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The Winning Mix

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The Winning Mix: 3 keys to a victory over the Buccaneers

The Browns are back at FirstEnergy Stadium for Week 12


The Browns are 3-7 and sorely need to avoid extending their losing streak to three games ahead of the Week 13 return of Deshaun Watson, while the Buccaneers are 5-5 and coming off a bye week. Stopping Tom Brady and the plethora of talent from Tampa Bay will be tough, but the Browns have the tools to get the job done.

Here's their path to victory:

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

1. Attain an early lead

This will be especially important in a game that will likely be impacted by inclement weather at FirstEnergy Stadium. With a strong chance of rain and high winds, both teams might not be able to generate much production by throwing the football, which means building and maintaining a lead will be even more important and could allow the Browns to stick to their run game.

Believe it or not, the Browns might actually prefer to force the Buccaneers to use Brady's arm. Cleveland has struggled stopping the run for most of the season and ranks 24th in the league in run defense, while Tampa Bay will be shifting their run game to a promising rookie RB in Rachaad White — he topped 100 rushing yards for the first time in his career in the Buccaneers' last game in Week 10. If Brady is throwing the ball, it'll likely be because the Browns have the lead, and the slick and windy conditions could make their jobs easier in defending the pass rather than the run.

2. Rekindle the run game

The Browns have struggled to generate much production with their own rushing attack in the two games since the bye week. Nick Chubb has 25 carries for 82 yards (3.2 yards per carry) in that stretch and is coming off a season-low 19 yards on 14 carries against the Bills.

The Buccaneers have been strong against the run of late — they've held opponents to 68 and 39 rushing yards in their last two games — but have allowed over 150 rushing yards four other times this season. The Browns might need to make that five games for their best shot to win. Doing so will require better offensive line play up front, where no linemen was given a higher overall grade of 70.0 from Pro Football Focus last week against Buffalo.

3. Avoid turnovers

Nathan Zegura has spotlighted turnovers in this section nearly every week of the season, and he's normally done so by saying the defense needs to grab them for the Browns to have their best chance to win. That point is still obviously true this week, but the Buccaneers are not a team prone to turning the ball over — they've committed just nine giveaways this season, the second-lowest mark in the league.

Instead, the focus should be on the offense to not turn the ball over and maximize time of possession. The Browns have 14 giveaways this year, which is tied for 10th in the league, and can't afford to give any extra possessions to Brady and Co. They're 0-7 when they lose the turnover battle this season, and any giveaways on their end could be extra costly against a Buccaneers offense that rarely loses the football.

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