This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the New England Patriots. To help preview a few topics from the Patriots’ perspective, we reached out to Taylor Kyles from Pats Pulpit and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 2.5-point favorites against the Patriots.
Chris: “Even though there’s a chance that Mac Jones could return this week, my instinct is telling me that Bailey Zappe will still get the start while he’s playing well. Tell us what you think, and also tell us what the rookie quarterback has done well in his little bit of action.”
Taylor: “The Patriots tend to play it safe with player injuries, so I’d guess Mac Jones sits at least one more week so he can regain full/near-full stability in his ankle.
Bailey Zappe hasn’t done enough on the field to suggest he’d overtake Jones (as way too many are speculating), but the rookie has received rave reviews from teammates and shown incredible mental toughness. He was undeniably shaky against the Packers in Week 4, but he looked much calmer last week vs Detroit. Zappe has also done the most important thing you could ask of a backup QB, which is to keep the ball out of harm’s way. With the Patriots’ ground game and defense rolling, I think Zappe is in a good spot to take what the defense gives him and keep the offense on schedule.”
Chris: “The Patriots’ defense pitched a shutout last week against the Lions, but the unit has seemed to have its ups and downs this year. What has the defense struggled with?”
Taylor: “The run defense has struggled against teams that can run the ball for most of the season, particularly outside the tackles. However, much-improved play combined with a questionable plan from the Lions resulted in their performance of the year. The Browns’ backfield will be an excellent barometer for where they truly stand.
Rookie CB Jack Jones has been a turnover machine with three turnovers in his first career starts, but he’s had his struggles in off-coverage and could have a long day if he’s matched up against Amari Cooper on Sunday.”
Chris: “What has been the strength and weakness of the Patriots’ offensive line?”
Taylor: “Hard to pick one player to highlight on this line, but RG Mike Onwenu has been a brick wall as a pass blocker and a mountain-mover as a run blocker. He rarely loses a rep and recovers exceptionally well on the rare occasions a defender beats him early. They love running gap concepts behind him and RT Isaiah Wynn.
Speaking of Wynn, he’s been far and away the biggest liability in the trenches. Though Rashan Gary gave him the work a couple of weeks back and contributed to the tackle’s benching, Wynn’s issues have been more mental. He’s a talented player who has dominant stretches, but he’s been penalized on a weekly basis and puts the team in tougher down & distance situations. Longer edge rushers have also exposed his short arms, but he’s rarely beaten more than a couple of times a game.”
Chris: “Tell us about one player who Browns fans may not have heard of, but who could have an impact on this Sunday’s game.”
Taylor: “NT Davon Godchaux doesn’t get a lot of praise, which is typical for his position. But if the Patriots contain the Browns’ run game, he’ll be a major reason why. Belichick has called him one of the best players at his position, and Godchaux’s win rate vs 1-on-1 blocks. shows why. Though he does give up ground vs doubles on occasion, he’s usually stout in the middle and his veteran prowess pops regularly.”
Chris: “The Browns are early favorites to beat the Patriots on Sunday (Browns -2.5 as of this question, per DraftKings Sportsbook). Who would you pick against the spread?”
Taylor: “Homer take alert! But I think the Patriots pull it out against old pal Jacoby Brissett in a close game. The Patriots should be able to move the ball against the Browns’ run defense, but Red Zone execution will need to improve from what we’ve seen through five weeks. If New England can generate big plays off of play-action and turn some of those into scores, they should be in a good spot.
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt will make their plays, but I think the Patriots have a better chance of standing up to Cleveland’s rushing attack than vice versa.”
Thanks again to Taylor for taking the time to answer my questions.