Can the Browns keep up with Buccaneers firepower?

Critical junction in the season comes Sunday because schedule gets difficult

Daryl Ruiter
October 19, 2018 - 6:53 pm

© Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Categories: 

Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – This year’s Browns team is out to show that they aren’t the same ole Browns.

The 19-game winless streak ended Sept. 20 against the Jets. The 18-game divisional winless streak ended against the Ravens Oct. 7. The Sunday losing streak ended at 37 against Baltimore too.

That’s three key items checked off the bucket list for 2018.

The road losing streak is alive and well at 23 straight and another opportunity to put that one to bed comes Sunday at Tampa Bay.

The No. 1 question facing Cleveland this week is can they match the Buccaneers firepower and high-octane offense?

Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin have combined for 75 catches for 1,234 yards and 10 touchdowns this season for Tampa Bay. Meanwhile five Browns receivers, including Rashard Higgins, who is out with an MCL sprain, have combined for 71 catches for 965 yards with just three touchdowns this season.

Baker Mayfield is coming off his “welcome to the NFL game” against the Chargers that saw him complete just 21 of 41 passes with two interceptions and he’s completed just 11 of his last 29 throws to Jarvis Landry over the last three weeks.

The Browns are hurting on both sides of the ball. Center JC Tretter is determined to play through a high ankle sprain, T.J. Carrie replaces E.J. Gaines at cornerback, Christian Kirksey slides from WILL to MIKE linebacker for Joe Schobert and Genard Avery replaces Kirksey.

Offensively all four key positions are occupied by rookies – quarterback Baker Mayfield, receivers Antonio Callaway and Damion Ratley, running back Nick Chubb and left tackle Desmond Harrison.

Aside from injuries, officiating and last week’s 38-14 thumping by the Los Angeles Chargers there isn’t much to complain about so far this season.

But danger is on the horizon as the schedule gets tougher and injuries mount.

This year isn’t the first time that optimism overflowed following a positive start to the season.

There have been nine previous occasions since 1999 in which things started well before the lug nuts blew off the tires, the wheels came off the wagon and the season ended in epic flameout style.

To wit:

2000: Browns started 2-1 and lost 12 of 13 to finish 3-13.

2001: Browns started 4-2 and lost 7 of 10 to finish 7-9.

2003: Browns started 3-3 and lost 8 of 10 to finish 5-11.

2004: Browns started 3-3 again and lost 9 of 10 for a 4-12 finish.

2008: Browns were 3-4 after 7 games but lost 8 of 9 and finished 4-12.

2011: Browns started 3-3 again and lost 9 of 10 for a 4-12 finish.

2013: Browns were 3-2 before a 10 of 11 dive off the cliff.

2014: Browns were 6-3 followed by a 1-6 finish, but the 7-9 overall record was the best since 2007.

2015: Browns started 2-3 and lost 10 of 11 to complete a 3-13 season.

Including Sunday’s trip to Tampa, only three games remain on the schedule against teams below .500 – 2-3 Tampa Bay, 2-4 Atlanta and 3-4 Denver. The remaining seven games features teams at or above .500.

A trip to Pittsburgh awaits Oct. 28, and let’s be honest, those are never fun for anyone but the Steelers, then the currently 5-1 Chiefs come to town.

If the Browns truly are no longer the same ole Browns, they need a ‘W’ on Sunday in the worst of ways. Not just to put a blowout loss behind them, but to prevent another snowball from beginning the roll down the mountain and setting up the potential that the season could get away from them.

Last week – Browns lost 38-14 to the Chargers, Buccaneers lost 34-29 to the Falcons

Last time – Nov. 2, 2014: Browns 22, Buccaneers 17

Series – Browns lead 6-3-0

Rankings – Points per game: Browns 23 (21.3), Buccaneers 8 (28.2)

Total yards per game:  Browns 19t (366.2), Buccaneers 2 (448.6)

Rushing per game: Browns 5 (137.7), Buccaneers 31 (81.2)

Passing per game: Browns 23 (228.5), Buccaneers 1 (368.4)

Points allowed per game: Browns 20 (25.2), Buccaneers 32 (34.6)

Defensive yards allowed per game: Browns 28 (406.5), Buccaneers 31 (439.8)

Run defense: Browns 29 (138.2), Buccaneers 5 (84.2)

Pass defense: Browns 20 (268.3), Buccaneers 32 (355.6)

Turnover ratio: Browns 1t (+7), Buccaneers 30 (-6)

Projected starters – Offense: WR Jarvis Landry, TE Darren Fells, LT Desmond Harrison, LG Joel Bitonio, C JC Tretter, RG Kevin Zeitler, RT Chris Hubbard, QB Baker Mayfield, TE David Njoku, WR Antonio Callaway, RB Carlos Hyde

Defense: DE Myles Garrett, DT Larry Ogunjobi, DT Trevon Coley, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, WILL James Burgess, MIKE Christian Kirksey, SAM Jamie Collins, CB Denzel Ward, CB TJ Carrie, FS Damarious Randall, SS Jabrill Peppers

Injury report – Out: WR Rashard Higgins (knee), LB Joe Schobert (hamstring), CB E.J. Gaines (concussion)

Questionable: C JC Tretter (ankle)

Expected to play: TE David Njoku (knee), LB Tanner Vallejo (concussion)

Broadcast information – Radio: 92.3 The Fan, 98.5 WNCX and the University Hospitals Cleveland Browns radio network. TV: WJW TV-8 (FOX)

Kickoff – 1:03 p.m. Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida  

Prediction – Buccaneers 38, Browns 31