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Turn the Page Tuesday: From Steelers to the Falcons

Looking back and looking forward as we turn the page to Week 4:

Syndication: Akron Beacon Journal Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK

As a part of my addition to the site, we will have a few additional features that you can expect every week during the season. Each of them are mostly opportunities to unload the notebook in different ways as the week progresses for the Cleveland Browns.

“Turn the Page Tuesday” will start with looking back at the week (or weeks) that was before turning the page to the next opponent and things that are coming up.

The Browns took care of business in Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a similar formula to their first two games. The offense was efficient, relying on the great rushing attack and very good play from QB Jacoby Brissett. The defense continued to have some struggles but the longest play, WR George Pickens’ great catch for 36 yards, was not blown coverage. Celebrating the little things on that side of the ball right now!

A few notes looking back:

Browns Have Controlled All Three Games

Not only has it felt like Cleveland has controlled games but the time of possession shows it as well. Each of the team’s first three games were dictated by the Browns, overall. Outside of blown coverages, the defense played league average while the offense currently leads the league with 35:36 time of possession average per game, almost a full minute more than the next closest team.

No QB, No Watt Makes Pittsburgh a Shell of Themselves

The Steelers roster is full of talent but Week 3 showed what happens when you have a very limited quarterback and no dynamic playmaker in the front seven. The team’s talented receiving trio combined for 14 receptions and zero touchdowns and RB Najee Harris had just 56 yards on 15 carries.

Defensive stalwarts like DE Cam Heyward and FS Minkah Fitzpatrick can’t make enough plays without a dynamic player like LB T.J. Watt around. If Cleveland has to miss DE Myles Garrett for a game or two after his car accident (thankfully with minor injuries) they could find out what that is like as well.

“Rugged AFC” Has More Warts Than Expected

The story all offseason was about how good the AFC was going to be this year. That still could be true but Las Vegas hasn’t won a game yet despite a new head coach and added talent, Denver might start to question the trade for QB Russell Wilson much sooner than many thought and the Los Angeles Chargers already look like a M.A.S.H. unit after Week 3.

New England, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Tennessee and Los Angeles each have just one win so far this year despite most having playoff expectations at the end of training camp.

The conference is still very talented and has a lot of season left to go but there might be fewer contenders than initially expected.

A few notes looking ahead:

Falcons Have Played Every Game Close

While it might be easy to blow off Atlanta, they lost two games by four or fewer points and won Sunday on the road by four. The young team has been battled tested early in the season and has been scrappy despite lacking talent in some areas.

Injuries May Have Softened Cleveland’s Early Schedule Even More

It became quite clear when fans saw the Browns schedule that the first four weeks of the season could be a part of the team’s easy stretch. Now, due to injuries, that stretch could extend to six weeks. The Chargers will be without their starting left tackle, one of their key receivers and, possibly, DE Joey Bosa in Week 5. QB Justin Herbert is also nursing problematic ribs.

Cleveland’s Week 6 opponent, New England, is likely to be without their starting quarterback with Brian Hoyer expected to step in to take snaps. The Patriots offense has struggled with the loss of Josh McDaniels as coordinator. Matt Patricia and Joe Judge filling in for McDaniels has led to the lackluster results many expected.

OBJ is Watching

Mark this down as interesting while still unlikely to happen but former Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has kept tabs on the team and how they are doing. While the Los Angeles Rams are front runners for his services, he is in no hurry to sign. If the Rams are struggling later in the year and Cleveland is thriving, Beckham could spark an interesting conversation among fans in Ohio.

Middle of the Season Stretch Still Looks Daunting

Between the Patriots game in Week 6 and QB Deshaun Watson’s return in Week 11 is a gauntlet of games for the Browns. Baltimore, Cincinnati, Miami (the only undefeated team in the AFC right now), Buffalo and Tampa Bay are five very difficult games. Lamar Jackson would be the league’s MVP through three games, Joe Burrow is getting his footing after missing most of camp, Tua Tagovailoa has the Dolphins humming, Josh Allen is carrying the Bills offense and Tom Brady is generally considered the best to ever play the position.

A lot can change between now and then but that stretch looks brutal making the next three games and the final six with Watson so vital for Cleveland’s playoff hopes.

We’ve turned the page, starting tomorrow we focus on the Falcons!