This season, the number one Browns defense has had their worst performances on the road. They gave up 38 points to the Colts, 31 to the Ravens and 24 to the Seahawks. They will look to a better performance Sunday on the road as they face a Broncos offense that has been coming alive as of late.
The Broncos, who started the season 1-5, have won four straight games. QB Russell Wilson's play in that stretch has played an important factor. Wilson leads all quarterbacks in the last four games with an 86.4 percent adjusted completion percentage. During that time, he has thrown seven touchdowns and zero interceptions.
"Russell's playing great," HC Kevin Stefanski said. "I think he's playing at a high level, like I mentioned. Taking care of the football, running their offense really well and is very capable of making those off-schedule plays that he's made his whole career. You've seen him do it in these games. He gets out of the pocket, and he can run, he can throw it to all areas of the field. So, he's a major point of this offense."
Wilson's unique ability works very well when he has playmakers. He has two talented guys in Cortland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy at wide receiver. Both guys can make a big play at any point in a game.
Sutton, a 6-foot-4 receiver, excels at making contested catches due to his catch radius. Sutton has scored a touchdown in eight of the 10 games the Broncos have played this season. He is Wilson's top target, as he has 45 catches for 499 yards this season.
While Jeudy doesn't find the end zone often, he makes up for it by making big catches to give the Broncos a first down or to put them in field goal range. He has caught 35 passes for 429 yards in nine games this season. He averages the most yards per catch on the team with 12.3.
"They both complement each other," CB Martin Emerson Jr. said. "Jeudy can run and take the top off. (Sutton) is a bigger, slower possession catcher. They are a good duo and solid receivers."
Check out photos of the team working to prepare for the Denver Broncos
The Broncos, however, can also beat teams on the ground. They've rushed for an average of over 134 yards per game during Weeks 5-10. They have a solid running back committee with Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine and undrafted rookie Jaleel Mclaughlin.
Williams is the center of attention due to his two games this season with over 20 attempts. He is tied for 12th with seven other backs, with 12 rushes for 10-plus yards. Additionally, he ranks 19th in missed tackles with a count of 21 and is also 19th for yards-after-contact-per-attempt with 2.79, according to Pro Football Focus.
While the Broncos balanced attack in this four-game stretch has played a role in their wins, the Browns also have pieces that can match up well against their offense. In the secondary, Emerson plays physical and has allowed a 30.8 passer rating, the fourth best in the NFL, per PFF.
The Browns will be without CB Denzel Ward, but they have options who can fill that hole. CB Greg Newsome II has been proving himself as a valuable player for the Browns this season. In Week 10, he scored a pick-six against the Ravens when Ward was sidelined due to an injury. Newsome is expected to be a great opponent for Jeudy.
Overall, the Brown defense has allowed the fewest passing yards at 1,665 this season.
The Browns also have a top-10 run defense in the league. They have allowed only 996 rushing yards, ranking ninth in the league. Additionally, they lead the league in stopping teams from rushing for a first down, with only 18.6 percent of successful attempts.
The Browns defensive line is anchored by DE Myles Garrett – the current NFL sack leader, who has had 13 sacks this season. Despite facing double-teams on 32 percent of his snaps this season, Garrett boasts the second-highest pass-rush win rate with 42 percent, which is a testament to his ability to break through double-teams, per ESPN.
"He's playing at a high level," Broncos HC Sean Payon said of Garrett. "He's smart, he's talented and he has every one of those traits that you're looking for. His get-off is fantastic. He's battling chips and nudges and all those things. He's having a great season. They're playing really good defense. They're first in the league in a lot of categories. He's something else."
The Browns top the list for total defense and points per possession, scoring 1.2. According to Statmuse, Cleveland has allowed the fewest yards per drive since at least 2000 and the fewest yards per game (243.3) since 2008. They've also allowed the fewest passing yards per game (143.7) since 1982 and the fewest first downs per game (12.5) since 1973.
Additionally, the Browns have forced three-and-outs on the highest percentage of drives since the stat started being tracked in 2000.
The Browns defense has an opportunity to exploit their matchups and make things difficult for the Broncos. However, the Browns defense must force a turnover to help their offense on the road. The defense can open up short-field opportunities for QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson if they force turnovers.
Even though the Broncos have not thrown an interception in the last four games, they have fumbled twice. The Browns defense in the last four games has forced seven turnovers.
"Whoever doesn't turn the ball over in an NFL game usually wins the game," Emerson said. "It's a game about not making mistakes. We just got to do our job and get the ball back for DTR, which we should. It's going to help us put points on the board and help us win."