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Browns vs Broncos: 3 things to watch for in Week 12

Dorian Thompson-Robinson on the road is huge this week

NFL: NOV 19 Steelers at Browns Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Before I start, happy Thanksgiving to everyone, and while the holidays might be a fun time for some it can be a difficult time for others. Appreciate all of you taking the time to read my stuff during this busy time.

Anyway, it’s Week 13 and the Cleveland Browns will start their two-game west coast road trip, starting with the Denver Broncos.

The Browns are slight underdogs in this game but this is once again a must-win for Cleveland (for playoff positioning with an AFC matchup). The Browns are back on Fox this weekend, this time Kevin Kugler, Mark Sanchez and Laura Okmin on the call. Kickoff is 4:05 pm.

Avoid the slow start on the road

For some odd reason, Cleveland tends to start slow when they aren’t at home. Slow starts can often be a bad thing considering how the flow of the game can change instantly. Denver is not necessarily a tough place to play but considering the high altitude in which the team plays (the air is much thinner which can affect your conditioning) it can be difficult for some.

Considering how hot the Denver Broncos have been playing recently, the crowd is going to be live and the environment will be hostile. It’s not an overreaction to say that this is a must-win for both teams and both will come out with a point to prove.

If you want to take the crowd out early, it’s imperative that Cleveland jumps out to an early lead and make life difficult for Denver. Cleveland has been playing well as of late, and that trend needs to continue by avoiding a slow start on the road.

How will DTR and the Browns offense look under his second start on the road?

It’s not an overreaction to say that rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson looked much better in his second start (granted he was well prepared this time out). He looked comfortable and the moment didn’t seem too big for him. However, he is making his start on the road against a decent Broncos defense.

Similar to Pittsburgh, this defense is opportunistic and can force turnovers. However, this defense has weaknesses that can be exploited:

As explained, Denver’s run defense is abysmal.

30th in Defensive Rush EPA/per play and dead last in run defense. Denver will sell out to stop the run which will allow the passing game to be opened up. Safeties creep down, a perfect opportunity to open the passing game with play-action concepts and let DTR air the ball out. Take some chances down the field.

Cleveland’s offense was conservative for pretty much the entire game on Sunday (rightfully so) but it will be interesting to see if head coach Kevin Stefanski will open the playbook up against a Broncos defense that is vulnerable. Thompson-Robinson has shown growth from his first career start against the Baltimore Ravens, and it will be interesting to see if that growth will continue.

Containing the Broncos offense and forcing Russell Wilson to beat you

To be blunt (and don’t take it as disrespect) but the Denver offense is not potent by any means. Yes, the threat of versatility in the running game and wide receivers Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy can not be taken lightly but this offense essentially can be stopped.

The offense is conservative, dinking and dunking with rarely taking any shots down the field.

Despite their win over the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday night, Denver went 2/12 on third down and struggled in the red zone.

Cleveland’s defense will be the best defense that the Broncos have played on their 4 game winning streak. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will likely have a solid game plan in place to stop the run and force Russell Wilson to take matters into his own hands (which we haven’t seen because we know the limitations he has).

Wilson has been average this year, not great and this Denver offense can be contained. Cleveland’s defense is starting to peak at the right time, and Denver will have to be prepared. Stop the run, limit the explosive plays and get pressure on the quarterback. It all comes down to executing and doing the small things in order to come out with a victory.

What do you think are the key things to watch in Week 12 for the Browns?