Following the first time they have been shutout at home in over 20 years, the Patriots travel to Cleveland to face off against the Browns. And if you haven't heard, Mr. Tom Brady is returning from suspension and will take his rightful place back under center for the 3-1 Patriots. The Browns are the only team left in the NFL without a win, so this has the makings of a very interesting matchup. And with the Patriots offense failing to generate any points last week against the Bills, New England will surely like to make sure that doesn't happen again against Cleveland.
With Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo at the quarterback position in Brady's absence, the team averaged 211 passing yards per game, good for 28th in the league. With Brady back at the helm, that number is sure to increase. It'll be a focal point for the Patriots going up against the Browns, who have given up 260 passing yards on average to opposing teams, good for 16th in the NFL. With Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, Martellus Bennett and Danny Amendola all expected to be healthy and on the field, the Patriots will have their entire core of play-makers for Brady at his disposal. It's likelier we will see the 2015 version of the passing attack (287 yards per game, 5th in the NFL) for New England going forward rather than what we have seen so far in 2016.
And with the Browns tied for 3rd in the NFL with 10 passing touchdowns allowed so far, we very well could see the Patriots rack up some major points through the air against an exploitable Browns secondary. With the Browns also seemingly struggling against opposing tight ends (gave up 18 receptions, 175 yards and two touchdowns to Dennis Pitta and Jordan Reed), this seems like the perfect opportunity for Brady to utilize his new tight end Bennett along with the best tight end in the game, Gronkowski. These two could put up some high stats today as both Bennett and Gronk are two of the best receiving tight ends in the NFL.
Surprisingly, the Browns (#1) and the Patriots (#3) rank in the top five for average rushing yards per game so far this season. The Patriots have relied heavily on LeGarrette Blount, He is 5th in the NFL (88) in rushing attempts and also 5th (352) in rushing yards as well to go with four touchdowns this season as well. The Patriots may take a step back from relying on the run game so much with Brady back, but don't be surprised if New England still uses the run game quite a bit. That could very well be the case against the Browns, who have given up the 9th most rushing yards per game (118.3) in the NFL. And if the Patriots were able to get ahead early, the team could heavily rely on Blount and the run game to control the clock.
For the Browns, despite their 0-4 record, they have a rather dangerous run game. Isaiah Crowell leads all qualified running backs in yards per rushing attempt (6.5 yards) and is 3rd in the NFL with 394 rushing yards. And lest we forget Duke Johnson, who also has a 6.2 yards per rushing attempt average as well. The Browns under new head coach Hue Jackson has been able to orchestrate the best running game in the NFL (149.3 yards per game, 5.7 yards per carry). The Patriots have had their struggles against the run so far this season (giving up 4.3 yards per carry, 101.3 yards per game), so the Browns could try to exploit that considering their issues in the passing game,
The Browns have now lost two quarterbacks to injury with Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown. They are now relying on rookie Cody Kessler, who has done a decent job considering he is a rookie and 3rd string quarterback. He has a 67.1% completion percentage to go with 467 yards and one touchdown and interception a piece. The Browns are tied for 25th in the NFL with 222 yards passing per game, tied for last in the NFL with three passing touchdowns and 26th in the NFL in passer rating (77.3). With that, the Browns do have a secret weapon (well, he's not so secret anymore) in wide receiver Terrelle Pryor. He has proven to be a threat to opposing defenses, having 13 receptions for 190 yards and a touchdown over the past two games. Not to mention, he had five receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown while being covered by one of the best cornerbacks in the game, Josh Norman.
Those three players (Pryor, Crowell, Johnson) along with big-bodied and red zone threat Gary Barnidge still do make this offense formidable. The Patriots have been decent against the pass despite having one of the best secondaries in the NFL. They are giving up the 14th fewest passing yards per game (275 yards) and have only given up five receiving touchdowns to opposing teams in four games this season.
Overall, both teams boast average defenses statistically and solid rushing attacks. The big difference for the Patriots despite their below average passing attack is the return of star quarterback Tom Brady. This game will be an offensive show-down considering the play-makers on both teams. It may seem like a mismatch on paper, but Cleveland's rushing attack will not be one to take likely. This game will be an entertaining one to watch regardless.