The New York Giants are coming off a devastating loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 14, but they have won four of their last five overall thanks to a very strong defense.
The star of the surging Giants defense has been defensive end Leonard Williams, who has been a one-man wrecking crew up front. Williams' disruptive tendencies have been very evident of late and during the Giants four-game winning streak, his defense did not allow a single opponent to score more than 20 points. Since Week 5, no team has even scored 27 points against the Giants, with the 26 scored by Arizona last week representing the high point total.
The Browns enter this game on a scoring tear of their own, averaging 36.7 points per game over their last three outings. They have scored at least 27 points in all three games and have topped 40 in each of the last two against likely playoff teams in the Tennessee Titans and the Baltimore Ravens. The key during that stretch has been excellent protection by the Browns offensive line, which has enabled Baker Mayfield to shred the opponent's pass defense. Maintaining that level of excellence this week will be a challenge against the ultra-productive Williams.
Williams plays defensive end in the Giants' 3-4 system and lines up on the right side more than 70 percent of the time. He is lined up either inside against the left guard or sometimes on the edge against the left tackle on the vast majority of his snaps, especially his pass rushing snaps (80-plus percent of the time).
For the season, Williams has 8.5 sacks, second among all interior defensive linemen behind only Aaron Donald. His 12 tackles for loss are third among all interior defensive linemen this season as well. Williams has been even better of late, and over the last four games, he has been one of the most productive pass rushers in the entire NFL. Williams has 3.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hits and six hurries for a total of 19.5 pressures, or nearly five per game, during that span. His pressures have led directly to six sacks for the Giants in those four games, according to Pro Football Focus, and his pass rush productivity of 12.5 in Weeks 11-13 was tops in the entire league.
The good news for the Browns is this will be a strength vs. strength matchup, as both Jedrick Wills Jr. and Joel Bitonio have been outstanding this season. Bitonio is the top overall graded left guard in the NFL this season, per Pro Football Focus, and has allowed just one sack and 12 total pressures in 13 games this year. Wills is the 15th-best pass blocking tackle in the league, per PFF, and has been even better of late. Since Week 8, Wills has allowed just one sack and six total pressures in six games.
If that duo can limit the impact of Williams, look for Mayfield and the Browns to stay hot on offense and put away the Giants for their 10th win.
Check out the best photos from the Browns game against the Baltimore Ravens yesterday by the Browns photo team