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WEEK 3: WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (1-1) @ CLEVELAND BROWNS (1-1)
WSH: Ron Rivera (77-64-1) CLE: Kevin Stefanski (1-1)
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN
Start Time: 1:00pm EST
Location: FirstEnergy Stadium - Cleveland, OH
Expected Attendance: 10% Capacity - 6,600
TV: FOX (Regional Broadcast), NFL Sunday Ticket
TV Announcers: Kevin Kugler, Chris Spielman
Radio: ESPN 630, The Team 980 AM, WMAL-FM (105.9), NFL Game Pass
Radio Announcers: Bram Weinstein, Julie Donaldson, DeAngelo Hall
NFL BETTING LINES
WSH: +7, +255 CLE: -7, -295 Total: 44
WSH: INJURY REPORT
OUT: LB Cole Holcomb (knee), OT Saahdiq Charles (calf)
QUESTIONABLE: OT Morgan Moses (hip)
CLE: INJURY REPORT
OUT: DE Olivier Vernon (abdomen), CB Greedy Williams (shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Denzel Ward (groin), DE Adrian Clayborn (hip), LB Mack Wilson (knee)
Week 3 will be the first game that Washington has played a team in a similar situation to their own. Cleveland has a new head coach in Kevin Stefanski with little to no offseason to speak of. Something important to point out, this is only Stefanski's 3rd game as head coach, and that could work to Washington's advantage. On the other hand, Cleveland played on Thursday Night Football and have had a few extra days to prepare for this match up.
WSH OFFENSE v. CLE DEFENSE
WSH 2020 OFF. STAT LEADERS
QB Dwayne Haskins - 36/64 (56.3%), 401 Passing Yards, 6.3 AVG, 200.5 YPG, 2 TD, 26.7 QBR
RB Antonio Gibson - 22 RSH, 91 RSH Yards, 4.1 AVG, 1 TD
RB J.D. McKissic - 11 RSH, 51 RSH Yards, 4.6 AVG, 0 TD
WR Terry McLaurin - 12 REC, 186 REC Yards, 15.5 AVG, 1 TD
WR Steven Sims - 6 REC, 103 REC Yards, 17.2 AVG, 0 TD
CLE 2020 DEF. STATS
CLE - 28th - 34 per game
CLE - 18th - 367 per game
CLE - 5th - 277.5 per game
CLE - 6th - 89.5 per game
To say the Washington offense has struggled through the first 2 weeks of the season, would a major understatement. Washington's passing offense, in particular, has been a mess, ranking 31st in the NFL, with an average of 179 yards per game. Washington's rushing offense hasn't set the world on fire either, only averaging 98.5 yards per game, 25th worst in the league. In fairness, it has only been 2 weeks, and Washington has a brand new coaching staff with little to no offseason to speak of. These are 2 major problems that the WFT is going to face, especially early on in the season.
Even though the Browns, have been tough against the run so far this season, allowing only 89.5 yards per game, Washington must force the issue with RB's Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic. Cleveland's defensive stats are a bit misleading, however. The Browns had a sizable lead against Cincinnati in Week 2, and QB Joe Burrow threw a ridiculous 61 times, attempting to bring his team back. Also, in Week 1 against Baltimore, Cleveland was run off the field, 38-6.
Surprisingly, Cleveland only gave up 111 yards on the ground to an explosive Ravens offense in a blowout. Where the Browns got torched was through the air where Ravens QB Lamar Jackson went 20/25, 275 yards, and 3 TDs. Unfortunately, throwing the football is not in Washington's wheelhouse at the moment, so they need to keep it simple and pound the ball. Washington RB's will be facing 8-man fronts until they can prove otherwise, but this needs to be an old school-type approach. Most 2020 NFL offenses pass to set up the run. The WFT must go back to the '90s and set up the pass based on the threat of the run, even if they are not overly effective with it.
Gibson and McKissic have shown signs that they can be productive, they just need an opportunity to show it for an entire game. The Washington offense has shown very little up to this point, and its cliché, but they need to find an identity. Running the ball is the easiest way to do that when your starting QB is green as grass and you have limited weapons at your disposal. Run the ball and have QB Dwayne Haskins play-action pass off of that. Even if Washington does not run the ball effectively, the play-action pass will freeze the defense just enough to give Haskins a chance to be more consistent in the passing game. Just ask Kirk Cousins.
Off of those play-action passes, Haskins has to try and keep the defense honest by throwing deep. Even if he throws an interception 60 yards down the field, does it really matter? Washington needs to try something different because what they have done in the first 2 games has not worked and changes need to be made.
CLE OFFENSE v. WSH DEFENSE
CLE 2020 OFF. STAT LEADERS
CLE - QB Baker Mayfield - 37/62 (56.3%), 408 Passing Yards, 6.6 AVG, 208 YPG, 3 TD, 78 QBR
RB Nick Chubb - 32 RSH, 184 RSH Yards, 5.8 AVG, 2 TD
RB Kareem Hunt - 23 RSH, 158 RSH Yards, 6.9 AVG, 1 TD
WR Jarvis Landry - 9 REC, 107 REC Yards, 13.4 AVG, 0 TD
WR Odell Beckham Jr. - 7 REC, 96 REC Yards, 13.7 AVG, 1 TD
WSH 2020 DEF. STATS
WSH - 16th - 23.5 per game
WSH - 13th - 351.5 per game
WSH - 16th - 243 per game
WSH - 11th - 108.5 per game
It's safe to say that, as expected, Washington's defense has been the strength of the team, but it's not without its faults. Washington's secondary has been a mixed bag. The secondary has been beaten for big plays at inopportune times, but have also come up with timely interceptions. CB Kendall Fuller will be making his season debut and should give Washington's secondary more flexibility. CB's Fabien Moreau and Ronald Darby on the outside are where they are best suited and Fuller in the slot. There have even been rumblings of Fuller replacing FS Troy Apke in the starting line up. Either way, adding Fuller will give the Washington secondary the boost they desperately needed.
Yes, Cleveland has Pro Bowl WR's Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landy, and high-priced free agent signing, TE Austin Hooper, but the real threat is on the ground.
Week 3 will be the first real test for Washington's run defense. Cleveland has the league's 2nd ranked rushing offense averaging 176.5 per game. The Browns quite possibly have the best RB tandem in the league in stud's Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Last week, the Browns RB's ran 32 times, 210 yards, 3 TD's, and a ridiculous 7.1 average per rush against the Bengals. Similar to the Washington defensive line, Cleveland has a deep backfield that is interchangeable.
Washington has given up 108.5 yards per game on the ground, good enough for 11th best in the league. That number is somewhat impressive considering it seemed like Cardinals QB Kyler Murray ran for 200 yards himself last week.
Washington and Cleveland's supposed strengths will be on full display against one another. If the WFT can stifle the Browns rushing attack, then the defensive line who leads the league in sacks (11) will be able to feast on a shaky QB in Baker Mayfield. To put things in perspective, Mayfield and Haskins essentially have identical stats this season. If Washington can slow the Browns rushing attack with a standard 7-man front, and are not forced to add an 8th in the box, then it could be a long day for Mayfield. If Washington is unable to pull off that feat, then they have 1-2 in their future.
Washington can neutralize Cleveland's impressive rushing attack. Beckham Jr. makes the situation uncomfortable for Stefanski, and in turn, he starts throwing the ball. The WFT defense proceeds to punish Mayfield (5 sacks) and he throws a critical pick-6 to Kendall Fuller putting the game out of reach.
WASHINGTON WINS: 24-17