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Browns vs. Lions: Week 11 Need to Know

Cleveland is looking to stay in the AFC race while avoiding being Detroit’s first win of the season. Here is everything to know about the game.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns are back at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday to take on the winless Detroit Lions.

The Browns are looking to pick up their third win against the NFC North this season and stay in the race for a playoff spot in the AFC, while the Lions are trying to avoid their third winless season in franchise history.

Cleveland welcomes back running backs Nick Chubb and Demetric Felton, but wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones and quarterback Baker Mayfield are still dealing with injuries that could impact their game.

The Browns need a win to get their minds right before their all-important home-and-home series against the Baltimore Ravens, so here is everything you need to know as Cleveland looks for just its fifth regular-season win all-time against the Lions.

Game Info

Records: Cleveland is 5-5. Detroit is 0-8-1.

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

Stadium: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland

TV: FOX

Announcers: Gus Johnson, LaVar Arrington, Megan Olivi (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 Lions won the last meeting, 38-24, in Week 10 of the 2017 season. (Boxscore)

All-time series: The Lions lead the all-time regular-season series, 16-4. Cleveland’s last win against Detroit game in the 2001 season.

Weather: 46 degrees with a 71 percent chance of rain and 14 mph winds. (weather.com)

Uniform: The Browns will be wearing brown jerseys and white pants.

Injury report: Browns - Questionable: wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (groin) and defensive end Takkarist McKinley (groin). Out: cornerback Troy Hill (neck), cornerback A.J. Green (concussion) and wide receiver Anthony Schwartz (concussion).

Lions - Questionable: running back Jamaal Williams (thigh), safety Tracy Walker (concussion), offensive tackle Taylor Decker (elbow) and wide receiver Trinity Benson (knee). Doubtful: quarterback Jared Goff (oblique). Out: offensive tackle Matt Nelson (ankle), running back Jermar Jefferson (knee/ankle), linebacker Trey Flowers (knee).

The line: Browns -12

A Few Things to Watch For

Third-down woes: The Browns have been horrible on third down this season - and it is not just the defense that has been struggling.

According to The Athletic, Cleveland’s defense is ranked No. 4 in the league as their opponents are facing an average of third-and-eight. Unfortunately, that has not been a problem for the opposition as the Browns slip to 28th in the rankings when it comes to allowing third-down conversions.

It is only slightly better when Cleveland has the ball as the offense is currently ranked No. 27 in the league in converting on third down.

The situation was on full display last week against the New England Patriots as the offense was one-for-11 on third down while the defense allowed the Patriots to convert seven-of-nine of their third downs.

The offense not being able to convert when it needs to and the defense not being able to get off the field when it must is one of the biggest reasons that the Browns find themselves losers of four of their last six games.

The good news is that head coach Kevin Stefanski said the issue was a “big focal point” this week in practice. The Lions also present a good opportunity to turn things around as Detroit is 31st on offense and 23rd on defense in third-down efficiency.

Facing a rookie QB: All signs are pointing toward the Lions giving the start to quarterback Tim Boyle with Jared Goff dealing with an oblique injury.

Boyle just returned to practice this week after being on the injured reserve list with a thumb injury since the beginning of September. He spent three seasons with the Green Bay Packers before joining the Lions and has only thrown four regular-season passes in his NFL career.

Two things that Boyle likes to do are push the ball down the field and get rid of the ball quickly, which makes him pretty much the opposite of Goff, so the Browns will need to be prepared for that change in Detroit’s offense.

Those deep shots could result in turnovers, which have been in short supply for the Browns this season, according to Tim Burke at The Athletic. In college, Boyle threw 13 interceptions and just one touchdown pass in three seasons at UConn, and followed that up with 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions at Eastern Kentucky.

And while it can be hard to judge preseason stats, in his NFL career Boyle has completed just 55 percent of his passes during the preseason.

There is always the underlying fear that an unknown quarterback will make Cleveland’s defense look silly, but this appears to be a good week for the Browns to rediscover some of their mojo on the defensive side of the ball.

First-drive success: For all the issues the Browns have had on offense through the first 10 games, one area where they excel is on the first offensive drive of the game.

According to The Athletic’s Aaron Reiss, the Browns are the league’s third-best team in this regard:

No team has produced more chunk plays on opening drives. The Browns first possessions have included 24 plays of 10-plus yards and eight plays of 20-plus yards. Both lead the NFL, and in both cases, those explosive plays have been evenly split between runs and passes. Cleveland has reached the red zone seven times on opening drives, which also leads the NFL.

The problem is what comes after that first drive, with last week’s game against the Patriots as a prime example. Cleveland went 84 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown, but followed that up by running a combined 26 plays for 56 yards on their next six drives.

Whatever is going on, the Browns need to find a way to keep the momentum going after that opening drive and give the defense some breathing room.

A final quote

Head coach Kevin Stefanski (via a team-provided transcript):

“The pre-snap penalties certainly are so preventable. I just felt like the guys needed to understand that when we get in a moment like that, you are hurting the team and it affects the team when you are not locked in on the snap count or when you are not locked in on the ball when you are on defense for instance. I just felt like that was something we should do.”

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 Lions?