Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- David Njoku missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, which is telling regarding his game-day status considering the Browns are coming off their bye week.
- Standout tackle Jack Conklin got in a limited session on Wednesday before being downgraded to DNP on Thursday, a situation to monitor as the weekend draws near.
- Third-string tight end Hunter Long missed practice to start the week as he works his way through the concussion protocol, while second-string tight end Durham Smythe remains on the injury report with a hamstring injury, although he was able to get in a limited session Wednesday. Monitor this situation for Miami for how it might influence Mike Gesicki’s involvement (which could fundamentally alter Miami’s offensive approach here).
- This game has a path to truly open up, but it would likely require a very specific game flow where Miami jumps out to a large lead early. Cleveland has shown the desire and ability to increase their pace and aerial aggression when required this season.
- The flip side to that is this game also has paths to be relatively disappointing should Cleveland maintain control of the environment deeper into the game.
- Wide range of potential outcomes as far as the game environment goes.
How Cleveland Will Try To Win ::
Cleveland’s expected pass rate (adjusted for game flow and situation) sits just under 62% this season (right around league average) but their actual pass rate is just 50.56%, yielding the fourth lowest pass rate over expectation value in the league (or, pass rate under expectation, as someone in Discord pointed out a couple of weeks ago; shoutout to you, I forget who it was). The difference between the Browns and some of the other teams in the bottom tier of PROE is pace, as Cleveland starts games with a sluggish pace of play (22nd-ranked 29.34) but they are not afraid to play up-tempo when the game script requires it (fourth-ranked pace of play when trailing by seven or more points this season). That’s a positive when looking to attack their game environments due to their propensity to increase aggression should they be trailing. But we know how they want to try and win games – with a moderate-to-slow pace of play and heavy rush rates through their running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. They’ve largely been able to stick to that game plan behind an offensive line blocking to the league’s seventh best run-blocking metrics. In games they are able to control via the ground game, Cleveland has shown the propensity to run increased rates of 12-personnel, something that took a hit in Week 8 (they were on bye in Week 9) in the absence of David Njoku. Their seventh-ranked net drive success rate has aided in this game plan; however, poor performance in the red zone (21st-ranked 58.62% red zone touchdown rate allowed) has ballooned their points allowed per drive value to a 28th-ranked 2.43, which has been the primary issue for the Browns this season.
Nick Chubb ranks second in the league in total rush yards at 841 (105.1 per game), all the while playing no more than 63% of the offensive snaps in a game this season. The Browns are typically more inclined to keep him between 50-60% of the offensive snaps, which speaks volumes about his unreal efficiency. Kareem Hunt has almost exclusively soaked up the remaining volume out of the backfield with either Demetric Felton or D’Ernest Johnson only seeing snaps in blowout games. The Browns rank bottom 10 in the league in running back targets, meaning we’re betting on the efficiency to continue and multiple touchdowns to flow to either Chubb or Hunt by selecting them to our rosters. The rushing matchup yields a slightly above average 4.39 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Dolphins defense holding opposing backfields to just 3.67 yards per running back carry, second best in the NFL behind only the 49ers. There isn’t a lot of hidden analysis required for this unit – what we see is what we get. Of note, standout tackle Jack Conklin was limited in practice on Wednesday before sitting out on Thursday, which is something to monitor as the weekend approaches.
Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones are the lone pass-catchers to see near every-down usage in this offense in the absence of David Njoku (who had become a near every-down tight end prior to injuring his ankle). Njoku missed practice to start the week and should be considered doubtful, as of this writing, placing increased emphasis on Amari Cooper’s shoulders this week. Cooper has seen double-digit looks in four of eight games this season, scoring five total touchdowns. One thing that might go missed by the field is the increased aDOT and deeper routes that Cooper is running with the Browns after managing only 8.7 and 11.5 marks the past two seasons (12.9 this year, which is 19th in the league). Peoples-Jones actually has a lower aDOT than Cooper after being treated as primarily a deep threat throughout his career prior to this season (11.5). Either way, expect these two to be on the field almost every offensive snap and expect an increased percentage of the aerial work to flow through them without Njoku in the lineup. There is upside here against a Miami secondary allowing 36.6 DK points per game to opposing wide receivers (ninth most in the league).