Cleveland and Washington are headed in opposite directions entering Week 3.
The Browns lost badly to the Ravens in Week 1, following that up with a take-care-of-business Week 2 win over the Bengals last Thursday. Washington pulled the upset over the Eagles in their opener and fell to the Cardinals in Week 2. Oddsmakers see Cleveland as a 7.5-point favorite (GambetDC).
Date: Sunday, September 27
Time: 1:00 pm ET
Location: First Energy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
Line: Browns -7.5 (-108)
Over/Under: 44.5 (-114)
Cleveland and Washington have battled 46 times throughout NFL history, with the Browns leading the all-time series 33-12-1. Washington has won the last three matchups with Cleveland’s last win coming in 2004 when Jeff Garcia bested Mark Brunell.
There wasn’t much explosion on that 2004 Washington offense and there isn’t much more on this year’s version. Dwayne Haskins & Co. are averaging just 4.3 yards per play and 3.3 yards per carry. If Cleveland can get out to an early lead, Washington has little chance to keep up.
Let’s dive into the Week 3 matchup:
- OUT: CB Greedy Williams (shoulder), DE Olivier Vernon (abdomen), and LB Jacob Phillips (knee).
- Questionable: CB Denzel Ward (groin), LB Mack Wilson (knee), and DE Adrian Clayborn (hip).
Washington Football Team
- OUT: OT Saahdiq Charles (thigh) and LB Cole Holcomb (knee)
- Questionable: WR Steven Sims (toe)
Washington’s offensive line took a hit last week with All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff hitting IR (Scherff is expected back in 3-to-5 weeks, per Pro Football Action). Morgan Moses was on the injury report earlier in the week but he’s set to suit up. Ron Rivera has allowed Dwayne Haskins to be pressured on 28% of his dropbacks through two games and the team’s banged-up line won’t help matters.
Can Cleveland Control Washington’s Pass-Rush?
Washington’s defense had a dominant performance in their upset win over the Eagles and even after a slightly less impressive game against the Cardinals, the Football Team ranks first in DVOA on that side of the ball. They lead the league in sacks (11) and have pressured opposing QBs on 13.8% of their passing attempts, which is second in the league (Colts).
The matchup between No. 2 Overall pick Chase Young, who has looked the part of a future Hall-of-Famer through two weeks, and No. 10 overall Jedrick Wills Jr. will be key in determining which franchise comes out victorious.
While Cleveland’s offense seemingly got back on track against the Bengals in Week 2, they are still not an efficient bunch. Only six teams (including Washington) have a worst offensive DVOA. Against, a much fiercer defense, expect the Hulu spokesman to end up closer to the 53.9% completion percentage he netted in Week 1 than the nearly 70% figure he earned in Week 2.
Stopping Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt
Only five teams have called a rushing attempt on a higher percentage of their plays than the Browns so far in this young season (49.21%). New coach Kevin Stefanski preached running the ball leading up to the season and he’s following through with his plans to keep Baker Mayfield from having to do too much.
The Browns rank second in the league in rushing, netting 176.5 yards per game, as Eddie McDonald of Pro Football Action details. The tandem of Nick Chubb (184 rushing yards on the season) and Kareem Hunt (158 yards) is the best 1-2 punch in the league and expect both guys to see plenty of work against Washington’s strong defensive line.
Tight end Logan Thomas has quietly been a major part of the offense, Ben Standig of The Athletic explained on a recent episode of Desktop GM.
Thomas has only 63 receiving yards through his first two games, though his 27.0% target share trails only Darren Waller, who is seeing an unbelievable 38.7% share. Cleveland is a neutral matchup against tight ends, as Scott Spratt writes on Football Outsiders, so this could be a breakout game for the former Virginia Tech QB.
Prediction: Cleveland Win, Doesn’t Cover
- Browns 23-17
Cleveland has failed to cover in each of their past five games and I expect that trend to continue to six. Haskins needs to avoid turnovers and that’s a big ask, though the Browns’ depleted secondary may not be able to capitalize off the Maryland-native’s mistakes. Expect Washington to keep it close but not have enough no pull off the upset.
You can follow Chris Crouse on Twitter at @NBACrouse
Record on the Season