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Keys to Victory: What we're watching vs. the Vikings in London


  1. The Browns flew across the Atlantic Ocean overnight and landed in Greater London Friday morning. After a few hours to relax and rest, they were out on the practice fields in preparation for Sunday's game against the Vikings.

Amid the commotion of playing in one of the world's biggest cities, head coach Hue Jackson and players have made clear their stay is more work than pleasure.

"It's fun to be back," said offensive lineman Joel Bitonio, who visited London this summer as part of a league initiative. "But it's a business trip now to play a game. We haven't won a game this year. We've been fighting to and it's been tough. That seven- or eight-hour flight back will be a lot better if we get a win. It'd be great to start it here.

  1. The Browns will be without rookie defensive end and first-overall NFL Draft pick Myles Garrett and potentially a few more key defenders this weekend. Garrett, who was placed into the league's concussion protocol Tuesday, did not make the trip overseas. He leads the team with four sacks in three career games.

It's also unclear if cornerback Jason McCourty (ankle) or safety Jabrill Peppers (toe) will play Sunday. McCourty was listed as doubtful on the team's final injury report and Peppers questionable. The pair of defensive backs missed last weekend's game against Tennessee.

  1. DeShone Kizer, who's set to make his seventh start in eight games, expressed gratitude earlier this week with another chance to prove his worth as the team's starting quarterback. While the rookie has showed promise this season, he's struggled with turnovers, especially in the redzone. After throwing interceptions on back-to-back possessions last week against the Titans, he was benched in the second half. Sunday, however, offers the youngster an opportunity to bounce back from that display.

"I've gone out there and I haven't really played to the best of my ability," Kizer said Wednesday. "I'm putting this team in some tough situations, yet I'm still provided another opportunity to go out and improve myself. It's about doing whatever I can to have a complete game."

Kizer has passed for 965 yards, three touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He added he's received Jackson's message of protecting the football loud and clear.

"My instincts are always going to want to push the ball down the field, but also accepting that not putting the ball in harm's way is the best thing for us."

  1. For the first time since Dec. 31, 2006, the Browns will play a game without Joe Thomas. The 10-time Pro Bowler and face-of-the-franchise left tackle was placed on injured reserve last week with a torn triceps. Thomas, who played 10, 363 consecutive snaps before the injury, underwent surgery Tuesday.

In his his place, second-year offensive lineman Spencer Drango is set to make his first start this season. Drango, a fifth-round pick in 2016, started nine games as a rookie last season. The loss of Thomas, of course, is an admittedly crippling blow to one of the league's youngest teams.

"I think we all know those shoes won't be filled. Let's just be honest, that's Joe Thomas we're talking about. I think we all get that and respect that," Jackson said.

"We all wish Joe was here, but we also know that he's not right now. I know one thing, we're going to have the biggest fan the Cleveland Browns have ever had screaming for the Browns this weekend – his name is Joe Thomas. That was my conversation with him the other day, but I think Spencer is going to go out there and compete. The one thing I want our guys to do is to play as well and as hard as they can. That's all I ask, and then we'll let the rest take care of itself."

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