BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns welcome Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to town this Sunday and will have a tough assignment.
While Cleveland has continued to flounder with two straight losses, the Bucs are maybe hitting a stride after winning their last two. Also, in a likely benefit to Brady and Co., the Bucs are coming into this one fresh off their bye week.
Here are three things to know about the matchup.
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1. The Browns will have a tough matchup inside the trenches
This is a bad week for the Browns to be thin at center.
The offensive line took a blow this week when Ethan Pocic was placed on IR after suffering a knee injury against the Bills. Hjalte Froholdt stepped into his place, but then on Wednesday, Froholdt missed practice with an illness.
Cleveland has been really unlucky at the position this season. Pocic was originally the backup to Nick Harris who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Browns’ first preseason game at Jacksonville. Two days later, Cleveland also lost rookie Dawson Deaton for the year with a season-ending knee injury of his own. Even if Froholdt is able to play this week, his only real experience playing center came … Sunday against the Bills.
The Browns could have to account for Vita Vea this week on the interior, a big problem at 6-foot-4, 347 pounds. While Vea missed practice Wednesday with a foot injury, he has 6.5 sacks through 10 games, a career best. That ties him for third among all interior defensive linemen in the league.
2. Brady ramping up despite adversity?
It’s been a weird year for Tom Brady, on and off the field.
Off the field, of course, he’s been dealing with his high profile divorce from Gisele Bündchen, which he has made headlines the last few months.
On the field, while the Bucs had a stretch in which they lost five of six games, they’ve since come back and won their last two against the Rams and Seahawks, and now Brady is coming into this game after a week off.
As is typical, he isn’t getting sacked much (just 14 times this season attempts so far) and he’s threatening both the NFL single-season records for passing and completions.
Which brings us to our final thing to know…
3. The Bucs like to pass, so will they try and run against the Browns?
It’s a bona fide trend at this point: Some of the best passing offenses in the league like the Chargers, Dolphins and Bills have all decided to just run on the Browns instead given how porous the Cleveland run defense has been, and all three of those teams came away with wins.
So will Tampa Bay try the same thing?
The Bucs are just behind the Cardinals (who have played one more game), having attempted 428 passes already this season; 427 of those have been Brady’s, and he’s completed 282 of those attempts. Both numbers are league highs.
Against the Seahawks, however, the Bucks had a season-high 161 yards and Brady threw only 29 passes. Considering it worked, it’s fair to wonder if the Browns will see a similar game plan.
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