GAME OVERVIEW ::
BY hilow >>
- Clayton Tune is expected to draw the start for the Cardinals with Kyler Murray not yet ready and Josh Dobbs traded to the Vikings.
- David Njoku picked up an ankle injury in Week 8 and did not practice on Wednesday.
- Kyler Murray was a full participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday but is reportedly going to require another week before he draws the start for the Cardinals.
- Deshaun Watson was limited Wednesday and Thursday as he works his shoulder back into game shape – Dorian Thompson-Robinson was second in line for quarterback snaps behind Watson in Thursday’s practice, but the team still lists P.J. Walker as the direct backup.
- Donovan Peoples-Jones was dealt at the deadline.
- James Conner is in the final week of his IR stint, meaning another week of Emari Demercado and Keaontay Ingram leading the backfield.
How arizona Will Try To Win ::
The Cardinals have been reduced to a shell of the roster that started the season, and they already enter Week 9 with the worst record in the league. Furthermore, the schematic mastery that had suppressed offensive production against them during the first month of the season has fully worn off, with teams able to move the football seemingly at will of late. The Cardinals are all the way down at 26th in the league in total offense allowed (355.8 yards per game) and have allowed 26.6 points per game through eight weeks (27th). They have played with pace (fourth-ranked 27.2 seconds per play) with the highest rush rate over expectation (RROE) in the league. Expect more of the same for as long as they are able considering the rookie quarterback and difficult matchup.
Emari Demercado split time with Keaontay Ingram in the first game without Conner, took on an elite workload in the second game without Conner (80 percent snap rate), and then settled back into a typical lead-back snap rate in the third game without Conner (55 percent). Demercado is clearly the leader of the backfield in the absence of Conner, but carries a wide range of outcomes as far as how involved we expect him to be, and the matchup is far from ideal against a Cleveland defense allowing 4.0 yards per carry and ceding just 1.21 yards before contact this season. Demercado is not a zero in the pass game, but he has more than one target in just one game of the previous three played without Conner. This is a fairly imposing spot, any way you slice it.
The Cardinals shifted to a heavier rate of 11-personnel in their first game without tight end Zach Ertz in Week 8, which could also be attributable to the negative game environment they encountered against a solid Ravens team. Second-year tight end Trey McBride saw a solid 82 percent snap rate in that game, joining Marquise Brown and Michael Wilson as near-every-down pass-catchers. Rondale Moore continues to play almost exclusively from the slot in a short-area role, while Greg Dortch was inactive for the first time this season in Week 8. That left Zach Pascal, Elijah Higgins, and Andre Baccellia to split the remaining crumbs of leftover snaps amongst pass-catchers. The Browns play the highest rate of man coverage alignments on defense this season (46.5 percent), against which only Brown carries a targets-per-route-run rate over just 14 percent this season (33.9 percent). Per PFF, Brown ranks seventh in fantasy points per route run (0.72) against man coverage and holds the sixth-highest receiving grade against that primary coverage (89.2). Wilson has performed well against zone this season but carries a putrid 3.8 percent target rate against man.