NFL 2019 (Week 3): Los Angeles Rams at Cleveland Browns

Russell S. Baxter

NFL 2019 (Week 3): Los Angeles Rams at Cleveland Browns

By Jesse Pierson

Special to Pro Football Guru

Just over a season removed from finishing 0-16, the Cleveland Browns are appearing in primetime for consecutive weeks. The Browns dispatched the New York Jets on Monday night, cruising to an easy 23-3 victory after ending the season of Jets' backup quarterback Trevor Siemian and forcing third-stringer Luke Falk into the lineup. Now they welcome in the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams, who themselves altered the NFC landscape by injuring New Orleans' record-setting passer Drew Brees last Sunday. Saints’ backup Teddy Bridgewater was no more effective against the Rams than Falk was against the Browns. With the competition improved for both teams, who will come out ahead in a pivotal Week 3 matchup?

Rams: Los Angeles is riding high with a 2-0 record and hopes to enter NFC West play in October with a perfect 4-0 mark. It has thus far been business as usual for Sean McVay's squad, mixing Todd Gurley runs in with play-action passes which—more often than not—allow Jared Goff to hit wide open receivers downfield. Unstoppable force/defensive tackle Aaron Donald is officially listed as questionable with a back injury, though all expectations are that he will suit up against Cleveland. Tight end Tyler Higbee is not so fortunate, as he has been ruled out already, and guard Austin Blythe's status is up in the air as well. Missing those two would take some steam out of the Rams' wide zone attack, which makes Goff's job all the more difficult. When everyone is healthy, Goff is perhaps the league's best play-action passer; his strength, however, is not taking deep drops and dissecting a defense. Against Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon, few quarterbacks have time to read through their full progressions anyway. Count on more screens to Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods to keep this Browns’ defense moving laterally.

Browns: Speaking of Steve Wilks’ unit, it enters this game with a veritable MASH unit of a secondary. Safety Damarious Randall is out with a concussion, whereas fellow safety Morgan Burnett and starting cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams are all considered questionable. Linebacker Christian Kirskey is also out, and Adarius Taylor is questionable. This is not the ideal offense to be facing when beaten up so badly. If Garrett and the pass rush don't get home against Goff, the FirstEnergy Stadium scoreboard could light up worse than the Cuyahoga River in 1969. The good news is that Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Nick Chubb are all in good health. They did lose emerging tight end David Njoku to injured reserve with a hurt wrist, but the remaining stars are plenty explosive on their own. Mayfield does need to cut down on his interceptions, and this would be the optimal time to do so.

Prediction: A tit-for-tat first half gives way to a Rams-centric second, as the visiting team pulls away late for an impressive victory.

Los Angeles Rams 31, Cleveland Browns 23

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.

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