This is a massive AFC matchup with two 2-3 teams that have playoff aspirations and are in need of a big win to get back to .500 on the season. The Browns have got to take care of the details and get the wins that are commensurate with the way they have played this season.
1. Dominate on the Ground
This is a common refrain, but it is also the best way for the Browns to remain the offensive juggernaut that they have been over the first five games of the season. Cleveland enters this game with the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL, averaging 192.4 yards per game. Not only are they churning up yards at an impressive 5.3 yards per carry clip, but they also lead the NFL with 33 runs of at least 10 yards and 11 runs of at least 20 yards.
Last year, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt did not play in the Browns loss to the Patriots, so it'll be great to have that dynamic duo back. Chubb leads the NFL with 593 yards and seven touchdowns this year, while Hunt has chipped in 247 yards and two rushing touchdowns. The Patriots are allowing 4.8 yards per carry this season, but are allowing a league-worst 2.2 yards per carry before contact. When you consider that just Nick Chubb's 415 yards after contact this season would make him the fourth-leading rusher in the NFL, having a two-yard head start on every run should be a great thing for this offense. The Patriots will do everything in their power to stop the run, so the Browns should have plenty of chances for chunk plays on first down play actions and the boots off of the outside run action in this one.
Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams regular season game against the New England Patriots
2. STOP THE RUN
Over the first three games of the season, the Browns allowed just 251 yards rushing or 83.7 yards per game. The last two weeks however, both losses, have seen the Browns allow back-to-back 200-plus yards rushing to the Falcons and the Chargers. In those two games, the Browns are giving up 220 yards and two touchdowns per game on a ridiculous 6.5-plus yards per carry. In fact, the Browns have allowed at last 4.7 yards per carry in four straight games.
The Patriots have the No. 9 rushing offense in the NFL, averaging 138 yards and one touchdown rushing per game on 4.6 yards per carry. Rhamondre Stevenson is coming off a career-high 161 yards rushing against the Detroit Lions, and the 230-pound bull is averaging 5.5 yards per carry this year, third best in the league. The Browns will either schematically — or through better execution and tackling — figure out how to stop the run because the Patriots will absolutely challenge them on the ground.
Something else to consider is that Bailey Zappe is averaging 12.1 yards per attempt and has a quarterback rating of 156.6 when utilizing play action, but those numbers fall to 5.7 yards per attempt and 65.5 rating without play action. Getting the Patriots into obvious passing situations will be critical, and that starts with stopping the run.
3. Clean Sheet and Take Care of the Details
The Browns are 11-2 under Kevin Stefanski all time when they do not commit a single turnover and they are 2-0 this year with a clean sheet. They are 0-3, however, when committing just one turnover in 2022. The Browns must protect the ball against the Patriots in order to secure the win, and you better believe that the Pats will be ball seeking on Sunday.
Finally, the Browns have to clean up the details: no blown assignments, no missed field goals or extra points and no bad penalties that give 15-yard chunks or extend/stop drives. The Browns are the better team, as they have been in basically all of their games this year, but that does not matter — only wins do, and cleaning up the little things should help them secure a big win on Sunday.