The Cleveland Browns are back home on Sunday to host the Los Angeles Chargers.
Cleveland comes into the game having alternated wins and losses through the season’s first four weeks, while the Chargers broke a two-game losing streak last week by taking down the mighty Houston Texans.
It is a team game, of course, and the Chargers have gained plenty of accolades since drafting quarterback Justin Herbert in 2020, but the harsh reality is that the Browns have actually posted a better overall record than the Chargers in that timeframe so the idea of Cleveland winning on Sunday is not as unrealistic as many will make it out to be.
With that said, let’s dive in with what you need to know as the Browns take on the Chargers.
Records: Cleveland is 2-2. Los Angeles is 2-2.
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
Stadium: FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland
Announcers: Greg Gumbel and Adam Archuleta
Radio: ESPN 850, 92.3 The Fan, 98.5 WNCX
Announcers: Jim Donovan, Nathan Zegura, Jerod Cherry (sidelines)
Last meeting: The Chargers won the last game between the two teams, 47-42, in Week 5 of the 2021 season.
All-time series: The Chargers lead the all-time regular season series, 18-9-1, but the Browns have won two of the last three meetings in Cleveland.
Weather: 59 degrees and sunny with no chance of precipitation. Winds from the WSW at 16 mph. (weather.com)
Uniform: The Browns will be breaking out the always regrettable all-brown color rush uniforms, which will look even worse matched up against the Chargers’ classic uniforms.
breaking out the color rush threads pic.twitter.com/HTARx0X5i7— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 7, 2022
Injury report: Browns - Questionable: defensive tackle Taven Bryan (hamstring) and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (ankle). Chargers - Questionable: kicker Dustin Hopkins (quadricep) and wide receiver Josh Palmer (ankle). Out: wide receiver Keenan Allen (hamstring).
The line: Browns +2 (Draft Kings)
A Few Things to Watch
Myles Garrett’s return: The Browns will welcome defensive end Myles Garrett back to the field after Garrett missed last week’s game against the Atlanta Falcons as he was still recovering from the various injuries he suffered in a single-car accident.
looking to be healthy and dominant @Flash_Garrett | #Browns pic.twitter.com/vaq5nWe35O— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 7, 2022
It is still unclear how many snaps Garrett will be able to play, especially if his should or biceps start to bother him, but even a limited Garrett will give the defensive line a much-needed boost. The situation will get even better if fellow defensive end Jadeveon Clowney can get on the field for the first time since injuring his ankle in Week 2 against the New York Jets, but that appears to be less certain.
Garrett has the ability to change the direction of a game in one play, so anything he can give the Browns on Sunday will help against a Chargers offense that has put up at least 24 points in three of their four games this season.
Catching a break: Cleveland’s secondary continues to have issues with giving up the big play and the Chargers present another challenge with quarterback Justin Herbert, who is among the league leaders in passing yards (312.5 per game), touchdowns (nine), completion percentage (66.9) and has thrown just two interceptions.
The Browns don’t have to look too far in the past for a reminder of what Herbert can do when he gets the offense going after he ripped them for 398 yards and four touchdowns in last season’s 47-42 defeat.
Cleveland is catching a bit of a break with wide receiver Keenan Allen ruled out for the game, but they will still need to keep an eye on wide receiver Mike Williams (18 receptions, 258 yards and two touchdowns) and tight end Gerald Everett (16 receptions, 211 yards and two touchdowns).
Another area that the defense will need to be ready for is when the Chargers pick up the pace on offense, according to pass game coordinator/defensive backs coach Jeff Howard (quote via a team-provided transcript):
“I think last year with Mike Williams, if you look at those explosive plays, it is one of those things I think they gain a lot of production off of their tempo. They are unique in the fact that they will use no-huddle a lot or they will break the huddle quickly, and they will (snaps fingers) snap the ball. You saw one last week against Houston where he is running a far cross, and there is nobody on him because they are on the ball quickly and the defense isn’t adjusted and you don’t have a body on body. From our standpoint, we want to make sure we are having body on body. I think we have great size and good matchups and try to come away with some of those.”
A rush to victory?: The Browns continue to exert their will on opposing defenses through the running game as Nick Chubb is second in the NFL with 459 rushing yards, second in rushing touchdowns (five), first in runs of more than 20 yards (five), and is averaging a career-high 5.7 yards per carry while rushing for more than 100 yards in three games.
Nick Chubb leads the NFL with 15 runs gaining 10+ yards this season— PFF (@PFF) October 7, 2022
That is more than 25 NFL teams have total pic.twitter.com/Gw9JSxaMZF
This week Chubb and the running game get to go up against a Chargers defense that is allowing 109.8 rushing yards per game and have allowed a runs of at least 50 yards in three consecutive games.
The Browns have established a formula for winning this season, which is to avoid turnovers, get a lead in the fourth quarter and then grind down the opposing defense with Chubb and fellow running back Kareem Hunt.
Sunday’s matchup against a Chargers defense that is shaky against the run should present the Browns with an opportunity to put their winning formula into action.
A Final Quote
Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt on the strategy behind going for it on fourth down (quote via a team-provided transcript):
“I think we live and die by the analytics and whatever gives us the best chance to win that game in that situation. I think we are always going to be aggressive. That is just our style. They say it is green and it is green, we are going.”
Those 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 Chargers?