The Browns are coming off a disappointing loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, one where the defense found a way to give up 26 points just the fourth quarter alone.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, are the NFL’s only unbeaten team and can score as they are averaging 31.4 points per game. Although they have achieved those numbers by beating teams that are currently just a collective 11-14.
Arizona will be without head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who will miss the game after testing positive for COVID-19, so that should help the cause as defensive coordinator Joe Woods looks to rally the defense.
Here is everything you need to know as the Browns look to keep their streak alive of never losing consecutive games under head coach Kevin Stefanski.
Records: Cleveland is 3-2. Arizona is 5-0.
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.
Stadium: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland
Announcers: Kevin Kugler, Mark Sanchez, Laura Okmin (sidelines)
Radio: 92.3 The Fan (WKRK), ESPN 850 WKNR and WNCX (98.5)
Announcers: Jim Donovan, Doug Dieken, Nathan Zegura (sideline reporter)
Last meeting: The Cardinals won the last meeting, 38-24, in Week 15 of the 2019 season. (Boxscore)
All-time series: The Browns lead the all-time series, 33-15-3, and have won two of the last three meetings against the Cardinals in Cleveland.
Weather: 60 degrees and partly cloudy, with a 10 percent chance of rain. (weather.com)
Uniform: The Browns return to a proper uniform this week as they will be sporting brown jerseys and white pants.
Injury report: Browns - Questionable: defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (knee/elbow), offensive tackle Jack Conklin (knee), defensive end Myles Garrett (knee/ankle), cornerback A.J. Green (shoulder/knee), running back Kareem Hunt (wrist/knee), defensive end Takkarist McKinley (knee/ankle), cornerback Greg Newsome (calf), center JC Tretter (knee), cornerback Denzel Ward (neck) and offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. (ankle). Out: running back Nick Chubb (calf) and linebacker Malcolm Smith (abdomen).
Cardinals - Questionable: linebacker Jordan Hicks (toe), cornerback Byron Murphy Jr (ribs), cornerback Marco Wilson (ribs), offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum (ribs) and running back Chase Edmonds (shoulder). Out: center Rodney Hudson (ribs/shoulder), linebacker Tanner Vallejo (hand) and defensive lineman Zach Allen (COVID-19).
The line: Browns -3.5
A Few Things to Watch For
Keep on running: It is unfortunate that running back Nick Chubb is out for the game as the Cardinals are one of the league’s worst teams against the run, as they are currently ranked No. 28 in rushing yards allowed and No. 31 in average yards per carry.
Fortunately for the Browns they still have running back Kareem Hunt, who is averaging 5.4 yards per carry this season to go along with five rushing touchdowns and 444 yards of total offense, and has combined with Chubb to produce the league’s best rushing attack through five games.
The Browns faced a weak run defense last week against the Chargers and rolled up 230 yards on the ground and averaged 6.6 yards per carry.
Even with Chubb out, Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson should be able to find plenty of room to run against the Cardinals.
Shut it down: The Browns had problems on defense dealing with mobile quarterbacks in Week 1 and Week 2, and the secondary was a nightmare last week against the Chargers.
This week they get another taste of a mobile quarterback in Kyler Murray - who is completing a league-best 75.2 percent of his pass attempts to go along with 10 touchdowns, 18 completions of 25 yards or more and a quarterback rating of 113 - and a wide receiver trio of DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk and A.J. Green.
The Browns should have all of their cornerbacks healthy for the game, and hopefully the issues that were plaguing the safeties last week — be they miscommunication or technique — were ironed out during practice.
If not, it could be another long day for the defense.
Next man up times two: It may end up being a game-time decision, but the Browns could be looking at taking on the Cardinals without both of their starting offensive tackles.
Left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. did not play last week and right tackle Jack Conklin left the game with a knee injury. Neither Wills nor Conklin practiced all week, so if they can’t go it will once again be up to Blake Hance and James Hudson III to hold down the fort.
Hance got the start in place of Wills against the Chargers and did OK in the fun game, finishing with a 73.6 grade from Pro Football Focus, but struggled in pass protection with a PFF grade of 57.8.
Hudson looked like a rookie tossed into the game as he finished with an overall grade of just 51.5.
The Browns are catching a break as Arizona defensive end Chandler Jones is not expected to play after being placed on the COVID-19 list and defensive tackle Zach Allen is also out.
Hance’s respectable play, combined with another full week of practice with the starters, might be enough for the Browns to be comfortable with sitting Wills for another week. If Conklin can’t go, however, the Browns could be in trouble unless Hudson can quickly upgrade his game.
Silence the noise: It was a long week for the Browns as the loss to the Chargers set people off about what is happening with quarterback Baker Mayfield and who is or is not getting the ball on offense.
A win against the Cardinals will go a long way toward not only calming people down, but set up the Browns to go on a nice run as the schedule over the following five weeks is not that daunting.
A final quote
Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt (via a team-provided transcript):
“I do not think it is a matter of us not trying to get (OBJ) the ball as much as we definitely have that in the back of our mind when we gameplan. Sometimes the defense does not allow you to throw him the ball. Just staying patient. Stay within our system and process. We feel really good about everybody who is out there right now but really appreciate his effort out there. We are all in it to win it at the end of the day.”
These are just a few things to keep an eye on; now it is time to have your say. What are you looking for from the Browns in Sunday’s game against the Cardinals?