Pleased to Meet You: Week 15, Cleveland Browns

Jason Miller

The Bears need to keep winning to either maintain their closed gap in the NFC North, or to have a chance to take the division lead. Next up, the 4-9 Cleveland Browns.

The Bears made up some much needed ground after beating the Cowboys on Monday night, closing to within half a game of the Detroit Lions. This week, they get the 4-9 Cleveland Browns, who tried to go into tank mode in week 3 only to go on a three-game winning streak. Since then, they've won one of their last eight games.

Last Year: 5-11, last place in the AFC North

This Year: 4-9, still last place in the AFC North.

When Last We Met: The last time the Bears and Browns played each other was in 2009, as the Bears pushed the Browns to 1-7 by beating them 30-6. Matt Forte had two rushing touchdowns, Robbie Gould kicked three field goals and Charles Tillman ran an interception back for a touchdown. Derek Anderson had a rushing touchdown, and that was the only noise the Browns would make as they struggled to register 200 yards of total offense.

Offense:
Total Yardage:
4481 (15th)
Total Points: 257 (27th)
Passing Yardage: 3385 (10th)
Rushing Yardage: 1096 (28th)

I'd insert a comment here about the Browns not being able to run the ball, but there's that whole "The Bears encourage people to run by being bad at defending it" thing. Trent Richardson was traded for a first round pick (and by the way, Andrew Luck has outgained Richardson on the ground in his Colts tenure), and Willis McGahee has taken the reins as the team's leading rusher with 377 yards in six starts. But Chris Ogbonnaya has a 5.3 yards-per-carry to lead the team (not including quarterbacks and receivers).

Where this team excels is in passing, actually (for as much as being 10th in passing and 15th in total yardage is excelling). And a lot of that is because Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron are really freaking good. Gordon's up to 1400 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns on the year, while Cameron has 825 receiving yards on 72 receptions and 7 touchdowns. It's really helped stabilize the quarterback carousel the Browns have had this season. Jason Campbell's performed pretty serviceable since being thrust into the starting role over Brandon Weeden and an injured Brian Hoyer. It also helps he's been sacked ten times only as opposed to Weeden's 27.

Defense:
Total Yardage: 4165 (7th)
Total Points: 324 (19th)
Passing Yardage: 2891 (8th)
Rushing Yardage: 1274 (4th)

The Browns actually have a pretty solid defense to go with their passing game. Would you believe 15 different players have registered a sack for the Browns this season? Because it's true, and Barkevious Mingo leads the way with five of the team's 37 sacks; free agent acquisition Paul Kruger's got 4.5 himself. They're creative and will find ways to attack from all angles.

They also have Joe Haden, who's a really solid corner with some ball skills (four interceptions, one touchdown). Buster Skrine lines up opposite him, and he himself has 17 pass deflections to match Haden with an interception and a sack of his own. Haden and Skrine are the smaller type of defensive back though, so perhaps Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall will have another matchup problem to exploit.

If the Bears do this...

The Bears' wide receiving corps might be the biggest matchup problem in the NFL, collectively, especially the way Jeffery has been developing as the year's gone on. If Marshall and Jeffery can win the battles against Haden and Skrine, the Bears' passing game might be able to do some damage against a solid Browns defense.

If the Browns do this...

You don't expect the Browns to run well this game, but bad rushing offenses have done more damage this season. Barring that, Josh Gordon's a big problem for Tim Jennings and whichever safety helps out, as is Cameron in the middle of the field.

Closing Thoughts:

The Bears need to keep winning in order to keep the gap closed with the Lions. Lose this one, and the road to the playoffs becomes near impossible.

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