Eyes on the Enemy: Cleveland Browns
It will be the first meeting between the Eagles and the Browns since 2016, and there have been plenty of changes since then. The matchup in 2016 was Carson Wentz's NFL debut, and Robert Griffin III was the quarterback in Cleveland. Doug Pederson's team will travel to FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday as their opponents look set to have their best season since 2002 and make a playoff appearance, whilst the Eagles hope to move past their embarrassing loss to the Giants.
The Season so Far:
The Browns are currently 6-3 and sit one place outside of the wildcard places because of defeats to the Baltimore Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders. Following their thrashing against the Ravens in Week One, things have settled down for Cleveland as they have found some consistency. Although they looked ready to have their own quarterback controversy with Baker Mayfield getting ridiculed for his performance in that season opener, he has recovered and thrown 15 touchdowns to seven interceptions.
Kevin Stefanski's team played the Washington Football Team and Dallas Cowboys in Week's three and four, and they managed to beat them both comfortably by two scores. It was the middle of a four-game win streak they went on, which also saw them defeat the Indianapolis Colts by two scores as well. They have also beaten the Cincinnati Bengals twice and most recently the Houston Texans as they find themselves in an unknown position at 6-3.
The only area of frustration for Stefanski will be how his team got bullied in all three defeats. With them all coming to AFC playoff rivals too, it will come as a cause for concern that they have struggled to gain any momentum in all three losses, scoring a total of 19 points.
The Biggest Threat- The Running Game:
The Browns moulded their offense around the running game, and they have the best one-two punch in the NFL with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. They both compliment one another nicely, and with the way the Eagles have played against the run this season it is going to be a long afternoon for Jim Schwartz's unit. Philadelphia spent all afternoon struggling to contain Daniel Jones, Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris last Sunday; so facing an elite duo like that will be giving Schwartz nightmares.
Chubb made his return from injury against the Texans last Sunday, where he had 126 yards rushing and a touchdown. It is beyond ironic that he was allowed a chance to warm up before facing one of the NFL's worst defenses against the run, and in the bottom three for giving up rushing touchdowns. It will be the source of their offense all afternoon, as the Browns rank fourth in rushing yards and third in yards per attempt.
The Browns have also seen two low scoring games in Cleveland the last two weeks due to the extreme weather conditions. It will be something Schwartz and Doug Pederson must game plan for. However, it is hard to be positive, considering the Eagles have failed to stick with the run in windy conditions in their last two games.
What to Target- Get to the Quarterback:
The Browns offensive line has done a much better job at protecting Baker Mayfield this season, only allowing 12 sacks in nine games. However, the two games where they struggled against the opposing teams pass rush, caused total mayhem. In the losses against the Steelers and Ravens, Mayfield got pressured consistently and collapsed under the pressure. His decision making becomes erratic, and in those two defeats the Browns have turned the ball over multiple times.
The Eagles' recipe for success this year has come with getting to the quarterback. In the four games, they have gotten a result in this year, they have had multiple sacks and high rates of quarterback hits. Those, in turn, have caused turnovers, which for the most part the Eagles offense has capitalised on. That will be the real key to the Eagles victory. They need to force Mayfield into mistakes. Their pass rush can be really good, and they have proved it. However, in their defeats this season, the defensive line has failed to put opposing quarterbacks under any duress as they have struggled to collapse or close the pocket consistently. This Sunday will be the one to do it, as they face the 30th ranked passing offense and a quarterback that collapses under pressure.
Who else to watch out for:
Jarvis Landry- Landry is a fantastic wide receiver, and has been one of Mayfield's favourite weapons since coming to Cleveland. He had over 1000 yards with Odell Beckham JR joining the team last year, but this season has seen his production down with only 488 yards and 32 receptions. Beckham tearing his ACL also has not helped that, with him now being the teams top receiver. Expect him to be tracked by Darius Slay all afternoon; however, he will be a threat considering how good he is with the contested catch.
Myles Garrett- Garrett leads the NFL in sacks this season with 9.5, and he will be licking his lips as he faces an offensive line that has failed to be consistent all season. The Eagles have allowed Wentz to be sacked the most out of any quarterback this season, and Jeff Stoutland will have his work cut out preparing his offensive line to block Garrett. The 24-year-old defensive end is in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation, and a big display against a suspect offensive line will be sure to boost his chances. Expect a lot of double and triple blocking against the NFL's sack leader.
Austin Hooper- Having joined Cleveland in a big-money deal this offseason, Hooper has struggled to make the impact that was expected of him. He has more than 50 yards receiving twice, and also missed a month of the season through injury. If there is a game to break out, it will be this one. The Eagles defense allows the fourth-most yards per game to a tight end and has given up six touchdowns to them, which is the third-highest in the league. He may be someone to look out for in fantasy or Draft Kings this weekend.