This Sunday, the Green Bay Packers will travel to FirstEnergy Stadium and take on the Cleveland Browns. The Packers are currently 6-6 and are four games back of the Vikings in the NFC North. However, the Packers are only two games back of an NFC Wild Card spot and will need to essentially win out in order to have a shot at making the playoffs. The Browns, on the other hand are currently 0-12 and are leading the charge for the first pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Anytime a team is playing the Browns, the odds have to be in their favor. However, Cleveland has won one game since the start of the 2016 NFL season. One has to assume that they have to win one game eventually.
There are three specific matchups that can decide this game:
1. Brett Hundley vs. Cleveland’s Secondary
After losing Aaron Rodgers for the season over a month ago, Brett Hundley has been inconsistent to say the least. Hundley has struggled with his accuracy and has thrown eight interceptions since becoming the starter. Two weeks ago, Hundley torched the Steelers by throwing for three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The following week, Hundley threw for a pedestrian 84 yards along with zero touchdowns and one interception.
Hundley’s success depends on the play calling of Mike McCarthy. Last week, the Packers ran the ball early and often which led to Hundley’s awful statistics. However, in the instances where he was asked to throw, Hundley was consistently missing his receivers and will need to improve on that against the lowly Cleveland defense. However, it is expected to snow in Cleveland during the game so one has to wonder how the former UCLA Bruin Hundley will perform in these freezing conditions.
2. The Packers’ Defense vs. DeShone Kizer
Last week, the Packers got torched by Buccaneers’ quarterback Jameis Winston. He completed 21 of 32 passes and threw for two touchdowns. His statistics could have been even better had he not fumbled two snaps inside Green Bay’s ten yard line. However, the Packers’ pass rush came to play last week and sacked Winston a season-high seven times. If the Packers continue to rush the passer with that type of ferocity, it is extremely likely that Cleveland’s rookie quarterback, DeShone Kizer, will struggle on Sunday.
Somehow someway, Kizer is still the starting quarterback for the Browns. As a passer, Kizer is completing a pedestrian 52.5% of his passes. To make matters worse, Kizer has also only thrown for six touchdowns in contrast to his 15 interceptions. However, Kizer does have five rushing touchdowns this season which provide him with a minor boost to his statistics. The second round pick isn’t entirely to blame, however, as Corey Coleman, the Browns’ number one receiver entering the season, missed several games due to a broken hand. In addition, receiver Josh Gordon has finally returned to the NFL after serving a year-long suspension for drugs. With both weapons finally on the field together, they can give Green Bay’s secondary some serious problems due to their speed and athletic prowess. If Gordon and Coleman get loose, the Packers might be on upset alert.
3. Green Bay’s Offensive Line vs. Cleveland’s Defensive Line
At long last, Green Bay’s offensive line finally played well last week. However, I personally think it is a fluke due to the ineptitude of Tampa Bay’s defensive line. Tampa Bay entered the game last in the NFL in sacks and still came away with two against the Packers. The Packers offensive line has been atrocious this season and Bryan Bulaga’s torn ACL has not improved this glaring concern.
On the bright side for the Packers, Cleveland, statistically, is tied for the 22nd-best pass rush in the entire league. The Buccaneers only have 24 sacks all season and have struggled to generate consistent pressure all season. However, the Browns do have rookie Myles Garrett who is more than capable of exposing Green Bay’s weak offensive line. The first overall pick, Garrett has five sacks in just seven games. Garrett has a lethal combination of size and speed and needs to be watched throughout the entire game. Overall, this matchup will pit two dreadful units against each other and only one side can come out being the victor.
As for my prediction, I expect the Packers to win. This game is a must-win for the Packers who are competing for a playoff spot. This game is even more important with the rumors that Aaron Rodgers will be returning next week to potentially lead the Packers to the promised land. Cleveland is a terrible football team and I expect it to show again on Sunday. I expect Gordon and Coleman to make some plays but I think that Cleveland will struggle to generate anything consistently on offense due to the snow.
Prediction: Packers 28, Browns 14