills defense, meaning we could see the Browns open up their offense sooner than they otherwise would against a fully healthy unit. From a macro perspective, the Browns have run about league average rates of 12-personnel but typically don’t utilize multiple backs on the field at the same time.
Lead back Nick Chubb has been held to 57% of the offensive snaps or fewer in all but one game this season, with the team instead utilizing Kareem Hunt as a “1B” in an attempt to keep the per-touch efficiency of both high throughout the game. That has left Chubb with five games of 20 or more running back opportunities with a max of 24 all season. That places a relative cap on his weekly range of outcomes and also requires DFS players to view him with that same capped ceiling. As in, Chubb requires efficiency and touchdowns in order to provide a GPP-worthy score. Kareem Hunt has peaked at just 16 running back opportunities this season, which gives him a relatively tight range of potential outcomes as far as workload goes. Expect 12-16 opportunities in a hybrid change of pace and passing down role. The matchup on the ground yields an average 4.37 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Bills defense ranked near the middle of the pack in DK points allowed per game to opposing backfields at 22.8. That said, the multiple injuries and sicknesses to the Bills defense could influence both the Cleveland offensive game plan and the expected level of efficiency here.
The Cleveland pass offense is most likely to be influenced by the status of tight end David Njoku than any other outside force. Typically, the presence of one of the league’s better all-around tight ends allows the Browns to utilize multiple pass-catching tight ends on the field together, whereas they have been forced to devolve into a more concentrated unit in the absence of Njoku, with blocker Pharoah Brown playing 35% or more of the offensive snaps each of the previous two weeks. Donovan Peoples-Jones and Amari Cooper continue to operate as the near every-down wide receivers and are each capable of running intermingled routes that can stretch a defense both horizontally and vertically. But again, the presence of Njoku makes this offense more dynamic and unpredictable. Keep an eye on his level of involvement heading into the weekend. Rookie David Bell fills in as the primary WR3, with Anthony Schwartz and Mike Woods each contributing a handful of snaps each week.