It wasn’t pretty, but the Cleveland Browns got it done against the Houston Texans in Week 10, escaping with a 10-7 victory to move up to 6-3 this season. In Week 11, they host Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles at FirstEnergy Stadium and hope to win back-to-back games to strengthen their playoff hopes.
With wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour blowing during the game against the Texans, the Browns relied mostly on their ground game, with the returning Nick Chubb and fellow running back Kareem Hunt carrying their offense as quarterback Baker Mayfield attempted just 20 passes. Cleveland’s offense struggled for the second straight game, failing to find the end zone in a 16-6 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 8.
But the defense and weather were able to keep Houston in check to pick up a much-needed win. It’s hard to keep winning games if you only manage to score 10 points, which is why the Browns hope to get their offense rolling against the Eagles, who currently lead the dismal NFC East and have a shot at making the playoffs despite having a 3-5-1 record. Philadelphia, however, remains a dangerous foe and has a defense that allows an average of 211.8 passing yards per game, which ranks sixth in the NFL.
Here are four predictions for when the Browns face the Eagles.
1. Baker Mayfield passes for two touchdowns
With head coach Kevin Stefanski choosing to run against the Texans, Mayfield finished the game by completing just 12-of-20 passes for 132 yards and no touchdowns. He put up similar numbers in Cleveland’s loss to the Raiders, and he hasn’t passed for a touchdown since a five-touchdown performance in a 37-34 win against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 7, which was also his best game of the season.
Mayfield probably won’t play against the Eagles as he did against the Bengals, but he should be able to find the end zone and break his drought of having no touchdown passes for two straight weeks. However, the first overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft will have to do it against pressure, as Philadelphia’s defense has 31 sacks so far this season, which is tied for the third-best mark in the NFL.
Mayfield hasn’t done well against pressure this season, so he will be tested by the Eagles much like he was in the Browns’ 38-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 6. But after two quiet games, there’s no better time to prove critics wrong than by having a solid game against a team with a strong defense.
2. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt have big games again
Despite missing four games due to a knee injury, Chubb did not a miss a beat in his return against the Texans, leading the Browns with 19 carries for 126 rushing yards and a touchdown. Not to be outdone, Hunt was just as impressive, with 19 carries for 104 yards and three receptions for 28 yards.
While the Eagles have excelled at pressuring the quarterback and defending the pass this season, the same can’t be said of their run defense. Through nine games, Philadelphia has allowed an average of 133 rushing yards per game, which ranks just 26th in the league. The Browns, meanwhile, produce an average of 159 yards on the ground, which ranks third in the NFL.
It’s likely that Chubb continues his strong return from injury by having another big game with Hunt against the Eagles’ subpar run defense. After the win against the Texans, the 2019 Pro Bowler said that he was feeling well heading into the game against the Eagles, per Anthony Poisal of Browns.com.
3. The defense gets two takeaways
Carson Wentz has had an up-and-down season so far, completing 199-of-342 passes for 2,091 passing yards and 12 touchdowns. However, he also leads the NFL with 12 interceptions and 16 turnovers overall, ranks just 32nd among quarterbacks with a 58.2% completion rate, and has been sacked 35 times, which is also an NFL-leading mark.
The Eagles quarterback will face more pressure against the Browns despite the absence of star defensive end Myles Garrett, who has been placed on the Browns’ reserve / COVID-19 list. While Wentz has struggled with ball security this season, the Browns, on the other hand, are one of the best teams in the league at forcing turnovers with 14, which is tied for fourth. Wentz has only had two games this season with no interceptions, including their 27-17 loss to the New York Giants last week.
The 27-year-old quarterback, however, has recorded two picks in five of the Eagles’ nine games. With Cleveland’s defense playing well in recent weeks, it wouldn’t be surprising if they are able to force him to cough up the football and disrupt the Philadelphia offense.
4. The Browns pick up their seventh win
The Browns have struggled offensively since wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. went down with a season-ending injury in the game against the Bengals, but the weather has also played a significant role in their offensive struggles, especially in their win against the Texans.
Cleveland should have a better showing on offense against the Eagles on Sunday, with Mayfield completing more passes and Chubb and Hunt gashing the Eagles’ defense and finding the end zone once more. Despite their record, Philadelphia remains a dangerous opponent, but the Browns should be ready.
The Eagles could keep the game close, especially since they have defended the pass well, but in the end, the Browns should emerge with their seventh win of the season. This will give them a 7-3 record, helping them keep in step with the Baltimore Ravens in the highly competitive AFC North, which also strengthens their chances of finally breaking their long playoff drought.