The Cleveland Browns hit the road on Sunday to face the Washington Commanders.
Thanks to yet another dispiriting loss last week, the Browns are down to playing out the string in 2022, hoping to finish the campaign without any major injuries and with quarterback Deshaun Watson continuing to look like a QB worth investing $230 million in guaranteed money.
Cleveland and Washington were once annual rivals in the days of the old NFL but now only see each other occasionally, which might be for the best when it comes to the Browns as they have lost seven of the last 10 meetings between the two teams.
It’s Browns vs. Commanders on the penultimate weekend of the regular season, and here is everything you need to know about the game.
Records: Cleveland is 6-9. Washington is 7-7-1.
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
Stadium: FedEx Field in Summerfield, Md.
Announcers: Adam Amin and Mark Schlereth
Radio: ESPN 850, 92.3 The Fan, 98.5 WNCX
Announcers: Jim Donovan, Nathan Zegura, Jerod Cherry (sidelines)
Last meeting: The Browns won the previous meeting, 34-20, in Week 3 of the 2020 season.
All-time series: Cleveland has dominated the all-time series, 34-12-1, and the Browns are 16-5-1 against Washington as the road team.
Uniform: The Browns are keeping it clean for the game with white jerseys and white pants.
all white new year's threads ⚪️ pic.twitter.com/3ugjU2UvJf— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 30, 2022
Weather: 56 degrees and mostly sunny with no chance of precipitation. Winds from the WNW at 7 mph. (weather.com)
Injury report: Browns – Questionable: defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (concussion/illness). Commanders – Questionable: safety Percy Butler (hip), safety Kam Curl (ankle), cornerback Christian Holmes (ankle) and cornerback Benjamin St.-Juste. Out: offensive lineman Saahdiq Charles (concussion), running back Antonio Gibson (foot/knee), defensive end James Smith-Williams (concussion).
The line: Browns +2.5 (DraftKings Sportsbook)
A Few Things to Watch
The one that got away (allegedly): Despite not having won a game since the end of November, the Commanders still find themselves in the playoff race. So naturally, they are switching quarterbacks and will start Carson Wentz on Sunday.
The Browns famously “missed out” on Wentz in 2016 when they traded their first-round draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles so they could select Wentz. Since then, Wentz has washed out in Philly, played poorly enough in Indianapolis that the Colts moved on after one season, and went 2-4 with the Commanders before landing on injured reserve in October.
still focused on going 1-0 this week pic.twitter.com/wi7xvLtRJw— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 30, 2022
This will be the third time the Browns have faced Wentz, who certain media members still lament as the “one who got away” despite having seen him play over the past six-plus seasons.
The Browns defense has had its issues this season, but if they can put some pressure on Wentz, they should have a nice day, especially given that despite having started 91 games in his career, Wentz still has issues with holding onto the ball too long.
Winning in the trenches: Cleveland’s offensive line started to get its mojo back last week as center Ethan Pocic returned to the lineup after missing almost five games with a knee injury. Against the Saints, the line allowed just two pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, and is starting to regain its footing in the run game.
They will be tested this week against the Commanders, who have a stout defensive line in ends Motez Sweat (PFF’s eighth-highest graded edge rusher), who has seven sacks, and Chase Young, along with defensive tackles Daron Payne (9.5 sacks) and Jonathan Allen (7.5 sacks). Not helping matters is that left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. is dealing with a back injury that kept him out of practice until Friday.
Washington is also 13th against the run, so the Browns will need the offensive line to be on top of its game or else it could be a long day for the offense.
Taking advantage of injuries: The Commanders come into the game with four defensive backs questionable, and linebacker David Mayo was worked over last week by San Francisco tight end George Kittle to the tune of 120 yards and two touchdowns.
still working hard and competing pic.twitter.com/7c8aBzfg73— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 28, 2022
Cleveland tight end David Njoku fancies himself as one of the league’s best, so this looks to be an excellent week to take over a game the way players like Kittle and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce do regularly.
Holes in the secondary could also result in a big day for wide receiver Amari Cooper, who has six touchdown catches and has averaged 15.48 yards per catch in eight career games against Washington.
If the offensive line can give quarterback Deshaun Watson time to throw, the Browns might finally see the offense score more than 10 points for the first time in five weeks.
- Running back Nick Chubb is currently third in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,344 and fourth in rushing touchdowns with 12, although he has not rushed for a touchdown since November 27 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
- Wide receiver Amari Cooper is just eight receptions away from moving into the top 10 of the franchise’s single-season list for receptions with 81.
- The Browns allow 134.3 rushing yards per game, putting them 25th in the league, while the Commanders average 123.7 rushing yards per game.
A Final Quote
Quarterback Deshaun Watson on developing a relationship with head coach Kevin Stefanski (quote via a team-provided transcript):
“It is very important to be able to build that opportunity, that trust and that chemistry between each other. We have only had four games with each other and a little bit of an off-season. We want to do that. The ‘hot seat’ stuff and all of that, that is for media, talk and stuff like that. People who make those decisions do the right things for the organization, but we all trust Kevin, we love Kevin, we support Kevin and we respect Kevin and everything that he is about with the Cleveland Browns. Again, we are going to continue to build that trust and build that chemistry and look for the future.”
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 Commanders?