The Miami Dolphins return to Hard Rock Stadium this afternoon after being on the road the last two weeks. In today’s Week 10 game, the Dolphins, looking to extend their current winning streak to four games, host the Cleveland Browns, who are coming off their bye week and looking to continue the momentum they found in a Week 8 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. today.
The Dolphins and Browns last met back in 2019. Cleveland won that game 41-24, leveling the all-time series at nine wins apiece. The teams are not overly familiar with each other, though former Dolphins quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who spent last year in Miami, is now the starting quarterback for the Browns, holding the position until Deshaun Watson is cleared from his suspension.
To get a better look at the Browns, I turned to Chris Pokorny from Dawgs By Nature. Our discussion started with Brissett and his play this season. We also took a look at the Browns rushing attack, led by Nick Chubb, and the defense that does not seem to be playing up to its potential. We ended with a look at the DraftKings Sportsbook odds for the game.
While the Browns are waiting for DeShaun Watson, former Dolphins quarterback Jacoby Brissett has been starting this year. How is Brissett playing and how do Browns fans feel about him?
For the most part, Jacoby Brissett has far exceeded the expectations that Browns fans have had of him. Of the other games he played, he was rusty in one of them, bad in one, and very good in the other six games. I had been calling the long ball his weakness, and it still is, but he’s even started hitting those over the past few games.
Brissett’s game lives in the intermediate passing game. He loves zipping the ball to receivers low over the middle or up the seams for 10-15 yards. He also converts pretty much every quarterback sneak, so if Cleveland gets in a 3rd-and-1 or 4th-and-1, 90% of the time, he is probably going to sneak it. Seriously; I think we’ve seen it about 20 times this year (he failed once, against New England).
One key factor with Brissett, though, is you really don’t want him playing from too far behind. He may be able to overcome a 10-point deficit, but you don’t want him throwing when defenses know he has to throw, because then the sacks will pile up as he tries to wait for downfield opportunities to develop.
Nick Chubb is second in the league in rushing this season, averaging 105.1 yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry, and leads the league in rushing touchdowns. Yet, this week in your SB Nation Reacts fan poll, you asked your fans if Chubb has been utilized enough this season. What led to that question? How else/much more can Chubb be utilized?
Part of that was me poking the bear a bit, because I’ve seen a lot of fans complain on social media or talk radio that the team isn’t utilizing Nick Chubb enough. Sure enough, when the results came in, only 37% of fans believed that Chubb has been utilized enough by head coach Kevin Stefanski. I think a lot of those complaints stem from the frustration of several of our losses, when the team was in the one-minute drill at the end of a game, trying to get in position for a comeback. Often, Kareem Hunt will be in the game, or the team continues passing the ball rather than trying an up-tempo draw play. I don’t attribute that to him being underutilized, though.
Chubb is the second-leading rusher in the NFL, and has the third most carries. The Browns also utilize Kareem Hunt as Chubb’s replacement, and he’s a damn good back too. You need to keep Chubb fresh, and you still need to pass the ball enough to keep opposing defenses off guard. I think the Browns have done a great job in balancing that. Sure, Chubb might be the best weapon at running back in the NFL, but you can’t just literally give him the ball every single play.
On that note, is there any way to slow down Chubb and Kareem Hunt as the Browns’ two-headed rushing attack?
Only the Patriots have had some success at stopping the Browns’ rushing attack. Cleveland is also getting right guard Wyatt Teller back this week, and he is one of the best in the NFL in run blocking, per Pro Football Focus. The Browns deploy a zone-blocking scheme and are athletic, with the guards often doing great work in pulling from one side to plow a hole open on the other.
Chubb runs so low and has tacklers slide off of him in a way that is so crazy; even for all the carries he gets, he never takes a big hit. Hunt, on the other hand, will take on the contact, but then he’ll move and torque his body around in such a way that he keeps on churning out more yards. Both backs should be utilized a touch more in the passing game; they’d excel at catching the ball, but the Browns don’t get them enough opportunities there. If I had seen a way to slow the rushing attack down, I’d tell you.
The Browns defense feels like one that should be a really strong unit, especially with Myles Garrett able to wreck offensive lines. However, they are pretty much middle of the pack in every statistical category mid-way through the year. What is working well and where is the defense struggling?
It’s actually dumbfounding that the Browns are as good as they are statistically on defense; when I see those numbers, it makes me think, “my god, there must be a lot of god-awful defenses in the NFL.”
For Cleveland, they actually turned in two pretty strong defensive performances against Baltimore and Cincinnati heading into the bye week. The Ravens game was a respectable effort, while they were flat out dominant against Cincinnati, as their pass rush was getting to Joe Burrow on every play.
The Browns’ struggles in the first few weeks came as a result of completely blown coverages late in games, allowing other teams to suddenly catch wide open 60 yard touchdown passes. They seem to have patched that up, but then the problem became the run defense for a stretch of three weeks, in which they couldn’t stop even the worst rushing offenses. That also coincided with when the defensive line was out with injuries, and change was happening at linebacker due to injury as well.
Players are getting healthy again and the defense is starting to find its groove a bit, but can we trust them yet? I’d still say that the run defense is the biggest weakness, and teams have fallen into the trap of not attacking it again.
The opening line for this game has the Dolphins favored by four points, and now has slid to 3.5 points according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Do you think that is an accurate representation of this game?
I think that’s a fair point spread, given that the Dolphins are at home, and have had an explosive offense. It feels like they really haven’t lost a game with Tua under center. I wouldn’t bet this game if I were in Vegas, but straight up, the hopeful side of me is hoping to build on the momentum of the complete game before the bye, as well as all the rest, to pull off the upset in Miami.