This weekend (29th October 2017) sees the Cleveland Browns give up one of their home games at FirstEnergy Stadium to play host to the Minnesota Vikings at Twickenham Stadium, London, England. This will be the first time the Browns have played over here in the UK and the second time for the Vikings. The first time the Minnesota Vikings travelled to our shores was back in 2013 when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 34-27 – the Vikings were the ‘home’ team in that one.
So, how do I see this one going? Well, probably the same as everyone else, to be honest. Can anyone actually see a Browns’ victory in this one? Even though I’m a fan of the team, I’m afraid to say that I can’t see how the Cleveland Browns can get the win here.
The Ohio-based team just doesn’t have the offensive capability to do any harm to that fantastic Minnesota Vikings defence. They’re good on the line, with good linebackers and a good secondary. They currently have the 3rd best run defence and are only allowing 76.6-yards on the ground, so add to that fact that the Browns offence is crap through the air and you have the huge potential for another shutout!
If it’s not a shutout then it stands a good chance of being a low-scoring affair as the Browns defence is also looking pretty good right now. They stand a just three places lower than the Vikings on the rush-yards-per-game chart and are only allowing an average of 83.7-yards per game on the ground.
Having watched the Vikings over the last few weeks, it would appear to me that QB Case Keenan is struggling to replicate his fantastic play of week 3 when he took the Buccaneers to the cleaners. He’s played decent and is filling in well for Sam Bradford and the team is getting the wins, but that’s more due to the brilliant defence than what Keenan is doing. This week against the Baltimore Ravens he was back to looking like a backup as his passes were off-target far more often than is good for the team. It was only due to the excellent field goal kicking of Kai Forbath that they racked up so many points.
Since RB Dalvin Cook’s season-ending injury I must say that they’ve lost a bit of something in the run game as well (Hey, I’m grasping here, ok?). Yes, Latavius Murray ran for 113-yards on 18 carries and a TD but that was against the Ravens defence that is last in overall run defence – they’re the only team to have given up over 1000-yards so far this season. I’d like to think that the Browns run defence, which is looking good so far this season, can hold them and force them to go to the passing game. If that does happen, I feel that the Browns will have to keep a very close eye on Adam Thielen who is looking fantastic this year and making things happen for the Vikings. The other of their biggest threats through the air is WR Stephon Diggs but he’s not played and has been week-to-week since tweaking his groin in week five against the Chicago Bears. With Diggs’ absence, former first-round draft pick Laquon Treadwell has stepped up and is finally looking like a decent player.
The Vikings defence, well, where do you start? They’ve got quality all over that unit from front to back.
Up front, you have the likes of Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter putting massive amounts of pressure on the pocket whilst the likes of Harrison Smith, Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes are shutting down passing options for opposing QB’s. Whilst in between all that, you have Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks making plays.
With things being the way they are on the Browns offence, I just can’t see how they are going to put points on the board against this defence.
I was so excited about the fact I was finally going to get to see my team play in London as my wife has seen her Detroit Lions play twice and the mate that I sometimes go with has seen his Jacksonville Jaguars a few times. I was getting fed up of the “You ain’t a real fan because you ain’t seen your team play live!” wind-up comments from them both (all in jest, of course).
Now, finally, I get to see my Cleveland Browns play…….oh goody. During the off-season and pre-season, I had the usual hype and anticipation of seeing the Browns play again and with the moves they’d made in free agency and the draft, I had unusually high hopes for what I was going to see. Well, after a great preseason which saw them go undefeated and things looking good, they soon fell back into the routine of the Browns being the Browns. Currently only one of two remaining winless teams (San Francisco 49ers are the other), it’s difficult to see where a win is coming from at all this year. In all honesty, they seem to be going backwards.
I can (and do) take solace in the fact that they are in a complete ground-up rebuild of the roster, much like their winless comrades, the 49ers. I just wish they’d make changes to the way they appear to be making decisions as far as scouting, coaching and the front office goes – so many wasted high draft picks!
Anyway, as for the team, we seem to have a good run defence which should be good to see on the Twickenham turf. On defence, I can’t wait to see Myles Garrett get after Case Keenum and that offensive line. I think he could be a difference-maker in this game. One thing that we miss when watching games on TV is the defensive secondary and how things line up and develop during plays in that portion of the field. I’m looking forward to being able to see Jabrill Peppers and how he’s being used by Greg Williams as people have been complaining that he’s being used wrongly with Williams’ insistence to play him very deep. In my eyes, Jabrill Peppers is a strong safety and should be playing up closer to the line (in the box) where he can influence the game more in both aspects of it from a defensive standpoint. I’d love to see him line up against Kyle Rudolph and see how that played out over the course of the game.
There are other good parts to this Browns defence and I think it’s coming along nicely. I just hope they address the offence during this offseason to catch up. We have Christian Kirksey at LB who is looking very good indeed and I love the fact the Joe Schobert has stepped up and established himself as the MLB. Veteran cornerback Jason McCourty has established himself as one of the best at his position right now and Briean Boddy-Calhoun is looking good and hitting hard. My favourite part of the defence at this time, though, is the line. It’s gone from being a mish-mash to one of youth, quality and depth. Carl Nassib, Emmanuel Ogbah and Myles Garrett at DE are great and Larry Ogunjobi, Caleb Brantley, Danny Shelton and Trevon Coley in the middle are all playing well.
I must admit that I don’t think LB Jamie Collins Sr. is living up to his hype and paychecks, though. He apparently has the physical talents but I’m just not sure about his commitment to the game. DC Greg Williams tells us that he’s very happy with him and he’s a great playing who’s playing hard but, meh, I just don’t buy it.
As for the offence, I feel that there is still a LOT of work to do there and they could, potentially, bore the neutrals out of their seats on Sunday.
As I write this, Hue Jackson has just announced that struggling rookie DeShone Kizer will start for the Browns at Twickenham. I’m not surprised by this as Cody Kessler has shown that he’s nothing more than a backup just as Kevin Hogan has (on this offence, anyway). I think Hue is now going to just see out the season with Kizer at the helm and see what comes of it by season’s end. Maybe we’ll be getting to see the future of the franchise then, huh?
As I’ve said in other posts, there are way more neutral fans at these NFL London games than fans of either team that’s playing and so, to keep their interest in the game and the atmosphere in the stadium, the game has to be a good, exciting one. That means seeing lots of good passing plays mixed in with long running plays. Oh dear, the Browns could fail the neutrals on that front as their WR’s have been pretty bad so far this season. I can’t actually believe that they are ranked about mid-table for total passing offence although they are third on the chart for most pass attempts and bottom of the chart for completion percentage – that tells a massive story about their passing game.
With Kizer starting, I just wish they’d get TE’s David Njoku and Seth DeValve more involved in the passing game as they appear to be the best receivers on the team at the minute.
The Browns running game isn’t a disaster but it isn’t brilliant either. Isaiah Crowell is doing an ok job but one of the most exciting players to watch on this offence is Duke Johnson. He’s brilliant running the ball as well as catching it out of the backfield or from the slot. This is another guy I’d like to see used more.
The offensive line has been great so far and has been affording the QB’s more than enough time to get things done even though they haven’t been. They could improve in the run game but it’s still an improvement and another step in the right direction. The massive blow and one that I’m gutted about is the fact that OT Joe Thomas won’t be playing at Twickenham. He’s the best LT to ever play the game and the one genuine star on this Browns team and I missed out by one poxy week to get to see him play! His season is over after a tricep injury that I imagine will start a decline in his total dominance at that position. GUTTED!
It looks like second-year OL Spencer Drango (who I thought was a Guard) will step in and play at LT in place of Joe Thomas. This is not good timing at all considering who he’ll be up against on that Vikings defensive line. Youngster Shon Coleman has been playing ok at RT but he’s also struggled a bit and has given up yards with a few too many penalties. With these two playing at the tackle positions and DeShone Kizer’s struggles to read the game so far, this could be a day to pad the stats for the Minnesota Vikings defence.
Honestly, I can see this game going only one way and that ain’t going to be a win for the Cleveland Browns. In theory, it should be a low scoring affair as both teams have good defences but, hmmm, where have I heard that recently? That’s right, the Jaguars/Ravens game and look what happened there.
So, do I think the Vikings will get the win? Yes! Do I think it will be a blow-out like the other three games? No!
I think the Minnesota Vikings will beat the Cleveland Browns in the fourth and final NFL London 2017 game by 10.