Can the Cleveland Browns really make it four wins in a row? They have an opportunity to do so on Sunday against the Detroit Lions. These two teams are quite familiar with each other since they face each other every year in the preseason. Cleveland got the upper edge in the preseason, but both teams are 3-2 heading into this week's game and looking to get to the top of their division. Our position-by-position evaluation and game prediction are below.
Matthew Stafford has time and time again shown the ability to pile on yards with the Lions, and he's been established for a good number of years now as a pretty solid quarterback. Assuming that he has Calvin Johnson available to him this week, Stafford generally does a great job getting rid of the ball quickly and minimizing the turnovers.
I think I have more faith in Brandon Weeden than a lot of other fans do. With over a week of practice to get back acclimated to the offense again, Weeden has acknowledged that he is aware of the fact that he needs to get rid of the ball quicker, which is a good first step. Hopefully we see some differences in this week's game. I anticipate there being some more quick slants to Josh Gordon or Greg Little. At the end of the day, Weeden remains at his best when he has time to throw, because he can sling it deep down the field to a streaking receiver.
As much as I like Willis McGahee, this is a no brainer. As I stated in my scouting report on the Lions, Detroit does a good job of getting both of their running backs, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, involved in the offense. Each of them have over 200 yards receiving this year, and Bush is averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Detroit is a very good screen team too.
Not knowing Calvin Johnson's status, this is a tough category to project. This ranking was given with the assumption that Johnson will play, but that he'll be a "banged up version" of himself.
Cleveland's crew of Josh Gordon, Greg Little, Davone Bess, and Jordan Cameron have delivered more than enough over the past several weeks. If Johnson doesn't play, then Cleveland would be favored here by such a significant margin that it'd be ridiculous. Cameron caught 3 passes for 42 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Lions in the preseason.
The Lions have generally kept Matthew Stafford well-protected. Although the Packers sacked Stafford five times last week, in the first four games of the season, Stafford was only sacked a total of three times. The Browns' offensive line has had a lot of issues picking up the right rushers, which is frustrating because the line is talented when it comes to the individual players. Hopefully Shawn Lauvao being back for a second straight game will improve things.
These are probably two of the more impressive defensive lines in the NFL. The Lions feature an intimidating presence of Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and Ziggy Ansah in a 4-3 alignment. I'm not going to doubt the impact those guys can have on a game, but as a unit, the Browns' lesser-known group of Ahtyba Rubin, Phil Taylor, and Desmond Bryant, in a 3-4 alignment, has probably played better.
The Browns are expected to have Jabaal Sheard back this week, and there is a chance Quentin Groves will be back on the field too. If the Browns can throw all of their pass rushers at the Lions, that'll only make this defense stronger.
The Lions feature a rather modest crew of Ashlee Palmer, DeAndre Levy, and Stephen Tullock; they haven't been able to do a good enough job stopping opposing teams' rushing attacks. They have combined for three interceptions on the season, though.
Week-by-week, the Browns' pass defense continues to improve. I was astounded when I looked to see that Cleveland's pass defense had improved to 7th in the NFL and that they are 4th overall in yards allowed. Buster Skrine in particular has really stepped his game up, and Tashaun Gipson has done an excellent job in helping with coverages.
The Lions feature three veterans and one rookie in their secondary. The veterans include cornerback Chris Houston and safeties Glover Quin and Louis Delmas. This unit isn't a terrible one, but they are probably on par with your average secondary in the NFL. For them not to have that one dominant player back there means that Detroit still has to be involved in a lot of shootouts.
The Lions utilize David Akers as their field goal kicker. Rookie punter Sam Martin has done very well kicking the ball deep and away from returners, so he is the type of guy who can execute in the mission to neutralize Benjamin for Cleveland. Michael Spurlock returns kickoffs and punts for the Lions.
With or without Calvin Johnson, this isn't a good matchup for the Lions. Joe Haden can cover receivers like no other; Johnson could understandably still win some battles, but not enough to cripple the Browns' high-ranked defense. Reggie Bush is also an electric weapon, but Cleveland has a lot of players who are good at pursuing the ballcarrier, which should limit the amount of big plays he'll have as a receiver. This game should come down to whether Brandon Weeden executes or not. I felt he did just that in his last start against the Ravens; now that he has Josh Gordon and Shawn Lauvao back, I expect him to play a competent game with timely throws en route to a convincing win.
Cleveland Browns 28, Detroit Lions 17
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More from Dawgs By Nature:
- Browns' Week 6 Scouting Report: Detroit Lions
- Lions-Browns Injury Report: Barring a Setback, OLB Jabaal Sheard Should Play
- Rufio's Film Room: Inside Zone vs. Bengals
- Lions vs. Browns: Getting to Know the Enemy With Pride of Detroit
- The Browns Are Hungry For More
- Browns Sign WR Charles Johnson from Packers' Practice Squad, Hoyer Goes on IR
- 2013 NFL Season: Pokorny's Week 6 NFL Picks