The Cleveland Browns (2-5) are rolling into the “Mile High City” to face the Denver Broncos (2-6) on Sunday in what is a must-win game for Cleveland if they want to have any shot to turn this season around after such high expectations.
It was another week worth of off the field distractions with Baker Mayfield’s “blow up” towards a member of the Cleveland media along with the questions about whether or not head coach Freddie Kitchens is fit for the job and can potentially salvage a season that had so much promise and hype during the offseason.
Denver is rolling out Brandon Allen who despite being in the league since 2016 will be making his regular-season debut after Joe Flacco was placed on injured reserve with a neck injury.
The Broncos have kept games close all season with one of the top defenses but their offense just hasn’t been able to put it all together and now what seems like a lost season, they will look towards the future with second-round pick Drew Lock’s return on the horizon.
Keys to the Game
In order for the Browns to win this game against Denver, the offense is going to have to lean on Nick Chubb. The Broncos have a strong secondary led by Chris Harris along with Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons.
However, their run defense is around the middle of the pack as they rank 19th against the run giving up 109 yards per game.
Chubb is coming off a game in which he rushed for 131 yards against New England despite fumbling on back to back carries. The second-year back ranks third in the NFL in terms of rushing yards and despite the return of Kareem Hunt looming, don’t expect his playing time or production to slow down especially if he can put together another strong performance against a tough defense as he has in recent weeks.
Now much like I said the Browns need to lean on Nick Chubb offensively in order to win, the Browns need to stop the Broncos rushing attack defensively if they want to win.
With Allen never taking a snap or pass in the regular season, I’m sure Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello will look to lean on Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman to ease the pressure off of Allen.
Lindsay and Freeman have combined for 1,193 yards from scrimmage through eight games and have excelled in both the rushing and receiving game through the first half of the season.
Cleveland has struggled against the run as they currently rank 29th in the NFL giving up 143 yards per game on the ground. In order to win this game, Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks needs to make sure that Lindsay and Freeman are stopped or it’s going to be a long flight back to Cleveland.
Expect this to be a close, low scoring contest. The Browns offense has been struggling to get into a rhythm and expect the Broncos defense to make sure they don’t get into a rhythm against them.
Wilks and the Browns defense will do all they can to make sure Brandon Allen is rattled and has no composure in his NFL debut. If they can shut down Freeman and Lindsay, it’ll be a long day for the Denver offense.