Coming off 3 straight wins the Cleveland Browns fell flat against the Detroit Lions last week. After entering the second half with the lead the team fell apart on both sides of the ball. Some of the issues could be attributed to the units we are looking at here. The Packers are coming off 2 straight big wins, dominating the Lions and holding of the Baltimore Ravens, both teams the Browns have lost to.
Cleveland Offensive Line versus Green Bay Front 7
Browns Starting Line from Left to Right: Joe Thomas, John Greco, Alex Mack, Shawn Lauvao, Mitchell Swartz
Packers Front 7 (3-4 Defense): DE BJ Raji, DT Ryan Pickett, DE Johnny Jolly. LBs Andy Mulumba, AJ Hawk, Jamari Lattimore, Mike Neal
The Browns offensive line played very well against the vaunted Lions defensive line. Instead of getting dominated the line were not the problem for the team. While the Lions got pressure, forced some throws and held the running game down, compared to expectations the line was better. Lauvao should be even healthier with his ankle coming around after a couple of weeks. For maybe the first time this year the Browns won’t be facing a dominate pass rush player, which always helps. This week the line may be able to hold up better and allow more receivers to go into patterns instead of helping in protection. Running against the front 3 and Hawk will still be difficult.
The Packers linebacker core is devastated. According to ESPN’s depth chart 3 of their 4 starting LBs are out this week and their backup for Clay Matthews, Neal, is Questionable. The front of Jolly, Raji and Pickett are big and powerful which could cause some problems for the interior of the Browns line. Last week the Packers had 5 sacks: 3 from Hawk, 1 from now injured Nick Perry and 1 from a backup DB. They held Ray Rice to 34 yards on 14 carries in a close game but gave up 342 yards in the air with no INTs. Dom Capers, of the zone blitz schemes, will need to get creative to get pressure.
Advantage: Push - The Browns line has improved enough to protect against a highly weakened defensive front 7. The Packers ability to hold down the running game will be a problem for the Browns, but the team hasn’t relied on that area all season.
Green Bay Offensive Line versus Cleveland Front 7
Packers Starting Line from Left to Right: David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton,Evan Dietrich-Smith, T.J. Lang, Don Barclay
Cleveland Front 7 (3-4 Defense): DE Desmond Bryant, NT Phil Taylor, DE Ahtyba Rubin, OLB Paul Kruger, ILBs D’Qwell Jackson and Craig Robertson and OLB Jabaal Sheard
The Packers are dominating in both parts of offense. They rank 4th in passing yards and 5th in rushing yards. This no name group of linemen have done well, even though they have given up 14 sacks of the quick release, highly mobile Aaron Rogers. This group has opened holes for the team to average 140 yards rushing per game. The worry of Rogers helps, but hasn’t been good enough in the past. Even after the season ending injury in pre-season to Bryan Bulaga the line is playing fine. Facing a tough Browns defense could make things interesting this week.
The Browns defense is tied for 7th with 19 sacks. They also rank 8th in pass and rush yards given up. The defense as a whole struggled to get pressure on Matthew Stafford last week and seemed to wear down as the game went on. Reggie Bush was able to break a few runs and the linebackers were taken advantage of in pass coverage. The return of Sheard should help in multiple ways, as he has been rated as the Browns best front defender for the first few weeks. Sheard will allow rookie Barkevious Mingo to play in specific spots instead of every play. Backup lineman Billy Winn continues to be Out this week but the rest of the backup linemen have made up for his loss.
Advantage: Browns - In a direct matchup the Browns defensive front 7 should beat the Packers line regularly. In the game though Rogers will play a huge role in this matchup. Getting his team into the correct plays, getting rid of the ball quickly and make good decision can help his line’s play.
So a push and a Browns advantage. Good start for the visiting team but we haven’t addressed the skill positions yet, and that means Rogers and Brandon Weeden (Hint: Advantage Packers).