The New England Patriots are on pace for a fantastic year that should lead to yet another deep playoff run for them. They have started to click on offense in recent weeks, and have seemingly peaked at the perfect time. However, the Cleveland Browns are a team that may surprise people this week against the Patriots, possibly handing them an upset that few will expect.
First of all, the Browns possess a very underrated defense. Their secondary, led by CB Joe Haden, ranks fifth against the pass, and the defense as a whole ranks fourth in the NFL. They also possess very good safeties in T.J. Ward and Tashaun Gipson.
Their pass rush, while not spectacular by any means, is more than good enough to get to Tom Brady at times on Sunday, and the offense has weapons like Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron, Davone Bess and Chris Ogbonnaya, who is averaging 5.7 yards per rush this year. Jason Campbell, while no Joe Montana, has a decent arm and can run when given the chance.
The Patriots’ defense is clearly banged up at the moment. Aaron Dobson and Marcus Cannon are both out while Steve Gregory, Kyle Arrington, and Alfonzo Dennard are playing hurt. Aqib Talib will likely be assigned to cover Gordon, who is one of the most explosive receivers in the league. As for Cameron, covering him should prove to be a bit more challenging with Dennard likely to handle those duties.
However, another player that the Browns have in the slot, WR Davone Bess, has given the Patriots fits throughout his career and could be a big mismatch in particular this week against their beat-up secondary. The Pats simply do not have enough healthy bodies to account for each of these pass catchers.
Besides the pass catchers the Browns have, they also have an emerging running back in Chris Ogbonnaya who can both catch and run the football with authority. They also have Willis McGahee, who is a dependable running back in the league despite his struggles this year. If the Patriots’ struggles against the run carry over to this week, it could be a long day for them on Sunday.
As for the Patriots offensively, they can certainly match up against most teams with Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen, Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola as main weapons. However, the Browns’ defense is arguably the best they have faced this year besides the Carolina Panthers, whom they previously lost to this season.
While I am not guaranteeing a Browns’ victory, I do believe that they can contend with the Pats on Sunday, and an upset could be dealt to the Pats if everything breaks the Browns’ way.