This week, the Cleveland Browns face a very difficult task when they do battle with the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. Can the Browns' offense string together some drives now that Brandon Weeden is not under center, or will it not matter because the Chiefs' defense will swallow up any quarterback? Our position-by-position evaluation and game prediction are below.
Although he has been surrounded by a lot of great talent and coaching the past couple of years, you have to appreciate this statistic: Alex Smith's record as a starting quarterback since 2011: 26-5-1. This year, he has added a greater degree of mobility to his game; he is averaging 6 carries per game, and 5.1 yards per carry. He takes about 2.5 sacks per game, but it hasn't cost Kansas City yet. He hasn't thrown for a touchdown in his past three games, as he lets the running game and the defense do their thing.
The Browns turn to Jason Campbell, who will be trying to do something, anything, better than former starter Brandon Weeden. The most important thing for Campbell is to get rid of the ball quicker while also using his mobility in a timely fashion to help get away from the Chiefs' pass rush. Campbell was effective as a starter in 2011 with the Raiders, but it's been a long time since he's been back in the saddle.
In my scouting report on the Chiefs, I highlighted the fact that Jamaal Charles is by far the team's best weapon, and they aren't afraid to use him as a workhorse. Charles is averaging just 4.2 yards per carry and is also basically the team's leading receiver. If Craig Robertson has had difficulty staying with running backs the past couple of weeks, he'll really have trouble against Charles.
Willis McGahee is only averaging 2.9 yards per carry; behind a line that isn't creating the biggest holes, he's not going to do anything special. He can still be effective as a closer to help run out the clock late in the game, but right now, Cleveland needs a back who is a receiving threat too -- we'll see if Fozzy Whittaker gets some more playing time this week because of that.
The Chiefs listed Dwayne Bowe as questionable late in the week due to a groin injury. He is expected to play, but he really doesn't qualify as an elite receiver anymore. The other two receivers are Dexter McCluster and Donnie Avery; McCluster has largely underachieved, but Avery has been a nice addition and leads the team in receiving yards. Neither tight end, Sean McGrath or Anthony Fasano, get a lot of touches.
Josh Gordon had his worst game of the season last week against the Packers, from failing to win one-on-one battles to slipping all over the place. He admitted that the trade rumors have been in the back of his mind, but the weather conditions should be better for traction this week. Davone Bess might get a few more looks this week if Campbell is more aware of what is going on in third down situations. Jordan Cameron is the guy who ultimately gives the Browns the edge at the position.
The Chiefs have made some big-time investments in their offensive tackle position. Branden Albert was the 15th overall pick of the 2008 draft for the Chiefs, and he has done more than a solid job at left tackle, including this season. This year, Kansas City took Eric Fisher with the first overall pick in the draft and have started him at right tackle. So far, he has struggled more than the Chiefs would have hoped for, but he is improving as the season goes on.
The Browns' offensive line has actually been quite stable the past couple of weeks, but it's still been difficult to judge them because Brandon Weeden was doing such an awful job in the pocket. After we see how Jason Campbell does this week, considering the Chiefs' pass rushers, I'll have a better understanding of where the Browns' line ranks compared to other teams. For now, the Chiefs still get the slight advantage here.
If there's a unit where the Browns can match the Chiefs' 3-4 defense, it's on the defensive line. Phil Taylor and Dontari Poe are both great anchors at the nose tackle position. When teams get into short yardage situations or down near the goal line, defensive ends Tyson Jackson and Mike DeVito.
Cleveland hopes to get defensive end Billy Winn back this week; he has been out with a quad injury since mid-way through Week 3's game against the Vikings. He would help add to the depth on the defensive line, which would take reps away from a perhaps not-as-disciplined player like Armonty Bryant. Winn was part of the rotation when Cleveland's rush defense was having more success too.
I've praised the Browns' linebackers when comparing them to some other teams this year, but they are probably outclassed at every position when you look at the Chiefs. Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard, and Barkevious Mingo have combined for six sacks, while Justin Houston and Tamba Hali have combined for 19 sacks. The pressure they are getting on quarterbacks is ridiculous.
At inside linebacker, Derrick Johnson probably has a leg up on D'Qwell Jackson. The position you could probably compare the most is Akeem Jordan vs. Craig Robertson, but Robertson has really struggled in coverage and in wrapping up the past couple of weeks.
The Chiefs' secondary is also a tough unit to go up against. At cornerback, they feature three quality players in Brandon Flowers, Sean Smith, and Dunta Robinson. A seventh-round rookie, Marcus Cooper, has actually been getting playing time over Robinson as of late and is playing very well. Safety Eric Berry is one of the best in the game, and a player I also coveted the same year we took Joe Haden. Free safety Kendrick Lewis has an ankle injury, but is expected to play.
Joe Haden continues to do a fine job against opposing teams' No. 1 receivers, but the rest of the secondary needs to find a to force some more turnovers. T.J. Ward has been aggressive in run blitzes as of late, and Cleveland might continue coming to try to stop Jamaal Charles. The Browns will need to be careful, though: if Ward misses, Charles might be gone in a flash.
The Chiefs' kicker is Ryan Succop, who gets a touchback on kickoffs 68.4% of the time. He's connected on 12-of-14 of his field goals this year, with both misses coming from beyond 50 yards. His career long is 54 yards, and in the two previous seasons, he was 5-of-5 from beyond 50 yards. The Chiefs have Dustin Colquitt at punter; he has been there since 2005 and is very stable for them.
The Browns announced that Fozzy Whittaker is officially their new kick return man. The Browns' other areas -- Billy Cundiff at kicker, Spencer Lanning at punter, and Travis Benjamin on punt returns -- have pretty much matched the Chiefs' production on special teams, which is why these units are even.
No bold predictions this week. The Browns are starting Jason Campbell at quarterback, and while I support a change from Brandon Weeden, my confidence meter isn't high that Campbell is going to be much better, let alone against the top-ranked Chiefs defense.
The Browns certainly have a chance to be competitive in this week's game. Kansas City is very efficient at moving the ball and controlling the clock, but they don't light up the scoreboard. If the Browns' defense can force a few surprise turnovers, this game could swing in Cleveland's favor. With the Chiefs' defense only giving up an average of 11.6 points per game though, even if their offense struggles, their defense can save the day.
Kansas City Chiefs 23, Cleveland Browns 13
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More from Dawgs By Nature:
- Browns' Week 8 Scouting Report: Kansas City Chiefs
- Browns vs. Chiefs: Getting to Know the Enemy With Arrowhead Pride
- Browns vs. Chiefs: Week 8 TV Coverage
- Jason Campbell Named Browns Starting QB vs. Chiefs; Brandon Weeden Benched
- Browns-Chiefs Injury Report: Dwayne Bowe Questionable, Billy Winn Could Return
- Game Review: Weeden Doesn't Give Browns a Chance in 31-13 Loss to Packers