It’s finally here, the game of the season for my household. Forget the playoffs, forget the Super Bowl, this is it…the big one!
“What are you talking about you weirdo?”, I hear you say. Well, as you should be aware by now, I’m a Browns fan and this week they travel to Detroit to take on the Detroit Lions. To most people, this isn’t a game that’ll be top of their viewing list for NFL week 10, but for me and my wife, it’s the biggest game of the season. This is because she’s a Detroit Lions fan (no one can accuse either of us of being glory supporters) after choosing them as her team the year we went to Wembley to see them and the Atlanta Falcons play in their 2014 NFL London game.
She picked them as her team on the Saturday of that weekend when they came onto the stage at the Trafalgar Square fan rally (I maintain that they were much better than the ones they do today on Regent Street but I guess they needed a bigger area to hold them). I think she made the right choice, and so did she, after they came out on top of a great game that came down to the final Matt Prater field goal attempt which he converted.
So, yeah, this is it, the big game! Normally on a Sunday, it’s a case of me sitting there explaining the finer details of what’s going on but I can imagine this Sunday will be all about me fending off the verbal abuse and piss-taking coming from her direction as her favourite players; Matt Stafford, Golden Tate and Matt Prater school my Browns in how to win a game in the NFL. But, hey, I’m a Browns fan, it’ll be different from the fake sympathy I get from people I don’t know when out and about at the NFL London games, hehe.
The Lions are currently sitting second in the NFC North with a 4-4 record, two games behind the Minnesota Vikings (6-2). They’re on a high after beating the Green Bay Packers convincingly, by a score of 30-17, and showing us that the Pack aren’t much of a team without Aaron Rodgers.
The Browns, on the other hand, are sitting rock-bottom of the AFC North with a 0-8 record and the only reason they aren’t rock-bottom of the entire NFL is that the San Francisco 49ers would appear to also want that first overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft.
The Lions have the highest paid quarterback (and, indeed, player) in the league with Matthew Stafford at the helm. I, personally, think he’s the best QB in the league and would be the one I’d choose for my dream team right now. He’s got a great arm, experience, work ethic and battles hard for his team.
The Browns, on the other hand, have a rookie at the helm who is blatantly nowhere near ready to be playing in the NFL and who has struggled to see downfield and find open receivers to sling his passes to with his strong arm.
The Lions have some very good receivers in the form of Golden Tate and Marvin Jones who can both get open and catch the ball. Golden Tate is brilliant at gaining yards after the catch as well.
The Browns have Ricardo Louis and Bryce Treggs heading their depth chart and neither has proven themselves to be starting WR’s so far. In fact, none of the receivers on the Browns roster has proven himself to be a starting WR so far although there are a couple that I like and who I’d keep on the roster come house-cleaning time this off-season. They are Rashard Higgins and Kasen Williams who were selected in the 5th round of the 2016 draft and picked up as a free agent after some time in Seattle respectively. The rest I couldn’t care less if they stayed or left – although I’d really like to see Kenny Britt booted from the team as he’s awful and not interested in playing the game now that he’s had his big payday from the Browns. Players with that mentality REALLY annoy me, but I can see why they do it – far too much money is given up front to bad/average players in my opinion, but I guess that’s the nature of the business and the way things will continue.
Both teams have good players on the offensive lines and I like them both but neither unit appears to be much good in the run game after spending big bucks on free agents this past off-season. This is one area where I’d say the Browns have the advantage. The Lions really do suck in the run game and even my wife, who is relatively new to the game, can see that the Lions’ offensive line is hugely responsible for the lack of a running game in Detroit.
“There are just no lanes open for Ameer to run through!” came the cry from her direction whilst we were watching their game against the Packers the other day. I just sat there with a happy grin on my face thinking, “YES! She’s finally starting to see the game in more depth”. She wasn’t wrong either and the stats reflect that with his 2.3-yards per run average in that game.
The Browns running game, whilst also not very good, hasn’t been appaling. They rank 25th in the league whereas the Lions are sitting at 29th. The Browns are the right side of 4-yards per carry average at 4.1 whereas the Lions can only manage 3.2.
The Cleveland Browns definitely have the better running game but neither is going to set the game on fire. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions abandon their running game altogether as the Browns have an excellent run defence meaning it could be a long day at the office for Ameer, Theo, Dwayne and Zach.
It would appear that the Browns and new defensive coordinator, Greg Williams, have started getting it together on the defensive side of the ball. They currently rank 8th overall in the league and are looking like a really good unit even though the rebuild isn’t finished yet.
Both defences are good against the run with the Browns ranking 4th for yards given up to the run per game and the Lions sitting two spots behind in 6th. Things are different in the same category against the pass as the Browns are 17th and the Lions sit 27th, which is misleading to me as they haven’t looked that bad.
All-in-all, this matchup looks close on paper but in reality, it’s going to come down to the biggest factor in any NFL game these days – the quarterback. DeShone Kizer against Matt Stafford, really? Let’s be honest, there’s only one team coming out of this game with the win and that isn’t the Cleveland Browns.
According to the stats, DeShone Kizer could have a decent game against the Lions pass defence and the Browns could stuff the Lions running game so bad that they have to abandon it and become even more one-dimensional than usual, giving the good Browns defence the chances to make plays.
If DeShone Kizer has genuinely taken the hint from the attempted AJ McCarron trade that the team thinks he’s crap and he’s used the bye week well to improve some more, then we might have a game on our hands here, but for me, I’m just looking forward to seeing the Browns defence go to work. I don’t think we’ll be seeing much from the offence until next season after they’ve added more pieces this off-season.
We all know just how good Matt Stafford and his offence can be late in games and the trend for the Browns this season is to rely heavily on their defence to keep them in the game early until they are knackered towards the end due to the offences inability to move the ball and stay on the field.
This one could get messy for the Browns towards the end.
As a shock to absolutely no one, I’m going with a Detroit Lions win by a score of 27-10.