An early Sunday morning international battle on the pitch.
No it’s not Futbol, it’s American football as the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings take part in the latest edition of the NFL London Games at Twickenham Stadium in London, England.
It’s the Browns first trip across the pond for a regular season game but they’ve been to London before. In 1989, they played an exhibition game against the Philadelphia Eagles at the old Wembley Stadium.
For the Browns, it’s a make or break game. They’re 0-7 and dying for a victory at any cost because if they lose and it’s an ugly loss, Jimmy Haslam may lose his patience and look to make changes during the upcoming bye week.
DeShone Kizer will start at quarterback after being benched once again last week in the second half against Tennessee.
The constant yo-yoing of the position has to be frustrating the offensive players but head coach Hue Jackson said turnovers can’t happen (Kizer has 11 interceptions which leads the NFL) and he’s not afraid to make a change to give the Browns a chance to win.
As for Minnesota, they haven’t skipped a beat despite a change at the quarterback position. Sam Bradford has been having trouble with his knee that he’s had surgically repaired twice.
Case Keenum has stepped in and performed well enough to help lead Minnesota to three straight victories due in large part to the running attack.
Dalvin Cook went down with a torn ACL but Jerrick McKinnon and Latavius Murray have stepped up and helped this Vikings offense, averaging 146.6 yards per game during the winning streak.
Their success has also been because of their defense. They rank top 5 in the league in terms of points and yards allowed and will guide them as far as they can go this season. With Aaron Rodgers down likely for the year, Minnesota controls their destiny in the NFC North to make it to the postseason.
Team Stats (League Rank)
Passing: CLE-212.6 ypg (21st), MIN-231.6 ypg (14th)
Rushing: CLE-92.3 ypg (25th), MIN-124.6 ypg (T-9th)
Scoring: CLE-14.7 ppg (31st), MIN-20.9 ppg (19th)
Passing: CLE-221 ypg (16th), MIN-206.4 (12th)
Rushing: CLE-83.7 ypg (5th), MIN-76.6 ypg (3rd)
Scoring: CLE-24.1 ppg (24th), MIN-17 ppg (5th)
Out: DE Myles Garrett (concussion)
Doubtful: CB Jason McCourty (ankle), DT Larry Ogunjobi (groin)
Questionable: S Jabrill Peppers (toe), DT Trevon Coley (neck)
Out: QB Sam Bradford (knee), OL Jeremiah Sirles (knee), DL Stephen Weatherly (knee)
Questionable: DB Mackenzie Alexander (hip), WR Stefon Diggs (groin/ankle), OL Nick Easton (calf), WR Michael Floyd (hamstring), OL Riley Reiff (knee)
Matchup to Watch
OL Spencer Drango vs DE Everson Griffen
For the first time since December 2006, someone other than Joe Thomas will be taking a snap at the left tackle position.
Replacing a future Hall of Famer is no easy task but Spencer Drango has to do just that on Sunday. For his first start at the position, it’s also no easy task to try and shut down the man opposing him, Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen.
Griffen leads the NFL with 9 sacks with at least one in each game this season. When asked by the media how he felt when Joe Thomas went down with an injury, Griffen reportedly had a big grin on his face because he knows his job to get the quarterback became easier.
The Browns have four tight ends now on the active roster and I expect the Browns to use a lot of three tight end set plays on offense to give Drango some help but expect Griffen to have a big day against Drango.
The Minnesota Vikings are on a absolute roll right now and I don’t see the Browns stopping them in London.
With key injuries all over the Browns defense, the Vikings offense should attack those weakness and dominate on both sides of the ball.
The Browns are a mess and it seems to get messier with each passing day whether it’s injuries, quarterback changes or the poor decision making by the coaches and the front office.
I know some teams go to London and become a completely different looking team but I’m not expecting that from Cleveland.
DeShone Kizer, while he says he’ll continue to stay aggressive I believe will play conservative to avoid being benched for the third time in four games.
Minnesota wins in a blowout and will force Jimmy Haslam to make changes once again in the organization.
Vikings 31 Browns 0