The Cleveland Browns have placed superstar defensive end Myles Garrett on the COVID-19 List, meaning he will not play Sunday at home versus the Eagles. This is devastating news coming out of Berea. The Browns are sitting pretty at 6-3 on the year, but if the playoffs started today, they would be the first team out. The Browns have a remaining schedule of home match-ups versus the Eagles, Ravens, and Steelers. They will go on the road to play Jacksonville, the Titans, the Giants, and the Jets. With Philadelphia having a record of 3-5-1, they somehow sit atop the NFC East standings.
Many people had penciled this game as a win for the Browns to move them to 7-3. However, without Garrett, that feat will be much harder than anticipated. The best case scenario for the Browns would be an 11-5 finish, adding victories over Philadelphia, the Jets, Giants, Jacksonville, and Mike Vrabel’s Titans. Without Garrett playing this week, that 11-5 record seems like a pipe dream. The Browns have enough offensive fire-power to beat the Giants, Jets, and Jaguars without Garrett. However, the toss up games like Philadelphia and the Titans, would suddenly become tough tasks without Garrett. With games versus the 6-3 Ravens and 9-0 Steelers, those are almost definite losses.
Hopefully Garrett will only be out one week, but nothing is for sure. The Browns have had tremendous luck this year when it comes to COVID-19 test results. Other than Chubb missing time because of an injured knee, and losing Odell Beckham Jr., for the year because of a torn ACL, no key Browns player has missed time because of the virus. The Browns released this statement on Friday morning:
“This morning the Cleveland Browns were informed that a player has tested positive for COVID-19,” the Browns wrote in a statement. “Contact tracing has been conducted and the individual has self-isolated.
“He has not been in the facility all week and zero high-risk contact have been identified. Our facility remains open and our practice time for today remains as scheduled. As part of the NFL-NFLPA intensive protocols, all meetings this morning will take place remotely. The team will continue to consult with the league and medical experts on any appropriate next steps as the health and safety of our players, coach, staff and the entire community remains our highest priority.” (Browns Nation) (AP)
Garrett has stayed home all week, and missed practice because he was sick. Heading into week 11 of the NFL slate, Garrett leads the league in sacks (9.5) and four forced fumbles. Piling on top of the bad news, is the news released on Wednesday that right tackle Jack Conklin, kicker Cody Parkey, and long-snapper Charley Hughlett were also placed on the COVID-19 list. Hughlett was listed as the teams long-snapper on the depth chart released Friday, so it’s almost a sure thing he will play. However, without Conklin and Parkey, who join offensive lineman Chris Hubbard, and fullback Andy Janovich on the COVID-19 list, a win over a scrappy Eagles team seems like a long-shot.
Week 11 Preview: Eagles at Browns
- As stated above, this game, that at one point seemed like a probable win, is going to be much harder than anticipated. The Eagles lead a putrid NFC East division with a 3-5-1 record. The Browns sit at 6-3, after a hard earned win last week over the Houston Texas in horrible weather. Thankfully, running back Nick Chubb returned for the Browns last week after missing four games due to a sprained MCL. Chubb and backfield teammate, Kareem Hunt, were huge reasons the Browns were able to pull out last weekend. Chubb rushed 19 times for 126 yards and a touchdown. Hunt on the other hand, also carried the rock 19 times for 104 yards. Both will be key factors in the game on Sunday.
- The last two games the Browns have played, at home versus the Raiders and Texans, have been played in horrible weather. Versus Jon Gruden’s Raiders, FirstEnergy Stadium had wind gusts up to 30 mph, strong rain fall, and frigid cold temperatures. The game versus the Texans was more of the same, if not worse. The game was delayed because of severe weather. After the players waited out the delay and came back on to the field, the weather was hurricane-like. Wind gusts were in the 50-55 mph range and the rain and sleet made the game a defensive battle full of offensive mistakes.
- Finally after two bad weather games, it looks like the Browns might actually host a game with decent weather late in November, when the Cleveland weather can be crazy. This weekend wind gusts are expected to be in the five mph range and it has a 60% chance of rain. The Browns have made a name for themselves throughout the league that they can win ugly. Quarterback has developed a mantra for the tough weather games, speaking to reporters that the Browns seem to be living by lately: “Just take care of the ball.” Mayfield can be prone to interceptions, so this means as much to him as anyone else on the Browns sideline
Four Keys to Victory On Sunday Versus the Eagles:
- Run the Rock, Then Run it More: It is no mystery that the Browns are more successful when they run the ball. With Chubb back in the fold in the backfield, they need to run the ball more than ever. Both Kareem Hunt and Chubb eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards last weekend versus the Texans. The Browns are 3-0 this season when Nick Chubb eclipses 100-yards rushing. In the Browns three losses (Steelers, Ravens, and Raiders), they have rushed for a total of 314 yards, and no one has eclipsed the 100-yard mark. Even with Chubb missing four games the Browns are still third in the league in rushing yards per game, at 159. The Eagles are 24th in the league in rushing defense. Through nine games they have given up 1,197 rushing yards, which is an average of 133 yards per game. The Browns should be able to move the ball up and down the field on the ground versus Philadelphia. With the offensive line still mostly intact, and the return of run-blocking dominant right guard Wyatt Teller, we should see Hunt and Chubb break off 4-5 runs over 15 yards.
- Keep Baker Clean and Don’t Force Him to Throw More than 30 Times: Possibly the biggest impact the ground game has, is at the quarterback position. Baker Mayfield has struggled at times when he is forced to throw a lot. When Mayfield throws at least two touchdowns the Browns are 5-0. Of those five games, Baker has thrown the ball 30 times or less, the Browns are 4-0. The lone outlier being the Colts game where Mayfield had 37 pass attempts for two touchdowns, but two interceptions. With Odell Beckham Jr. being out for the season, the Browns have run a lot of two tight end sets with David Njoku, Austin Hooper, and rookie Harrison Bryant. Head coach Kevin Stefanski and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt have done a good job this year of using the dominant running game to open up lanes for Mayfield to throw into. On the defensive side of the ball the Eagles are fifth in the league in passing yards allowed with 1,906. However, as stated above, they are pretty weak in rushing defense. In a perfect scenario, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt would combine for over 200 yards on the ground, with three touchdowns. While Baker Mayfield is 17-23 for 215 yards and one or two touchdowns. Let’s hope this becomes a reality on Sunday.
- Without Myles Garrett, the Browns Need to Find Ways to Put Pressure on Carson Wentz: The Browns are 14th in the NFL in total yards allowed. They are also in the top half of the league (15th) in yards allowed per game at 357. While the defense has looked terrible at times this year, looking at you Andrew Sendejo, they are solid as a unit for the most part. However, Myles Garrett is the main reason the Browns defense is where it is. He leads the league in sacks with 9.5 and has four forced fumbles. Not only does he sack the quarterback, and force fumbles, but by simply putting pressure in the quarterback’s face, he forces opposing quarterbacks to make mistakes. The Browns are 12th in the league with 22 sacks, mostly because of Garrett. This week versus the Eagles, they must put pressure on Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. He is 21st in the league with 2,091 yards passing. However he only averaged 232 yards per game passing and has completed just 58% of his passing attempts. He has also only thrown 12 touchdowns, which is less than Baker Mayfield. Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods needs to find ways to make Wentz uncomfortable in the pocket. Whether that is Sheldon Richardson, Larry Ogunjobi, and Olivier Vernon stepping up, or picking up the pressure by blitzing, they need to stop Wentz from getting into a groove. Look for Woods on Sunday to bring blitzes from linebackers and nickel and dime defensive backs. Putting pressure on Wentz is a must for the Browns to win on Sunday. He has thrown 12 interceptions this year, which brings me to my next point..
- Force Turnovers: The Browns are somehow still tied for sixth in the league in turnover differential (Colts and Saints also +4). They have a turnover differential of +4, which is clearly towards the top of the league. They have seven interceptions on the year, to go along with seven fumbles recovered. However, four of those fumbles were strip sacks by Garrett. As stated above, Carson Wentz is prone to throwing interceptions, so Terrance Mitchell, Andrew Sendejo, Ronnie Harrison Jr., Kevin Johnson, and of course Denzel Ward need to have quick reactions when the ball is in the air. The Browns are second in the league in defensive pass interference calls, with only one. It’s tough to tell if that’s good or bad. Andrew Sendejo, Ronnie Harrison Jr., and Kevin Johnson have often times been burned so bad they can’t even reach out to tug on a jersey to draw the flag. The Eagles are near the bottom of the league with 17 giveaways. Look for the Browns defense to play aggressively, ripping at the ball and taking some gambles to try and force an interception. If the Browns can force 2-3 turnovers from the Eagles, they should be in good shape.
- BONUS: Please Get Jarvis Landry in the End Zone this Week: Somehow through nine games this year, Jarvis has not found the end zone. Oddly enough he has thrown for more touchdown passes than receptions for touchdowns. In week four at Dallas, Landry opened the scoring with a 37-yard touchdown toss to buddy Odell Beckham Jr. Again in week seven at Cincinnati, Landry also went 1-1 through the air with a 19-yard pass to rookie receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones. With the Eagles prone to be caught out of position at times, Stefanski and Van Pelt need to find a way to get the ball to Jarvis Landry in the end zone.
Final Prediction For Sunday’s Game: Browns 34-28 over the Eagles. Chubb rushes for 130 yards and two scores, and Kareem Hunt rushes for 85 yards and catches a touchdown pass from Mayfield. Speaking of Mayfield, he will go 16-24 for 205 passing yards and two touchdowns. Kicker Cody Parkey nails two field goals, one from the Eagles 25 and one from the Eagles 34.
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