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Week 15 game preview: Bears at Browns

Fresh off two straight wins, the Bears face a big road test for their new-look team.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Sunday appears to be the biggest test of the season for the Chicago Bears.

They’ve won two in a row for the first time in the Matt Eberflus era and the vibes appear to be good.

Now, they hit the road to go to Cleveland and face a very tough Browns defense.

The Browns are a scrappy team that has overcome starting four different quarterbacks and a host of injuries to be in the middle of the playoff race. Myles Garrett is a legitimate Defensive MVP candidate.

Let’s meet the Cleveland Browns and breakdown this match up.

Cleveland Browns

SB Nation site: Dawgs by Nature

Record: 8-5, second in AFC North

Last week: 31-27 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars

Game day, time, TV: Sunday, noon CT, FOX

Spread: According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Bears are 3-point underdogs to the Browns. The total is set at 38.5 points.

Bears all-time record against: 7-10

Historical meetings: Week 15, 2013. The 7-6 Chicago Bears went to Cleveland to face the 4-9 Browns.

Jay Cutler threw two first-half interceptions, including one on Chicago’s opening drive. In the second quarter he threw a pick-6.

But he bounced back with a touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall and the game was tied at 10 at halftime.

At the start of the third quarter, Zack Bowman picked off Jason Campbell and returned it for a touchdown.

Following a Browns field goal, the Bears had another turnover as Martellus Bennett fumbled and T.J. Ward returned it for another Cleveland touchdown.

But in the fourth quarter, the Bears turned it on. Cutler hit Alshon Jeffery for a 45-yard touchdown pass. Their next possession he threw a 4-yard pass to Earl Bennett for another score.

Following another Cleveland punt, Michael Bush ran for a 40-yard score.

With just one minute left, Campbell hit Josh Gordon for a 43-yard touchdown, to come within a score, but Cleveland couldn’t recover the onside kick and the Bears won 38-31.

Last meeting: That ill-fated game. Week 3 of 2021. Justin Fields’ first start.

The Bears did not score a touchdown. Fields was sacked nine times.

Myles Garrett had 4.5 sacks. Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb combined for 165 yards rushing.

Bears lost 26-6.

Injury report: The Browns had a very lengthy injury report Wednesday with a nearly unbelievable 13 players not participating or limited. However, most are tied to rest.

Limited

  • CB Denzel Ward (shoulder
  • RB Jerome Ford (wrist)

Did not participate

  • G Joel Bitonio (rest/knee)
  • WR Amari Cooper (rest/ribs)
  • DT Jordan Elliott (concussion)
  • DE Myles Garrett (rest/shoulder)
  • K Dustin Hopkins (personal)
  • RB Kareem Hunt (groin)
  • TE David Njoku (rest/knee)
  • DE Ogbo Okoronkwo (pectoral)
  • C Ethan Pocic (stinger)
  • FS Juan Thornhill (calf)
  • MLB Anthony Walker (rest/knee)

The Browns have also put two starters on IR this week: Grant Delpit and tackle Dawand Jones.

Offense: The Browns offense comes into the game ranked 12th in points and 19th in yards.

Their passing offense ranks 23rd and their rushing offense ranks seventh.

The Browns have turned to their fourth quarterback this season, veteran Joe Flacco (55.1 pct. cmp./565 yds./5 TD/2 INT). Flacco somehow has the best overall stat line of any of the four QBs that have started for Cleveland this year.

The top targets for the Browns in the passing game are TE David Njoku (59 rec./600 yds./4 TD), WR Amari Cooper (57/876/2), WR Elijah Moore (50/543/1) and RB Jerome Ford (35/227/3).

TE Harrison Bryant (10/61/3) is a red zone threat.

In the ground game Ford (166 att./698 yds./3 TD) leads the way with Kareem Hunt (111/361/7) is the main goal line threat.

Defense: The Cleveland defense ranks first in yards allowed and 14th in points allowed.

Their passing defense ranks first and their rushing defense ranks 11th.

The face of the defense is, of course, Myles Garrett (13 sk/13 TFL/26 QB hits/4 FF/3 PD). Other playmakers include Grant Delpit (now on IR; 80 tkls/7 TFL/4 QB hits/1.5 sk/3 PD), Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (78 tkl/16 TFL/4 QB hits/2.5 sk/2 PD/1 FF), Martin Emerson (47 tkl/10 PD/4 INT/1 TFL), Greg Newsome (2 INT/9 PD/2 TFL) and CB Denzel Ward (2 INT/10 PD/1 FF).

Jim Schwartz has his unit playing at a top level, flying around and making plays.

Key match ups: Pretty easy to start with Myles Garrett vs. Darnell Wright. Wright is playing very well and has a lot of fans excited about what he can be. This is going to be one of the biggest tests he’s faced as a rookie. Sure, he’s seen Danielle Hunter and Aiden Hutchinson, among others, but Garrett is one of the two or three best in the league right now.

The entire Cleveland pass defense is the league’s best, so Justin Fields is going to have to take care of the ball and take what the defense gives. The receivers are going to have to battle to get open.

On defense, the Browns are battling a lot of injuries on their offensive line and could be starting backups at both tackle spots. That is great for a resurgent defensive line that should be able to attack 38-year-old Joe Flacco, who wasn’t mobile when he was 23.

If the run defense can slow down Ford and Hunt, with Jaylon Johnson on Amari Cooper, it could be a long day for Flacco and the Cleveland offense. We will have to see some good coverage from Tremaine Edmunds on David Njoku though.

Key stats

  • Flacco in his career is 1-3 against the Bears. He has six touchdowns and five interceptions against them and has been sacked 10 times.
  • The Browns rank 30th in third down offense.
  • Defense is another story though, Cleveland has the best third down defense in the league. The Bears, while improved, started the season so badly on third down that they still rank 29th.
  • Cleveland’s red zone defense ranks 30th. Opponents are converting 67.6 percent of their red zone trips into touchdowns.
  • The Bears have won three of the last four meeting in the series, although they lost the last time the two teams met.
  • The Browns are 6-1 at home this year, while the Bears are 2-5 on the road.

Which player on the Browns concerns you the most? What is it going to take for the Bears to get their biggest road win of the season?


Check out our video preview here.