With only four games left in the regular season, the Browns stand at 8-5 and are currently the fifth seed in the AFC. This week, they take on the Bears, who are 5-8 but have won three of their last four games.
Here are three questions the Browns must answer on Sunday.
Will the Browns turn the ball over?
This week, the Browns offense cannot afford to have major issues with miscommunication or mistakes against the Bears defense. Chicago's defense has excelled at forcing turnovers and capitalizing off opponents' mistakes.
In their last three games, the Bears have forced 11 turnovers, out of which nine were interceptions. They have 15 interceptions in total this season, putting them second in the league.
The Bears' ability to force interceptions can be a big problem for the Browns, as they have thrown 15 interceptions this season – second most in the league. In this game, taking care of the ball is essential because of the potential opportunity the offense will have in the passing game.
"They're taking the ball away," HC Kevin Stefanski said. "It's tipped balls. It's making plays on the ball. It's zone defenders being visual on the quarterback. They have great ball skills throughout their defense. So, it's definitely a part of their success recently. It's also a part of their scheme."
Stefanski said it's not just on the quarterback, though. It also involves running the routes at the right depth and having solid protection on the offensive line.
"So, it's really important that your entire offense is keyed in," Stefanski said. "When it's time to get the defensive line's hand's down, that's as important as anything."
How will the Browns manage through their injuries?
The Browns have dealt with a multitude of injuries this season, as they have had 14 players who have played significant snaps go on IR this season due to injury.
Going into Sunday, DE Ogbo Okoronkwo, C Ethan Pocic, S Juan Thornhill and LB Jordan Kunaszyk have been ruled out. CB Denzel Ward, LB Anthony Walker Jr. and DT Jordan Elliott are all questionable heading into Sunday's game. Ward is the leader for the defensive backs, and Walker Jr. is the leader for the linebackers. If both can't suit up on Sunday, it will be a big blow to the Browns, who already have plenty of leaders and good players out for the season.
The Browns' matchup against the Bears won't be easy, despite what the Bears' record says. The team is building a foundation now to bring into next season. The game will be very physical, and it's essential for the Browns to win and leave the game healthy.
All season, the Browns have had a next-man-up mentality. But at this point of the season, you will play teams who have built chemistry with one another throughout the year. Having inconsistent lineups due to injuries can ruin that chemistry and eventually catch up to the Browns.
"It's part of our league," Stefanski said. "We've talked about it, we don't like injuries. Nobody likes them. I feel very bad for our guys that we lose, especially guys that you lose for the season. You feel bad for them on a personal level, but we all have a job to do and that's how we treat it."
Will the Browns stop the run?
The upcoming game will see the Browns facing off against the Bears' formidable top five rushing attack. The Browns are 11th in rushing yards allowed with 1,343 and 24th in the league at giving up rushing touchdowns with 14. Stopping the run has been an issue for the Browns defense.
The Bears rush is spearheaded by QB Justin Fields, who has rushed for 458 yards this season. He averages 5.1 yards per carry and has scored two rushing touchdowns in nine games this season.
"I mean, him and that entire offense have evolved," DE Myles Garrett said. "His timing, his pocket presence, and figuring out when he needs to run or pass and looking at his reads and when he doesn't see it, he'll use his legs. Last time we played, he was trying to stand in the pocket and trying to deliver passes. I don't think he really had the timing down. That internal clock was going, played some good rushes on the other side. And now he kind of has that feel like, all right, not here, there, and he'll use his God-given ability to get out of there."
Despite the fact that the Bears have a good rushing attack, Fields has fumbled the ball seven times this season, though he has only lost four of them. The Browns can look to take advantage, as their defense has forced 10 fumbles and recovered eight of them.
"We have certain schemes that we run against scrambling quarterbacks, and we've used those at different times over the course of the year," DC Jim Schwartz said. "We'll probably break some of those out in this game."