The batteries are all recharged for the Browns for Week 10.
Fresh off a bye week, the Browns are jumping right back into a pivotal stretch of the schedule, starting with a big challenge Sunday against the Dolphins, who are 6-3 and riding the hot hand of QB Tua Tagovailoa. The Browns, though, aren't lacking momentum either after their huge win in Week 8 over the Bengals that brought a fresh spark to the team's playoff hopes.
Now, they have to keep building on it in Miami.
Here's the biggest question the Browns face on their trip down south.
How much did the bye week help the Browns?
It should help them a lot — not only did it give them a chance to look back on what went wrong and what went right from the first half, but it also gave injured players a chance to get healthy.
Denzel Ward is one key player who benefitted from the break. After missing the last three games due to a concussion, Ward confirmed that he’ll be ready to suit up for Week 10. That's a big bonus for a secondary that will face one of its toughest battles of the season this week against the Dolphins, who boast the league's second-best passing attack.
The Browns should feel good about their chances of repeating the success they found in their Week 8 Monday Night Football win against the Bengals. The defense has now put together back-to-back strong performances and has appeared to take a big step forward after its slow start to the year, and the offense has continued to play well in front of QB Jacoby Brissett.
Now, everyone had a week to take a breather and find ways to improve.
"Coming off the bye is a time to get healthy, so it's important for some guys who are battling," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "There are guys who are battling to get back. I think that's where the bye helps you. I think it helps you, like we have talked about, to self-scout to really understand yourself, and then to dive into your opponent ahead of time. I don't know what everyone's record is coming off the bye, but you would think it would be an advantage to most teams."
Under Stefanski, the Browns are 2-0 out of their bye week.
They can inject another boost to their playoff odds if they can make it 3-0 with a win in Miami.
Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams regular season game against the Miami Dolphins
Can the defense stay hot?
This is arguably the biggest question the Browns face this week.
After holding QBs Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow to some of their lowest outputs in the two games before the bye, the Browns defense must keep slowing the top threats in a Dolphins offense that's played better than any other unit they've seen this season.
Tagovailoa has enjoyed a breakout season and likely would have the Dolphins in a better position than their 6-3 record if he hadn't missed two games due to a concussion that forced him to miss two games. The Dolphins lost both of those games. and also dropped the Week 4 game where was injured.
They have yet to lose a game this season where Tagovailoa has been the starting QB.
"I think he really goes through his progressions quickly, he gets rid of the football on time and he's not afraid to throw the ball into tight windows," defensive coordinator Joe Woods said. "The thing I see him do for a young guy is throw receivers open, as well. He's been impressive just watching tape. The more I watch, the more impressed I'm with what he's doing."
The Browns know they need takeaways for their best chance to win, but those have been tough to find against Tagovailoa, who's thrown just three interceptions this year. The Browns are 3-0 this season when they win the turnover battle and 0-4 when they don't, so any takeaways the defense can find against the Dolphins will be crucial.
What's the plan to stop Hill and Waddle?
Stopping both receivers might be impossible — Tyreek Hill has a staggering 1,104 receiving yards and is the league's first player to top 1,000 receiving yards. Jaylen Waddle is fifth in the league with 812 receiving yards.
Both receivers will garner plenty of targets and receptions Sunday. It's inevitable. But one thing the Browns could do to limit the damage is contain them in open space.
Hill ranks second among NFL wide receivers with 362 yards after the catch, trailing only Los Angeles' Cooper Kupp (397). Waddle is the sixth receiver on that list with 291 yards.
Defensive coordinator Joe Woods said Hill's blazing speed can lead to big plays on even the shortest of pass attempts.
"Everybody talks about the vertical speed, but if you throw him something short and you miss the tackle, he might go 70," Woods said. "He's definitely a handful to deal with, but we're familiar with him, and there are a couple of different things we will try to do to slow him down."
Woods obviously won't share those plans, but the Browns should have a variety of personnel and talent on defense to make them work, which brings us to our next question.
What kind of boost can Ward's return provide?
Ward will play Sunday for the first time he suffered a concussion in Week 5, and his presence will be much needed on the defense as they go against Hill.
With Ward back, the entire Browns secondary will be healthy as it looks to build off its strong showing last game against Burrow. It also means the Browns will have no shortage of depth and use Ward, Greg Newsome II, Greedy Williams and M.J. Emerson Jr. as they see fit to matchup against the Dolphins' top pass weapons.
"I feel confident in all of the guys we had back there, but to add that element of speed and somebody who has played against (Dolphins WR) Tyreek (Hill) in the past, it definitely gives you confidence," Woods said. "I think there are certain things that I'll be able to do coverage wise knowing that he can go match up at times."
Sure sounds like Woods has something unique to show Hill, Tagovailoa and the Dolphins this weekend.
The Browns need those plans to work to have their best shot at building their first win streak of 2022.