Game Overview ::
By mike johnson >>
- The Browns are somehow in the race for the AFC North despite a tumultuous start to the season.
- Cleveland will play this game without quarterback Deshaun Watson (who is nursing a shoulder injury) as well as their top two running backs, Nick Chubb and Jerome Ford.
- Seattle’s last three games have all had combined scores of 30 or less.
- The Seahawks will likely welcome DK Metcalf back after missing last week’s win over Arizona with rib and hip injuries.
- The Seahawks pass defense is the only area of “weakness” according to DVOA metrics, as the Seattle run defense ranks third in the NFL and the Browns defense ranks second against both the pass and the run.
How cleveland Will Try To Win ::
The Deshaun Watson saga continues as he will miss this week’s game, and likely more, due to the nagging shoulder injury that has been following him around for over a month now. Veteran journeyman and XFL MVP PJ Walker will be the Browns starter for at least this week. He led the Browns to a stunning but ugly Week 6 win over the 49ers as he came on in relief to throw 32 passes in a thrilling last second victory over the Colts. The Browns were dead last in the NFL in pass rate over expectation (PROE) in Week 7 as they ran the ball over 30 times in a wild 39-38 victory. The Browns are ranked 29th in PROE for the season, showing that last week was not a blip on the radar, and we should expect a similar approach this week in a hostile environment with their backup quarterback under center.
The issue for the Browns this week will be a Seattle defense that ranks third in the NFL in both run defense DVOA and opponents’ yards per carry. They have swallowed up everyone in their paths and should be able to key in on the Browns rushing attack to try to force Walker to beat them. Furthering the struggle for Cleveland will be the absence of Jerome Ford, who has been terrific as the lead runner for the Browns since Nick Chubb’s devastating knee injury. Ford has a sprained ankle of some variety and will miss at least the next 1-2 weeks. Kareem Hunt and Pierre Strong will split backfield duties in the meantime, with Hunt likely to lead the team in carries and be used near the goal line while Strong gets a slightly smaller share of the rushing load and is involved more in space and the passing game. In any regard, these are near replacement level players at this point facing a top-notch run defense. The Browns have been known for having a very good offensive line for many years now, but this year they rank 20th in PFF run blocking grades through Week 7.
Seattle’s defense plays primarily zone coverage, leading the league in zone coverage rate, and ranking 27th in the NFL in blitz rate. Their primary focus is to contain their opponents and prevent them from making big plays down the field while also executing a strong run defense that forces their opponents into long down and distance situations. They have been extremely effective with this approach this year, especially recently, as they have surrendered only 30 points combined in their last three games. Cleveland’s offense is likely to struggle running the ball and Seattle’s defense is going to keep them from successfully taking downfield shots, leaving the short to intermediate passing game – primarily in the middle of the field – as their most likely path to success moving the ball.