Alright. It’s Week 8. Is this a must-win game for the Cleveland Browns?
Some may say it is, others might disagree. A football game will be played on Sunday in the Pacific Northwest as the Seattle Seahawks will face off with the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns will be playing their second NFC West opponent this season after upsetting the San Francisco 49ers back in Week 6. After playing on the NFL on CBS last week, the Browns will be on the NFL on Fox (should be the Sunday night game but we can’t get what we want now can we?). Due to Joe Davis calling the World Series on Fox, Adam Amin is elevated to the B-Team with Daryl Johnson and Pam Oliver.
Since Seattle is playing on the West Coast, instead of a 1:00 pm kickoff, the game will start at 4:05. Here are the 4 things to watch for
Silence the 12’s
Lumen Field, previously known as CenturyLink Field, is one of the most difficult places to play in the NFL. It might not be near what Arrowhead Stadium is in Kansas City with the but it’s difficult to win up there.
Considering how the Seahawks unveiled their throwback uniform from the 90’s (the unis are crispy by the way) (Old man editor’s translation: uniforms are pretty awesome) the crowd is going to be loud and they are going to be active. As someone who has watched Seattle closely throughout the years, if you want to beat Seattle you have to do these two specific things.
- Take the crowd out
- Start fast on offense and set the tone early
Quarterback Deshaun Watson is not going to play on Sunday, so PJ Walker will get the start. Cleveland’s offense hasn’t been great this season but they are going up against a Seattle defense that’s a lot better than people think:
- 9th in Defensive EPA/per play
- 6th in Rushing Defense
- 8th in Rushing EPA/per play
Cleveland should attempt to try to find success in the passing game, Seattle’s secondary is solid but you can pick on the linebackers (mainly Bobby Wagner) with some man-beater routes and get the matchups you want. Expect Cleveland to use the silent count due to the loud crowd because no one forces more false starts than the 12’s. Here’s proof going back to Week 3.
Force turnovers on defense and make life uncomfortable for QB Geno Smith
Last week, Cleveland’s defense was able to force four turnovers against the Indianapolis Colts. The two forced fumbles on defense and an interception as well as a blocked field goal is something that the Browns defense was lauded for.
Can it continue against a Seahawks offense that rarely turns the ball over?
Seattle is tied for 5th in giveaways but for the past few games, Seattle has been turning the ball over more than usual, and it’s a mixture of unforced and forced. The one thing that I have noticed when I have watched quarterback Geno Smith is it seems to be that he is pressing more. What I mean by that is Geno is trying to do too much when he doesn’t have to.
Smith had an interception in the red zone last week against the Arizona Cardinals, and the previous week against the Cincinnati Bengals.
If Cleveland is going to have a chance in this game, they should follow the game plan that they used against the 49ers: Make the quarterback uncomfortable.
Smith wasn’t under duress against the Cardinals but he was against the Bengals. With right tackle Abraham Lucas still recovering from knee surgery, either Jake Curhan or Stone Forsythe will get the start.
As for the right guard situation, it’s unclear who could start there (it could be rookie Anthony Bradford or Jason Peters). Seattle’s offensive line is banged up, but it has been serviceable so expect Cleveland to take advantage of it in pass-rushing situations.
How will Cleveland’s defense respond after a struggling performance against the Indianapolis Colts
Despite being the best defense in the league, Cleveland’s defense was anything but that last Sunday. It happens. One week you are playing exceptionally, the next week you are in a dogfight with Gardner Minshew. It happens.
Seattle’s offense has been efficient despite their woes in the red zone. Smith is a capable quarterback, the running game with Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet can cause issues, and the passing game with DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jake Bobo and Noah Fant can cause issues. The secondary will face a stiffer test this week.
- Denzel Ward/Greg Newsome/Martin Emerson vs DK Metcalf/Tyler Lockett/Jaxon Smith-Njigba
We will witness cinema. DK will be back this week after missing last week, Lockett is arguably the best receiver of the trio but is questionable for the game and JSN started to find a rhythm last week.
Seattle can generate explosive plays offensive while Cleveland’s defense prevents them. The run defense will also be tested with Walker and Charbonnet so the Browns can’t just focus on shutting one thing down.
Expect Cleveland to bounce back and play with the same confidence that they had before.
#Browns LB Anthony Walker Jr. said Jim Schwartz's message is the same in a game they play well as it is in a game they play "horribly."— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) October 25, 2023
"We got to be the same guys...we got to play with that effort, that passion, badassery." pic.twitter.com/fefVJkqv0E
Play mistake-free football and hold up in pass protection
This one is self-explanatory.
Cleveland needs to play mistake-free football if they want to have a chance to win this game. No turnovers or penalties. As I mentioned before, Seattle’s defense is better than what people think. They aren’t close to what the Browns are but when you watch them they play with confidence, swagger and they look to inflict damage.
In pass protection, Cleveland will have to hold up against Seattle’s pass-rushing group. Seattle ranks 7th in pass rush win rate so they can get to the quarterback. Seattle brought in reinforcements by signing Glenville HS graduate Frank Clark to help with the pass rush after losing Uchenna Nwosu for the season.
With Nwosu out, Boye Mafe will be the main guy to watch for. Defensive tackles Dre’Mont Jones and Jarran Reed also have been contributors. Mafe will likely be matched up against either Jed Wills or rookie Dawand Jones (or both). Cleveland has to hold up in pass protection and not turn the ball over. If they do that, they have a good chance of pulling off the upset.
What do you think are the keys to the game for the Browns?