Browns seek third straight 3-1 start; shorthanded defensive line called upon to slow Falcons Sunday

CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns seek their third consecutive 3-1 start under head coach Kevin Stefanski Sunday in Atlanta.

Last week, the Browns bounced back from an epic collapse in Week 2 to the Jets in the final 90 seconds to beat the Steelers 29-17 while the Falcons picked up their first victory of the season by beating the Seahawks.

Myles Garrett’s scary car accident dominated headlines all week and Garret remains in Cleveland this weekend to recuperate after returning to the team Thursday.

What to watch for – No Garrett. Probably no Jadeveon Clowney. Also no Taven Bryan. Not having three of your four starting defensive linemen is not a great combination going up against a multithread back in Cordarrelle Patterson, who is coming off a career high 153 scrimmage yard performance that included his second touchdown of the season in a 27-23 win over Seattle last week. Alex Wright, Isaiah Thomas and Tommy Togiai are being called upon to step up and step in for the Browns up front.

Two top-10 scoring offenses and top-5 rushing attacks square off in Georgia meaning it could be a long, bruising day for both defenses.

Cleveland leads the NFL with 572 rushing yards and Nick Chubb currently is the top runner with 341 of those with four touchdowns. Chubb’s 24 100-yard rushing games are tops in the NFL since 2018 and his 40 rush TDs are the second-most. Kareem Hunt has been a solid No. 2 behind Chubb totaling 205 scrimmage yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The last two games have seen veteran quarterback Jacoby Brissett get on the same page with his playmakers after an uneven start in Charlotte on September 11. Brissett has completed over 71% of his passes combined the last two games with three touchdowns and an interception while registering a 95+ rating in both games.

Browns receiver Amari Cooper has registered 100+ yard receiving games the last two week for the first time in his career since 2016. He looks to do it in three straight games, joining Josh Gordon (20130 as the last to do it for Cleveland.

Tight end David Njoku caught fire against the Steelers by hauling in his first seven targets and he finished with a career-high nine catches for 89 yards and a score.

After eliminating communication breakdowns in the secondary that cost the Browns five touchdowns over the first three games, Cleveland’s secondary will be tested with the sizer and strength of Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts and receiver Drake London. London leads Atlanta with 16 catches for 214 yards and a pair of touchdowns while Pitts is second with nine grabs for 125 yards.

Joe Woods’ Browns defense will be challenged with containing Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota. Atlanta’s creativity with the run-pass option has caused opponents problems early in the season. Mariota is completing over 63% of his passes for 640 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions to date. He’s also their second-leading rusher with 25 keepers for 92 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The return game on special teams will be something to watch for the Browns.
Demetric Felton, who struggled with bobbles and muffs, likely returns a week after he was subbed out by practice squad receiver/returner Chester Rogers. Rogers could not be elevated this week because the elevations were needed for defensive tackle Roderick Perry II and defensive end Curtis Weaver.

Last week – Browns beat the Steelers 29-17; Falcons beat the Seahawks 27-23

Last Time – November 11, 2018: Browns 28, Falcons 16

Series – Browns lead 12-3-0

Rankings – Points: Browns 6 (28.3), Falcons 9 (26.7)

Yards: Browns 5 (378.7), Falcons 14 (354.3)

Rushing: Browns 1 (190.7), Falcons 5 (156.7)

Passing: Browns 27 (188.0), Falcons 26 (197.7)

Points allowed: Browns 23 (24.0), Falcons T-26 (27.0)

Yards allowed: Browns 14 (323.7), Falcons 22 (380.7)

Rushing yards allowed: Browns 7 (83.7), Falcons T-15 (109.3)

Passing yards allowed: Browns 18 (240.0), Falcons 27 (271.3)

Turnover ratio: Ravens Browns T-6 (+2), Falcons T-24 (-2)

Projected starters for Browns – Offense: WR Amari Cooper, LT Jedrick Wills Jr., LG Joel Bitonio, C Ethan Pocic, RG Wyatt Teller, RT Jack Conklin, TE David Njoku, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, QB Jacoby Brissett, RB Nick Chubb, TE Harrison Bryant

Defense: DE Isaac Rochell, DT Jordan Elliott, DT Tommy Togiai, DE Alex Wright, SAM Sione Takitaki, MIKE Jacob Phillips, WILL Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, CB Denzel Ward, CB Greg Newsome II, SS Grant Dept., FS John Johnson III

Injury report – OUT: DT Taven Bryan (hamstring), OT Joe Haeg (concussion); QUESTIONABLE: DE Jadeveon Clowney (ankle), DE Myles Garrett (shoulder, biceps); EXPECTED TO PLAY: RT Jack Conklin (knee), TE David Njoku (knee); LIMITED: LG Joel Bitonio (biceps), LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (groin), CB Denzel Ward (back, ribs, S Ronnie Harrison (hamstring), DE Isaiah Thomas (hand), WR Amari Cooper (rest)

Uniforms – White jerseys, white pants

Broadcast – Radio: 92.3 The Fan, 98.5 WNCX and the University Hospitals Cleveland Browns radio network. TV: WOIO-TV 19 (CBS)

Kickoff – 1:05 p.m. Mercedes Benz Stadium – Atlanta, Georgia

Prediction – Browns 27, Falcons 26

Featured Image Photo Credit: Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK