Game Overview ::
By mike johnson >>
- This game is one of three games on the Main Slate this week with an over/under of less than 35.
- The Broncos have snuck their way back into the AFC playoff hunt thanks to a four-game winning streak that includes wins over the Chiefs, Bills, and Vikings.
- After an embarrassing start to the season, the Broncos defense appears to have figured things out, and their current level of play is much better than their season-long stats indicate.
- The Browns defense leads the league in DVOA against both the pass and the run; they have held four of their ten opponents to 10 points or less.
- Both defenses rank bottom-10 in opponent pass play rate, while the Broncos play at one of the slowest paces in the league, and the Browns slowed down their pace considerably with Dorian Thompson-Robinson at quarterback.
How cleveland Will Try To Win ::
The Broncos defense struggled early this season and looked like one of the worst units in the league. Because of that awful start, Denver’s defense ranks 31st in the NFL in both pass-defense DVOA and run-defense DVOA. Diving deeper into things, however, it is apparent that the combination of injuries to key personnel and adjusting to a new scheme had a lot to do with their struggles. Vance Joseph is in his first year as defensive coordinator in Denver, and his scheme is notorious for taking some time for players to pick up on, as it requires a lot of communication and everyone being on the same page. The Broncos rash of defensive injuries made that adjustment tough on everyone, and most people remember the embarrassing 70-point performance they gave up in Miami. They have been terrific lately, however, giving up only 17.4 points per game over their last five games despite playing the Chiefs twice, the Bills, and the Vikings during that span. This is a solid unit that is peaking at the right time and will be a tough opponent for the Browns and rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
The Browns will almost certainly look to control this game with their defense and ball control in a similar manner to how they beat the Steelers in Week 11. Denver’s offense has been middling this year and really hasn’t done anything special lately, so Cleveland is going to trust that their top-ranked defense can keep this a low-scoring game. As long as the Browns can avoid turnovers, they should be able to keep this game within reach and prevent DTR from having to try to do more than he is currently capable of. The Steelers defense was terrific last week and slowed down Cleveland’s running game to the point where DTR had to attempt 43 passes, but those passes were extremely inefficient, and he averaged under four yards per attempt. The Browns leading receivers last week were slot man Elijah Moore and tight end David Njoku, as their passing game plan focused on the short areas of the field. Njoku set a career-high with 15 targets last week, although he caught only seven of those passes for a sub-50% catch rate as many of them were off target or in heavy traffic. The Browns will once again work at a methodical pace and have a balanced game plan that is conservative by nature and simplifies things in the passing game. Denver’s defense faces the third-highest rush rate from their opponents, and Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt will likely be busy again this week, likely combining for 30+ touches.