Battered and bruised, the Cleveland Browns host the St. Louis Rams this Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Browns (3-5) were totally dominated by the Houston Texans last week, while the Rams (1-7) lost in overtime to the Arizona Cardinals.
The Browns will be facing a Rams defense that ranks 32nd in rushing yards while ranking 12th in passing yards. They allow 26.4 points a game and give up a total of 375 yards per game. While the Rams' defensive stats are not impressive, neither are the Browns' offensive stats.
The Browns offense has been non-effective the majority of this season, and will not get any better Sunday. Starting running backs Peyton Hillis (hamstring) and Montario Hardesty (calf) will once again pass on the rushing duties to Thomas Clayton and Chris Ogbonnaya. In the thrashing received courtesy of the Texans, Ogbonnaya and Clayton amassed a total of 38 yards on 18 carries.
Yes, the Rams are ranked 32nd in rushing yards allowed; however, given the performance of the Browns offensive line in opening up running lanes, I doubt that two practice squad running backs will perform well enough to carry the Browns to victory, leaving any hope for a win in the hands of the Browns passing attack.
The Browns version of the West Coast offense—more like the "Chuck and Duck" offense—has shown little to make one believe they can overcome the lack of a running game. The Browns offensive line is being overran by defenders, stopping the run on the way to the quarterback, who is either sacked, hurried, knocked down or "chucks it and ducks." This is usually what happens when the offensive line collapses—receivers have little time to form separation and a young quarterback (whose accuracy and arm strength are still in question) has little time to plant his foot and throw.
The Rams defense does not compare to the dominating defense of the Texans, but given the performance of the Browns offense this season, it does not take a very dominant defense to shut down the Browns.
The Rams have an offense that ranks 18th in rushing yards and 26th in passing yards and will be facing a Browns defense ranked first—yes, first—in passing yards allowed and 30th in rushing yards allowed.
Last week the Browns defense showed it can be ran on and effectively, giving up 262 yards to the Texans and allowing two100-yard rushing performances in the same game. The Rams will surely give the Browns a healthy dose of Steven Jackson (113 ATT, 578 YDS, 5.1 YPC, 4 TDs) and Cadillac Williams (60 ATT, 237 YDS, 4 YPC, 0 TDs).
Once an effective running game is established, it opens the door for a passing game and an aerial attack. Although the Rams are ranked 26th via the air with 202 yards on average, expect Sam Bradford to complete enough passes to keep the Browns defense "honest."
Browns coach Pat Shurmur is going to have to have to add some dazzle—if possible—to what many call his predictable play calling. The Rams know Shurmur; he was their offensive coordinator last season. The offense is going to have to play to its strengths and steer away from its weaknesses and the defense is going to have to stop the run, making Bradford beat the team via the air if the Browns have any hope.
The Browns look tired and lost—a team without direction. They enter this game without a rushing attack to take heat off a questionable passing attack. The Rams will copy the game plan of every team that faces the Browns—blitz, blitz and blitz—and take out the runner on the way to Colt McCoy.
Rams 24, Browns 17