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Burning Questions

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Burning Questions for Week 12 vs. Buccaneers

The Browns are looking to snap a two-game losing streak


For the second time this season, the Browns are looking to end a losing streak.

They're hoping this one stops at two after a four-game losing streak earlier this season took a huge blow to the chances of being in a playoff race in December. A win this week would not only snap a losing streak, but generate some momentum ahead of Deshaun Watson's debut next week in Houston.

What questions do the Browns face this week? Let's dive in.

1. Can the defense slow Brady?

The seven-time Super Bowl champion hasn't carried the Buccaneers (5-5) to as high of a level as he had in previous years, but he's still been very efficient with the football — he's fourth in the league with 2,805 passing yards and has thrown 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions.

Myles Garrett, 26, was admirable of what Brady, 45, has still been able to do in his second decade in the NFL.

"I don't care if I have to say it, but what he's doing is still mind-blowing each game," Garrett said. "Being able to have his body prepared to go through that beating, and I know it's physical and demanding throughout the week and he's always prepared. He's kept himself to a strict diet and regimen to do what he has to, and it's impressive to see and watch and appreciate."

Brady's maintained his potency in the pocket at his age by getting rid of the ball quickly and using a strong offensive line to avoid sacks. He's been sacked just 14 times this season and is coming off one of his best performances of the season, a 258-yard and two-touchdown performance in a win over the Seahawks in Week 10. Tampa Bay had a bye week last week.

The Browns' approach to defending Brady isn't about doing something different to defend him — with 23 seasons of experience, nothing will surprise him anymore — but rather executing their assignments as consistently as possible.

"I think you have to worry about doing our job," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "He's a great player. He doesn't take sacks. He doesn't throw interceptions. He throws it at a high level. He's on time and accurate. We really have to defend this offense and defend that pass attack, and again, the pass attack that comes off of their play-action, which is really good."

Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams regular season game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2. How do Browns CBs stack against Bucs WRs?

Brady's sustained success has also been made possible because of his big, dynamic trio of wide receivers in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Julio Jones.

All of them are above 6-feet tall and excel at being physical when the ball is in the air. The Browns will look to defend them without their primary slot cornerback, Greg Newsome II, who was the only Browns player ruled out from the game due to a concussion.

Newsome will miss his second straight game, and CB A.J. Green will likely fill in again for him in the slot role. Green, a third-year vet, faces a stiff challenge against Godwin, who has been a key slot target for Brady. Denzel Ward will go against Evans, a four-time Pro Bowler who stands tall at 6-foot-5 but has just three touchdowns. He hasn't caught a touchdown since Week 4.

"Their receivers are all so different," Stefanski said. "They're all very, very talented but different talents, and they're versatile. Mike Evans is just so physical, able to get to every ball and has a rare combination of size and speed. His speed does show up even with being a big player. Just an impressive group in total. Godwin is really, really tough. Catches it over the middle, very good on wide receiver screens, gets his hands on it and gets north and south immediately. (Buccaneers WR) Julio (Jones), everybody knows how talented he is."

3. Will Chubb bounce back?

Chubb was limited to one of his lowest outputs of his career last week against the Bills, carrying the ball 14 times for just 19 yards.

For Chubb's standards, it's been a slow two-game stretch since the Browns returned from their bye week — he's carried 25 times for 82 yards (3.2 yards per carry) with one touchdown in the last two games. The Browns' offense is at their best when Chubb tops 100 rushing yards, which has happened five times this season.

The Buccaneers rank 16th in the league against the run, and they could be missing one of their top run stuffers in NT Vita Vea, who is questionable for the game with a foot injury and is considered a game-time decision. At 347-pounds, Vea takes up plenty of space in the interior and would be a stiff challenge for Hjalte Froholdt, who’s starting at center for the first time in his career.

4. How might weather affect game plans?

The forecast from Sunday calls for a 75 percent chance of rain at kickoff and about a 60 percent chance to last through the entire afternoon. Winds will also be between 13-17 mph, with wind gusts possibly touching 30 mph.

It's likely going to be messy at FirstEnergy Stadium, which could help the Browns in slowing Brady but will also require even more work to stop the Buccaneers' run game. Tampa Bay is shifting its workload to third-round rookie Rachaad White, who rushed 22 times for 105 yards in the last game against the Seahawks.

The Browns defense ranks 24th in the league against the run, but if they're able to capture an early lead against the Buccaneers and force Brady to throw in less-than-favorable pass conditions, they could give themselves their best shot of finding their first win since Halloween and snapping a losing streak ahead of Watson's return.

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