It’s been 345 days since the Browns last victory which came against Sunday’s opponent: The Los Angeles Chargers. Since then, the team is riding a 12 game losing streak and is marching towards the imperfect season of 0-16.
A “Flash” of hope is returning to the organization with wide receiver Josh Gordon active for an NFL game for the first time since December 21, 2014, a span of 1,079 days. The Browns have won 4 games since that date.
Gordon has looked smooth and like he hasn’t missed a beat in the last two weeks of practice but it’ll be interesting to see what he can do in an actual NFL game.
We got a taste of his ability during the 2016 preseason with those two highlight plays against Brent Grimes of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and he’ll be in for a test against Chargers defensive back Casey Hayward who is playing while still grieving over the loss of his brother last week.
The Browns offense while excited for the return of Gordon has a big test in front of them against a stout Chargers defense led by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram who combined have 19 sacks on the season.
DeShone Kizer had his best performance last week against Cincinatti but he needs to back that up with another solid performance this week instead of taking a step back like he has after good performances earlier in the season.
The Browns defense is in for a tough test as well as the Chargers offense is starting to make some noise especially after their Thanksgiving Day performance against Dallas.
Quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 434 yards and three touchdowns as he picked apart the Cowboys defense. In the month of November, Rivers and the Chargers went 2-1, he completed 66.7% of his passes for 920 yards, 7 touchdowns and an interception.
He has a number of weapons around him including Melvin Gordon who is a threat as a runner and receiver, former Brown Travis Benjamin, Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry and don’t forget about Keenan Allen who hasn’t missed a game this season and is proving to be one of the top receivers in football.
Team Stats (League Rank)
Total Yards: CLE-310.2 ypg (24th), LAC-357.1 (10th)
Passing: CLE-202.8 ypg (25th), LAC-263.9 ypg (4th)
Rushing: CLE-107.4 ypg (17th), LAC-93.2 ypg (25th)
Scoring: CLE-15.1 ppg (32nd), LAC-22.5 ppg (15th)
Total Yards: CLE-318 ypg (9th), LAC-339.5 ypg (17th)
Passing: CLE-220.8 ypg (13th), LAC-296 ypg (7th)
Rushing: CLE-97.2 ypg (8th), LAC-133.5 ypg (32nd)
Scoring: CLE-26.3 ppg (T-30th), LAC-18.4 ppg (6th)
Out: WR Sammie Coates (knee/ankle)
Out: WR Mike Williams (knee)
DB Casey Hayward (calf/personal)-is expected to play according to Adam Schefter.
DT Corey Liuget (toe), K Nick Novak (back)
Matchup To Watch
Spencer Drango/Shon Coleman vs Joey Bosa/Melvin Ingram
The Browns second year tackles are having a struggle in their development as NFL players.
Spencer Drango is filling in for perennial All-Pro Joe Thomas which is no easy task and Shon Coleman while has shown progress at times is having the same struggles that Mitchell Schwartz had early in his career.
According to Fox Sports statistics, Drango has given up 7 sacks which is the second most in the NFL while Coleman is tied for 3rd with 6 sacks allowed.
On Sunday afternoon, they’ll have their biggest tests to date with Chargers pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
Bosa is in his second season out of Ohio State is currently 5th in the NFL with 10.5, the exact number he recorded last year in 12 games played. Ingram is in 6th season out of South Carolina and is currently tied for 12th with 8.5 sacks along with Julius Peppers, Von Miller and Justin Houston, not a bad crop of pass rushers.
If the Browns want any chance to win, it’ll be dependent on Drango and Coleman limiting Bosa and Ingram from getting to DeShone Kizer or it’ll be a long afternoon for Cleveland’s offense.
The Chargers are playing good football right now and it’s at the perfect time as the march towards the playoffs is kicking into high gear.
Philip Rivers is under the radar as always and is continuing to show he’s one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the game. With a plethora of weapons surrounding him and a tough defense to lean on, Los Angeles can sneak into the playoffs this season after a tough couple seasons as well as a controversial move last offseason.
I think Cleveland can keep it close but Bosa and Ingram should force Kizer to make mistakes and expect Hayward as well as Tre Boston who is an underrated safety in the league to pounce on those mistakes.
As far as my expectations for Josh Gordon go, I think he’ll have a productive first game back but I’m not expecting a crazy type stat line like he put up periodically did during his 2013 season. 5 catches for 60 yards and a touchdown would be a nice foundation for his return.
If the Browns want a chance to win, run the ball. Los Angeles is dead last against the run and Crowell and Johnson have been great the last month, use that and attack the Chargers weakness.
In the end though, the Chargers are the better team and they will not be known as the team that lost to Hue Jackson’s Browns two years in a row.
Chargers 27 Browns 17