NFL: Cleveland Browns vs. Los Angeles Chargers Preview
You could make the argument that the Cleveland Browns are one of the most exciting teams in the NFL today. While their record of 2-2-1 isn't exactly blowing people away, especially compared to the still undefeated Chiefs and Rams, they've still managed to hang close with every team they've played since the beginning of the season.
Each game has had an average differential of less than three. Three of their five games so far have gone into overtime, including a frustrating loss to the Raiders and a rare tie with their division rival Steelers. Now going into week six, the Browns look to keep up their perfect home record (that is a phrase I never thought I would say this year) as they lock horns with the Chargers. What does this team need to do to keep their good fortunes rolling?
Keep the pressure
One contributing factor to the Browns' victory last week was their relentlessness on defense. Their 'bend but don't break' mindset paid off as Joe Flacco's offense put up a shocking 0 touchdowns, even after an interception put the Ravens in striking distance early in the game. That kind of tenacity must carry on in this game.
Phillip Rivers is still as impressive as ever in his 15th year as QB for the Chargers, sporting 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions. The Browns have been good at forcing mistakes this season, and it is imperative that they do that if they want to win Sunday.
A flourishing offense
Cleveland faced one of the toughest defenses in the league last week with Baltimore. The Chargers are not quite as stout, so it is expected that they will be able to put more points on the board this week. The Chargers tend to give up a lot of points, so the offense should come out full force.
Carlos Hyde shouldn't have many problems breaking for some big gains, and after another strong start last week, Baker Mayfield's accurate arm and willingness to take risks should pay dividends. Even if they are missing one of their sure-handed receivers in Rashard Higgins, who should be out a few weeks because of a leg injury, the Browns are more than capable of launching an air assault in LA.
Special Teams must continue to improve
This is a very talented team, there is no question. Unfortunately, this is not a very deep team, and that shows in the special teams unit. There have been far too many mistakes and miscues on this end this season, with blocked and missed field goals aplenty.
One could argue that if new kicker Greg Joseph had made the extra point after Cleveland scored a touchdown in the second quarter last week, the game would have never gone into overtime. Even the game-winning field goal was partially blocked as it barely made it past the goal posts.
There were some improvements, as Denzel Ward added a blocked field goal to a growing resume in his bid for Rookie of the Year. However, if the Browns are to be taken seriously as a contender, they have to get better in this area. Football is a game of inches, and your offense can't get a lot done if they start every drive on the 10-yard line.