The 0-8 Cleveland Browns will face off against the 6-1 Dallas Cowboys tomorrow and this is an interesting game for both teams.
The Browns are trying to win a game for the first time under head coach Hue Jackson and with rookie quarterback Cody Kessler back under center along with the return of first round pick Corey Coleman, the Browns offense will be at full strength for the first time all season.
And with the newest acquisition of linebacker Jamie Collins, the Browns defense may have found their spark plug. He steps on the roster as arguably their best defensive player and with the comments made by national analyst Michael Lombardi about Collins performance, he’ll have a lot to prove which could lead to more production out of the rest of the defense as teams will look to stop the fourth year player.
As for the Dallas Cowboys, this will be their biggest test at the quarterback position. If Dak Prescott can come out and take care of business against a bad Cleveland defense, he’ll remain the starter for good. But if he has some hiccups, owner and general manager Jerry Jones will push Tony Romo back into the starting role.
As an outsider, I see no point in Dallas going back to Romo. The fourth round pick has exceeded expectations this year and has been a big hand in the Cowboys’ hot start. Thrusting Romo back in would kill the vibe and possibly the success of Dallas as they sit in first place in the NFC East.
Matchup to Watch
Browns receivers vs Cowboys secondary
The Cowboys suffered two big losses on defense last week with the injuries to cornerback Morris Claiborne and strong safety Barry Church. Both will be sidelined for at least a month and it’s a shame too because while Dallas has no elite players on that side of the ball, the defense was playing very well so far this year.
The Browns will still be in for a tough test however, the secondary even without Claiborne and Church still grade out well throughout. Anthony Brown and Brandon Carr will start and both grade as close to high average corners according to Pro Football Focus. 2015 first round pick Byron Jones is having a strong year at free safety and J.J. Wilcox should fill in fine in Church’s absence.
The Browns receiving corp has been good but will get a shot in the arm this week with Corey Coleman’s return. Coleman flashed his big play potential in week 2 against Baltimore with 105 yards and two touchdowns. He broke his hand in practice after that and hasn’t seen the field since.
With Coleman back it should take pressure off Terrelle Pryor but the pressure of Pryor being the top dawg on offense hasn’t fazed him. With 41 catches, 532 yards and three touchdowns, Pryor has proven a lot of critics wrong this season and should continue to do so this week.
Keys to the game
Stop Ezekiel Elliott
If the Browns want any chance at victory, they have to find a way to stop rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott. The third overall pick in this last April’s NFL draft is putting together one of the best rookie seasons of all time. With 799 rushing yards and five touchdowns, Elliott is staying on pace with Adrian Peterson and Eric Dickerson and their rookie rushing totals.
The Browns run defense has struggled the last few weeks but Jamie Collins will be a big help in that category. He grades out above average in stopping the run and will set the edge to help limit Elliott’s runs to the outside. Danny Shelton has been a major improvement from his rookie season and will hopefully plug up the middle to stop the talented former Buckeye.
Get the run game going
What was once the best run game has disappeared. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson were going through defenses like a hot knife through butter the first few weeks of the season. Then once New England came to town, the run game vanished and hasn’t returned except for when backup quarterback Kevin Hogan ran wild all over Cincinnati.
They’ll be in for a tough test with the Cowboys defense as they’re 10th in the league in stopping the run. On average they’re giving up around 92 yards on the ground per game. But when looking at the Pro Football Focus grades outside of defensive lineman Terrell McClain, the Cowboys defenders grade poorly in run defense. This could be the game to reignite the Browns run attack.
Cowboys 31 Browns 10
I hate predicting the Browns are going to lose but I’m going with my head instead of my heart. Maybe this will be the game Dak Prescott collapses and has a horrible game but I doubt it. The Browns secondary has been one of, if not the worst in football and even if Dez Bryant is out, Prescott should carve up that secondary.
Not to mention he’s got Ezekiel Elliott behind him in the backfield and with this being Elliott’s first game in Ohio since leaving Ohio State, I expect him to put on another show for the Buckeye State.