Earlier this week, Lions running back Ameer Abdullah raised some eyebrows when he called the Browns a good team.
“In the NFL, any Sunday you could lose or win. And they’re a really good team, statistically. Go look them up, defensively. They’re up in the top 10 in a lot of categories, especially run defense I think they’re top five,” Abdullah said.
He has a point. The Browns defense isn’t that bad. In fact, not bad is an understatement. Statistically, they’re good.
The Cleveland Browns are currently the ninth best defense in the league and rank fourth against the run. They’re a team stacked with young talent and Gregg Williams has shown flashes of excellent playcalling this season.
Does that mean the Browns stand a chance in this game?
Playing for Pride
It’s safe to say at this point that the Browns aren’t exactly in the hunt for an AFC playoff spot. It’s also safe to say that they’re in very serious contention for the number one overall pick for yet another year, especially considering the Giants and 49ers meet this weekend in a game that someone is bound to accidentally win.
— SNF on NBC (@SNFonNBC) November 10, 2017
With the win on Thursday, the Seahawks moved to 6-3 and the Cardinals dropped down to 4-5 and out of the playoff picture, barring a miraculous Drew Stanton-led late-season surge.
The Lions, however, are very much in the NFC playoff picture. At 4-4, they’re second place in the NFC North, two games behind the Vikings. With the Packers looking lost without Rodgers and the Bears a few pieces away from really seeming like a threat, the Lions are looking like a team that has a serious chance of overtaking the Vikings or at least grabbing a Wild Card spot in a tough NFC.
Despite it only being Week 10, this feels like a win the Lions should and need to have. With the Rams or Seahawks likely to take one of the Wild Card spots, the Lions are vying for that second spot, competing against teams like the Cowboys (albeit without Elliot), Redskins (4-4), Panthers (6-3), and Falcons (4-4, though looking much worse).
Matthew Stafford is the sneakiest elite quarterback this league has had the past two seasons.
— NFL (@NFL) November 7, 2017
Matthew Stafford (age 29) is 4th-youngest player in NFL history at time of his 200th TD pass (Marino, PManning, Favre)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 7, 2017
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 8, 2017
Okay, maybe not that sneaky.
He’s currently the best quarterback in the NFC North by a mile. NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal has Stafford sitting at 7th in the Week 10 quarterback index, saying, “If playing quarterback were only a contest of which guy could complete the greatest variety of gems showcasing arm strength, touch and a little too much confidence, Stafford might rank ahead of everyone except Aaron Rodgers. When Stafford is on, as he has been the last two weeks, there just aren’t many players better.”
What does this mean for the Browns on Sunday?
Likely a total evisceration of an already shaky secondary. Though Jason McCourty and Briean Boddy-Calhoun are having surprisingly good seasons, the Lions have too many playmakers for the Browns to be able to stop them for all four quarters.
These CBs have been ballhawks this season pic.twitter.com/J60ryeXxEv
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 31, 2017
The Lions are looking for their offense to take the next step in this game. If Golden Tate can make the leap from a good receiver to an elite receiver (he’s already close) it’ll go a long way to helping this Detroit team. Last week against the Packers Tate caught seven passes for 113 yards, averaging 16.1 yards per catch. That marked the third game in a row he’d caught seven passes, and the fifth time this season he’s gone over six receptions.
The sad fact of the matter is that this is more of a momentum-building opportunity for the Lions than it is a winnable football game for the Browns.
If the Cleveland defense plays lights-out, they could keep this team in the game but right now the Browns offense isn’t looking explosive enough to win a close, defensive game.
Cleveland’s only hope would be to dominate at the line of scrimmage and finally get Isaiah Crowell going, but that’s something that everyone has been saying since the whistle blew to start Week 1.
Crowell has averaged 3.4 yards per carry this season and is only averaging 43.9 yards per game. Last year he was average 4.8 behind an offensive line that was supposed to be much worse than the one he’s running behind presently. He’s also only scored one touchdown this season, a huge downgrade from the seven he racked up last season.
It also doesn’t help the confidence of a struggling rookie quarterback that the Browns loudly botched a trade deal to acquire AJ McCarron. Nothing says, “We believe in you,” more than yanking a player in and out of games and then targetting a player who’s yet to throw more than 120 passes at the professional level. What the Browns were supposedly willing to give up for McCarron was even more upsetting.
Don’t look, he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
Wait… the Browns were gonna give up a 2 and 3 for AJ MCCARRON?!?!?! Draft Day was more believable!
— Adam Schein (@AdamSchein) October 31, 2017
You looked. You had one job.
The Lions will likely get over four sacks in this game (they’ve already logged 16 on the season), DeShone Kizer will throw at least one interception (he’s already thrown 11) and Matthew Stafford will end the day with a QBR of above 100.
None of those statements are particularly outlandish, and that goes to show just what kind of season the Cleveland Browns have been having. This is a momentum game for the Lions and a chance for the Browns to flop a bit like the dying fish that they’ve been for the first half of the season.
Cleveland Browns: 13
Detriot Lions: 24
The Browns may score some garbage points to keep this game respectable from a distance, but if the Lions put over twenty on the board the Browns chances of winning drop down to near zero. Until the Browns show that they have some consistent playmakers on offense (such as Josh Gordon, possibly), they’re not going to be taken seriously as an offensive threat in the national football league.