This week, the Cleveland Browns take on the New York Giants in Week 12 of the NFL regular season. Our position-by-position evaluation and game prediction are below.
- I still think of Eli Manning as the younger brother of Peyton Manning, which is why it’s always a bit of a shock to remember that he’s already 35 years old and in his 13th NFL season. Manning’s legacy is already set with his two Super Bowl wins over the Patriots.
- Manning has had a few rough seasons throughout his career, but his last bad season was in 2013. This year, he’s thrown for 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The most impressive stat is that he’s improved his accuracy, completing a career-best 63.7% of his passes. Manning doesn’t take off to run very much.
- The Browns are forced to turn back to Josh McCown this week in what might be his final start with the team. While Browns fans loved seeing the 37-year old command the team in 2015 for his grittiness, his play hasn't been as good in limited time in 2016. When he’s had to enter games, he hasn’t had the benefit of a rushing attack. He’s throwing the ball too often, which means more hits, especially with how long he holds on to it at times to try to allow a receiver to spring open downfield.
- Rashad Jennings is the Giants' starting running back. He has 100 carries for 340 yards (3.4 YPC) and 2 touchdowns on the season. Jennings is a capable receiving back with 20 carries for 139 yards. He missed three games to injury earlier this year, and a couple of the Giants' backup backs have been banged up. Their current backup is fifth-round pick Paul Perkins, who has averaged 8 carries per game over the past three outings. Expect him to see some work.
- Last week, I said that if Isaiah Crowell continued his pathetic recent pace of averaging 26.2 rushing yards per game, he’d still finish the season above his Vegas line of 675 yards rushing. Well, last week, he had just 10 yards rushing on 8 carries. We know it’s possible for the switch to be flipped for Crowell, but that depends on the offensive line coming through. Last year, I thought it was a scheme change that helped. This year, I think it’s more talent-related. It might be worth it for the Browns to just start Duke Johnson and see if he can make more things happen outside the tackles.
Wide Receiver / Tight End
- Odell Beckham is one of the most explosive receivers in the NFL. He has 59 catches for 819 yards and 6 touchdowns as the Giants' clear No. 1 target. Next up on the pecking order is rookie receiver Sterling Shepard. The second-round pick has 44 catches for 476 yards and 5 touchdowns.
- Rounding out the group of receivers are tight end Will Tye, an undrafted rookie from a year ago who has 29 catches for 247 yards and 1 touchdown, and veteran Victor Cruz, who has 26 catches for 425 yards and 1 touchdown. Cruz has been a big-play receiver, with 1 catch for 46 yards and 1 catch for 48 yards in his past two games, respectively.
- It’s been both awe-inspiring and frustrating to watch Terrelle Pryor at receiver this year. It’s awe-inspiring because of how damn good he’s been. It’s frustrating because I feel like our quarterbacks and offense has been so limited that we haven’t allowed Pryor to reach his peak potential. Corey Coleman hasn’t had the best hand work over the past few games, but you never know how much that is still related to his broken hand. Gary Barnidge caught his first touchdown of the year last week. Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins have been non-factors in the offense since Coleman’s return.
- The Giants’ starting offensive line includes LT Ereck Flowers, LG Adam Gettis, C Weston Richburg, RG John Jerry, and RT Bobby Hart. Flowers has improved drastically in his second year as a starter, but still has some work to do in pass protection. Hart, a seventh-round pick from a year ago, has been a hot mess.
- Left guard is a big question mark for the club. Usually, Justin Pugh starts there and is their best lineman. He is banged up, and the team’s next two depth players who would typically filled in are also out. That’ll force Gettis to make his first career start, and even he is dealing with an injured calf.
- On paper, I still like the Browns’ offensive line a bit better than the Giants’ offensive line and some other teams’ lines in the NFL. However, we’ve seen our group get beaten up in the division the past two games, and Cameron Erving is not showing any visible improvement. He could be the primary reason our line is falling apart as much as it is, because one of the biggest reasons our group is getting beat is via communication issues.
- The Giants run a 4-3 defense. Their starting defensive line includes DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DT Damon Harrison, DT Johnathan Hankins, and DE Olivier Vernon. This is an excellent starting unit, bringing the team’s defensive line back to life for the first time since the Michael Strahan days.
- Harrison is a good run stopper who was signed to a big deal from the Jets this offseason. Vernon signed a big deal this offseason as a pass-rushing specialist. He and Pierre-Paul have combined for eight sacks. If we couldn’t handle the Steelers’ group last week, I shudder to think about handling this group.
- I don’t know how well it’d work, but I’m tired of the Browns trying to make the 3-4 defense work (even if it’s not their base defense). Can we get a guy like Danny Shelton to work as a 4-3 defensive tackle? Wouldn’t it be better fits for the likes of Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib? This week, Ray Horton joked about wanting the Giants to have to use their backup quarterback (Ryan Nassib) so Carl could get a hit on him. We might see that if the game gets out of hand in New York’s favor.
- The Giants’ starting linebackers are OLB Devon Kennard, MLB Kelvin Sheppard, and OLB Jonathan Casillas. With the big investment on the defensive line, a sacrifice had to be made somewhere, and that is at linebacker. Here is what our Giants affiliate said about the group:
Journeyman Jonathan Casillas is a defensive captain and plays every down. Devon Kennard is a good run stuffer and gets used as a defensive lineman in passing situations. Kelvin Sheppard starts in the middle, but Keenan Robinson actually plays more snaps as a nickel guy. Robinson has been a revelation, the best cover linebacker the Giants have had in a long time.
- This will be a nice week to evaluate the Browns’ defense. Last week, they gave up 17 points and just a little over 300 yards, their best marks of the season. Now, they face a team that struggles to run the ball and only averages a shade over 20 points per game. Now that Jamie Collins has already been here for close to a month, can he come through with some game-changing plays? The Browns’ linebacker group is really just two starters and the rotating Demario Davis now.
- The Giants' starting secondary includes CB Eli Applie, FS Andrew Adams, SS Landon Collins, and CB Janoris Jenkins. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will see plenty of reps in the nickel. The big story of the group is the high-impact play of Collins, who in his second year has 5 interceptions, 10 passes defended, 3 sacks, and a team-leading 80 tackles.
- The Browns will try to find someone to match-up successfully with Odell Beckham. Although Joe Haden limited the yards for Antonio Brown last week, he still ultimately failed to win enough battles. Jamar Taylor will start again this week with Briean Boddy-Calhoun in the slot unless Tramon Williams makes a surprise return. Ed Reynolds was banged up in practice this week, so I fear that the team’s two-week period of stability at the safety position could take a bit hit.
- After the whole Josh Brown mess, the Giants signed veteran Robbie Gould to be their kicker. Oddly, in 4 games, Gould has attempted just 2 field goals and is 2-for-2. He is 10-of-12 on extra points, though. Cody Parkey missed an extra point last week for the Browns.
- Brad Wing is 7th in the NFL in punting average at 47.1, which is about 2 yards better than the Browns' Britton Colquitt. Colquitt’s net average is actually 0.8 yards better than Wing’s net average, though. That shows how teams can get some good punt returns against the Giants.
- Dwayne Harris is the Giants’ kick and punt returner. Although he doesn't have a touchdown this year, he's done a good amount of damage in previous years and can't be taken lightly.
This year, we are listing predictions for multiple staff members here at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “The Giants are 7-3, but their biggest margin of victory this season is seven points (done once). Their games typically go down-to-the-wire, and they only beat the Bengals by one point a couple of weeks ago. On the surface, the Giants’ run game issues should continue to limit the number of points they can put up. However, the Browns’ constant lack of continuity on offense and lack of defensive playmakers still won’t push them over the edge over a team that is in the playoff hunt.” Giants 23, Browns 20.
Matt Wood: “The weather is what saved the Browns defense last week but I doubt there will be 50 MPH winds this week. Browns can't slow down Beckham and Manning as they torch the secondary. On offense the Browns can't block JPP and he 8-finger death punches whatever QB we have in there. We see 3 of them on Sunday.” Giants 38, Browns 10.
Jon Stinchcomb: “The Giants should be able to win this one fairly easily. They have not been tearing up the league on the ground, but they should be able to run the ball on the Browns and force open the passing game as well. At this point, just finishing a game healthy is considered a blessing for the Browns.” Giants 27, Browns 13.
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below!