Fans of the Cleveland Browns know the story. The team hasn't won a game yet this season, the only such team in the NFL, are building for the future and have struggled for years to establish anything close to a winning culture.
So far this season, the Browns struggled in Week 1 and 5 against the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots while having a great chance to win in the weeks between against the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins and Washington.
While not wins, those 3 games raised hope for Browns fans. That hope was replaced by the familiar yearning for a quality NFL team to root for.
Week 6 brings renewed hope for a win as the Browns face the Tennessee Titans. While the Titans sit at 2 - 3, few are impressed by the team and is a clear dip in competition after facing the Patriots and the returning Tom Brady.
So how can the Browns win? Here are 3 Keys for Week 6:
Offensive Line Play
The injury issues for the Browns have been huge this season. Another hit came this week with Joel Bitonio likely out for the season. Thankfully, Cameron Erving will return and allow Head Coach Hue Jackson to put his new starting unit together for what he hopes is the rest of the season.
Against the Pats, the running game wasn't able to get anything going. New England filled the gaps and forced Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson to settle for short gains or try to bounce it outside. Neither worked.
With Bitonio out, the Browns lost their best pulling lineman, a staple of many of the team's rushing attack.
The Browns offensive line play will be the first key in Week 6. They have to get the run game going to keep Titans DC Dick LeBeau from coming after Cody Kessler with his exotic zone blitzes.
In the pass game, Jackson has Kessler getting the ball out quickly. This should limit what the offensive line needs to do but limits play calling options throwing the ball. Kessler needs to stay healthy with
Quick hitters might be the best way to do this while also keeping the offensive line from having to block very long.
Once called All Pro Joe, Haden hasn't been great this season and is questionable due to another groin injury. While he isn't the star some once thought he was, Haden is vital to this Browns team this week.
If he can play, Haden matches up pretty well with the main receivers from the Titans. With Rishard Matthews, Tajae Sharpe and long term veteran Andre Johnson all standing 6 foot or taller, Haden can get his hands on them and re-route them.
With Tramon Williams expected to return this week, the Browns need at least one corner they can rely on. Newcomer Jamar Taylor has played okay in spurts while Williams and Haden have had their difficulties.
If Haden can be a reliable corner, the Browns pass defense can be in good shape. The Titans are a heavy run team but the Browns can't commit to stop the run if they can't trust Haden in coverage.
Defensive Front 7
Quite simply, whoever stops or slows down the opponent's run game also wins the game. The Browns have to commit to stopping DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry and QB Marcus Mariota and their league-leading rushing attack.
It starts up front with Danny Shelton who has looked so much better this season than last. Shelton's pad level has been much improved allowing him to plug up the middle and get penetration. Last week, Carl Nassib returned from his hand injury but only played 27 snaps (34%). He is a key cog with his length and ability set the edge.
At the second level, DeMario Davis needs to plug the gaps up front. Davis was brought in for this reason and can earn his money this week. Rookie Emmanuel Ogbah plays both the traditional OLB spot when the Browns are in an odd front and puts his hand down in even fronts. His size, length and speed combo is important to setting the edge and collapsing on runs opposite Nassib.
The play of the Front 7 will allow the safeties clean runs at the ball carrier and to play smarter in the play action game. If the Front 7 struggles, the safeties will feel pressure to cheat up to help in the run game which could lead to play action deep balls from Mariota.
Like most NFL games, Week 6 will be won in the trenches. The Browns offensive and defensive lines will play the biggest roles in the outcome of the game while Joe Haden's ability to play, and play well, can help the Browns defense focus on the run.
This week seems to be the Browns best chance for a win the rest of the year. There are a lot of keys to every game but these 3 will decide who wins the game.
What do you think is the key for the Browns Week 6 match-up?