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Burning Questions

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Burning Questions for Week 11 vs. Bills

The biggest questions the Browns face as they head to Ford Field


A change in venues hasn't affected the Browns' plans against the Bills this weekend.

After the NFL relocated the game from Buffalo to Detroit due to the massive snowstorm in the Buffalo region, the Browns are hoping the move to an indoor setting at Ford Field will allow them to stick to their game plan and find a way to grab a crucial win against a slumping Bills team.

The Bills are 6-3 and have lost two straight games, but the Browns, at 3-6, are in a slump of their own after a lopsided loss in Week 10 to the Dolphins. 

They'll look to rebuild some momentum indoors rather than in a cold, snowy environment in Buffalo.

"It benefits everybody that we're not playing in the snow," Myles Garrett said Friday. "As much fun as it is as a kid, we get paid too much to be slipping and sliding around and trying to make plays and trying to do what we do on a regular basis when we are in 3 feet of snow."

Here's the questions the Browns face heading into Week 11:

Will the Browns benefit from playing at Ford Field?

Perhaps it will be a good thing that Cleveland won't have to play in possible cold, windy and even snowy conditions in Buffalo.

Sure, any snow or windy conditions could have been an equalizer of sorts — both teams would've likely turned to their run game more, where the Browns, ranked fifth in the league in run game, might've held the edge over the Bills, ranked 10th. 

The Browns, however, have struggled against the run and hold the 23rd-ranked run defense in the league. They're coming off a rough week where they allowed an inconsistent Dolphins run game to total a season-high 195 rushing yards.

There were always pros and cons for playing in extreme winter conditions, but now that they're inside, both teams will be able to execute the game plans they formulated for when weather isn't a factor.

"There are some things that early on we talked about having offensively and defensively for the weather conditions — some personnel groupings, plays and those types of things that you probably aren't going to get to in this type of game now that it is in a dome or indoors," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "Plenty of lead time to make adjustments there."

The Browns will also have the benefit of completing a normal week of practice after the Bills had to cancel their practice Friday due to the snowstorm. Buffalo also had to alter practice plans Wednesday due to a rash of illnesses to players.

Aside from a venue change — and hopping on a bus Saturday rather than a plane to get there — not much else was different for the Browns this week.

"I really don't think it's a distraction at all," Stefanski said. "The guys will go step onto a bus and end up in Detroit."

Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams regular season game against the Buffalo Bills

Can the defense rebound against Josh Allen?

The prime focus for the defense after last Sunday's loss to Miami was to address issues in the run game, but the Browns will still have their hands full against the pass this week, too.

Josh Allen is a Pro Bowl QB who hasn't played up to his usual level the last two weeks, throwing one touchdown and four interceptions in losses to the Jets and Vikings. Allen leads the league with 10 interceptions, but the Browns are still doing all necessary homework on him — he's still thrown 20 touchdowns, which is second in the league.

"He's top tier," Garrett said. "He is always in the MVP talk and that caliber. We have to treat him as such and respect him as such and try to attack him just like we have with these other guys who are amongst that league."

The Browns must find a way to rekindle the success they had against Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow before the bye week for Allen. Cleveland did an excellent job of limiting Jackson's mobility in Week 7 and forcing Burrow to start slow in Week 8, which was arguably the biggest reason why the Browns had a chance to win both games. 

Allen's strengths mirror that of both of those QBs — he's mobile like Jackson, and also has a big arm like Burrow.

"He does a little bit of everything," defensive coordinator Joe Woods said. "It's just guys being aware of it, having proper rush lanes, having guys at the second level who have eyes on him and position to chase him down and you have to mix it up. You have to do a little bit of everything. You're not going to be perfect 100 percent of the time, but everybody has to be aware of what he does."

Can the offense rediscover run game consistency?

After Nick Chubb was held to 63 yards last week, the Browns will be looking to bounce back against a Bills defense that will be missing some key players on their defensive front seven.

DE Greg Rousseau and LB Tremaine Edmunds were each ruled out with injuries. Edmunds, in particular, could be a significant loss to the middle of the defense —he's an every-down player for the Bills, and when he exited last week's game after 36 snaps, the Vikings run game took off and finished the game with 147 rushing yards. 

The Bills defense was also struggling against the run before Edmunds' injury and allowed rushing totals of 174 yards from the Jets and 208 yards against the Packers in the previous two weeks. The Browns' run game is capable of topping those totals if it reverts back to its usual dominant form.

For that to happen, the Browns will also need improved play from their offensive line after a performance last week that Joel Bitonio called "collectively our worst game of the year."

"We just never got anything going," he said. "Now, as you look at yourself and what did we do wrong in the game and how do you fix it, you come out and have a great week of practice. That is kind of what we have been focused on. It's unfortunate — you never want to play like that — but we're really focused on just getting better, getting back to the fundamentals and trying to take that next step as a group because they are a good front coming up this week, as well."

How did Deshaun Watson look this week?

OK, so this question doesn't have to do with Sunday, but it's still an important thing to note after Watson was allowed to return to practice this week with two weeks left in his 11-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

Watson worked in the team's "opportunity period," which is the final period the Browns do after practice and allows players to work on any area they'd prefer in a low tempo setting, and impressed offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt.

"He looked good," Van Pelt said. "I know he's been working hard while he has been away from the building. Excited to see him out there. He made some throws after practice. We call it 'opportunity period' where you are like, 'OK, that's impressive stuff.' He looks good. Continue to work him in. He's been in the room now for a while, so I think he has a good understanding of how we work in the game week and transition him in when the time comes."

The Browns still believe they can be in position for a playoff run when Watson returns in Week 13 against Houston. 

But for that to seem more realistic, they'll need to find a way to win indoors Sunday against the Bills.

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