The Browns are 2-1 after defeating the Washington Football Team in convincing fashion by scoring 34 points on offense and forcing five turnovers on defense. The Browns' tour around the NFC East will continue this week when they travel to Dallas to take on the 1-2 Cowboys, who are participating in weekly shootouts that are seeing an average of 61.7 points combined per game.
The big star on the field will likely be overshadowed by all of the stars on both sides of the ball in a big litmus test game for the Browns. The Browns' stars have shown bright during the two-game winning streak and that will have to continue Sunday in order to get to 3-1 to start the season.
Let's look at three keys to victory in this week's Winning Mix!
1. Throw it all over Jerry's World
The Browns' winning formula in 2020 has been to limit pass attempts and feature the incredible running back duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb and Hunt are the only running back duo with more than 200 yards rushing each and the Browns are running on 52.7 percent of their plays, second-most in the NFL. That formula will bring success against many teams, but in Week 4, the Browns may have to open up the passing game to keep pace with the explosive Dallas offense.
The good news for the Browns is Baker Mayfield comes into this game very hot, completing 70 percent of his passes with three touchdowns, one interception and consecutive quarterback ratings of 100-plus over the last two weeks. Mayfield will look to post a third consecutive quarterback rating over 100 for the first time in his career and will get help from a struggling Dallas pass defense that is arguably the most generous in the NFL.
In their last two games, the Cowboys have allowed 792 yards passing, nine passing touchdowns, an opposing quarterback rating of 128.1 and have not recorded a single interception. The nine passing touchdowns in consecutive games is the most given up by Dallas sine the 2006 season.
For the year, Dallas is allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw a touchdown every 12 pass attempts, by far the highest rate in the NFL. In fact the 8.3 touchdown rate allowed by the Dallas pass defense is the worst the NFL has seen since the 1969 season. Odell Beckham Jr. has a great history against the Cowboys with five career touchdowns against them in seven games. This is the game to count on Beckham and Jarvis Landry, who has caught 11 of his 12 targets this season, and air the ball out in a race to 30-plus points in a shootout in Dallas. By the way, if the Browns score 30-plus points this week, it will be the first time they have scored 30 or more in three consecutive games since 1968.
2. Feed Chubb the rock
I know, I know, I just told you the Browns need to open up the passing attack and throw it all over the struggling Dallas pass defense, but they also need to utilize their ground game to control the clock and keep Dak Prescott off the field. While the pass attempts could go way up this week, I still want to see the Browns utilize their best offensive weapon, Chubb, early and often, especially with Kareem Hunt's uncertain status.
Chubb can help slow down the Dallas pass rush, which is led by Aldon Smith, who is currently the top sack-getter in the NFL with five through the first three games. Chubb can also help the Browns control time of possession and limit the opportunities for the Dallas offense to light up the scoreboard. Chubb has rushed for more than 100 yards with multiple touchdowns in each of the last two games and has the chance to join Jim Brown as the only two Browns to ever rush for 100 yards with multiple touchdowns in three consecutive games.
I also think it is especially important to continue to feature Chubb in the red zone, where he has been simply spectacular. The Browns are running the ball 76 percent of the time in the red zone, most in the NFL, and as a result they have scored nine red zone touchdowns without committing a single red zone turnover this season. The Browns are currently scoring touchdowns on 59 percent of their red zone trips in 2020, ninth-best in the NFL. It is even more critical in a high scoring game that the Browns continue to produce touchdowns, rather than field goals, at the end of their scoring drives, and Chubb will play a big role in that once again.
3. Generate pressure with the Front Four
According to Next Gen Stats, Myles Garrett leads the NFL with 18 quarterback pressures and four turnovers generated as a direct result of his pressures. Those are Defensive Player of the Year type stats, and they will be needed more than ever against the Cowboys' top-ranked passing offense in Week 4. Hopefully Olivier Vernon will be back this week because the Browns defensive front will need all hands on deck to generate the consistent pressure on Prescott. That will be critical to slow him down Sunday.
From a clean pocket, Prescott is completing 76 percent of his passes for 943 yards (8.9 yards per attempt), five touchdowns, zero interceptions and a quarterback rating of 117.8. When under pressure, however, Prescott becomes pedestrian, completing only 43 percent of his passes for 245 yards (6.6 yards per attempt), zero touchdowns, two interceptions and a quarterback rating of 43.2. His completion percentage and quarterback rating under pressure rank 25th and 29th in the NFL, respectively.
Blitzing Prescott is not the answer, as he is currently averaging 10 yards per attempt and has a quarterback rating of 110.7 against the blitz this season. So the pressure must come from the Browns' defensive line, a unit that has produced 48 pressures and seven sacks through the first three games, per Pro Football Focus. So this is a massive game for Garrett, Vernon, Adrian Clayborn, Porter Gustin, Sheldon Richardson, Larry Ogunjobi, Jordan Elliott, Joe Jackson and Vincent Taylor to disrupt Prescott, and they must do it consistently.