Cleveland Browns: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 9

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Cleveland Browns: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 9

The Cleveland Browns have lost three games in a row but will head back home to try and turn things around with a new starting quarterback and against a divisional foe. Quarterback Jason Campbell breathed new life into an offense that had flatlined under Brandon Weeden.

Campbell was able to throw for 293 yards which is the most since Brian Hoyer threw for 321 yards in Week 3 against the Minnesota Vikings. The Browns nearly pulled off a shocker and knocked off the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs on the road.

The Browns will now face the Baltimore Ravens for the second time this season. Last time they met was Week 2 when the Browns managed just 259 total yards and six points.

The Ravens are coming off their bye week. They lost two games in a row before their week off and will try to bounce back against a Browns team that held a 6-0 lead over them at halftime in their first matchup before scoring 14 unanswered second-half points.

This game could be a turning point for both teams. The Browns could head into their bye week with a firm hold on second place in the division, or the Ravens could start their second half of the season with a victory. One team will be headed in the right direction after Sunday’s contest.

 

AFC North Standings

Team

Win

Loss

Tie

Win %

Home

Away

Division

Streak

Bengals

6

2

0

.750

4-0-0

2-2-0

1-1-0

Won 4

Ravens

3

4

0

.429

2-1-0

1-3-0

1-1-0

Lost 2

Browns

3

5

0

.375

2-2-0

1-3-0

1-1-0

Lost 3

Steelers

2

5

0

.286

1-2-0

1-3-0

1-1-0

Lost 1

 

The Cincinnati Bengals are red-hot and have won four in a row after losing to the Browns in Week 4. Quarterback Andy Dalton threw for 697 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception in their last two games. Last week, they destroyed the New York Jets, 49-9, and could be the hottest team in the NFL.

The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to struggle to find their footing. Last week, they were defeated by the Terrell Pryor-led Oakland Raiders. The once-proud defense allowed a 93-yard touchdown run by Pryor on the first play from scrimmage, and that was basically the end of the game.

As crazy as it sounds, the Browns are still very much in the thick of the AFC North race. They currently hold the tiebreaker over the Bengals because of their head-to-head win in Week 4.

 

Injury Report

  • DE Billy Winn (quad) did not play on Sunday and will get a status update Wednesday.
  • OLB Quentin Groves (ankle) did not play on Sunday and will get a status update Wednesday.
  • WR Travis Benjamin (knee) will have ACL surgery and is out for the year.

Winn seems very close to returning. He has practiced and could very well play this week. Groves’ situation is interesting because he already battled this ankle injury and then returned to play. After just one game, he was back out of practice.

Travis Benjamin’s season-ending knee surgery is a heartbreaker for the Browns. He had been their main weapon on special teams and helped the struggling offense by setting them up with great field position.

The Browns probably missed an opportunity while Benjamin was healthy. He only touched the ball six times on offense this year and accounted for 150 yards.

 

What Must Improve

Clutch plays

The loss to the Chiefs has many culprits, but two of them were very surprising. Veteran wide receiver Davone Bess was the biggest and most notable in the game.

He had three dropped passes and a muffed punt. The punt would have set the Browns up with the ball around the 50-yard line, down just three points and with less than seven minutes to go.

Pro Bowl offensive lineman Joe Thomas also had multiple mental errors. These two should be leaders late in close games. This young roster needs the players with experience to set the correct example late in games and not make simple mental mistakes.

While many fans called for Bess to be cut this week, there is no way the team can do that. For starters, the Browns just signed him to a four-year contract worth $14 million this past offseason. Secondly, the roster does not have a viable replacement for him in the wide receiver corps. Finally, he is the new punt returner now that Benjamin is gone.

Like it or not, Bess will be a large part of the team for the rest of the season.

 

Defense Needs to Play an Entire Game

The Browns defense allowed 20 first-half points to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. They allowed only three in the second half.

The defense has yet to play at a high level for four straight quarters. They have now allowed 23 or more points in six of their eight games this season. Over the last four games, they have allowed 30.5 points per game.

If the defense could play four straight quarters of consistent football, the Browns would probably have at least two more wins.

Usually the offense plays a part in the defensive struggles because they fail to move the ball for long stretches, but there was no excuse on Sunday. They could not get the Chiefs off the field on third downs in the first half when they were still fresh.

It may not be fair that the defense has to carry the majority of the workload, but it is the reality of the situation. If they truly want to be elite, then they have to pick up the slack the very young offense cannot maintain.

 

Penalties

Penalties have been an issue the entire year. The Browns are the most penalized team in the NFL. According to NFLPenalties.com, the Browns have been penalized for 546 yards this season.

They are averaging 7.5 penalties per game, which is fifth in the league. The worst part of it all is that the penalties seem to come at the most inopportune times.

When your roster is among the youngest in the league and lacks depth at a number of positions, you cannot afford to commit penalties that can cost you games. That is exactly what the Browns do, though.

Joe Thomas and cornerback Joe Haden are tied for the third-most penalized players in the league. Cornerback Buster Skrine is tied for fifth. These things have to be cleaned up.

 

(All quotes and observations were gathered firsthand, unless otherwise noted)

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