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Scouting Report

Browns' run game promises to provide a tough test for Bills' defense

Jay Skurski

When the Bills run: More Devin Singletary, please. The Bills’ rookie had his breakout game last week against Washington, rushing 20 times for 95 yards and a touchdown. Singletary got nearly double the carries as veteran Frank Gore (11 carries, 15 yards), and there’s no good reason why that should change moving forward. Washington ranked 28th against the run coming into Week 9, and Cleveland is worse entering Week 10. The Browns are 30th in the NFL, allowing an average of 141.3 yards per game. A game plan similar to the way the Bills used Singletary to attack the Redskins around the edge would seem to make sense this week. What happens when the Bills get in short-yardage situations against the Browns will be watched closely following the nightmare of a time the team had against the Redskins. EDGE: Bills.

When the Bills pass: Josh Allen has thrown a career-best 89 consecutive passes without an interception. Is that because the Bills are turning him into a game manager? It’s a fair question. Allen has completed just 3 of 14 passes that have traveled at least 20 yards in the air over the last three games. For the most part, he’s being asked to make safe throws. To his credit, he’s making them. Allen’s completion percentage this season is up to 60.9% – a big jump from last year. The next step will be to complete some long balls to keep the defense honest. The Bills didn’t address wide receiver at the trade deadline, so someone on the 53-man roster will have to emerge as a third option behind John Brown and Cole Beasley. Isaiah McKenzie got the biggest opportunity last week, even if most of his work was as a decoy. It's a good bet we see a rotation at the third receiver spot depending on the defensive matchup for that week. EDGE: Browns.

When the Browns run: The rich get richer. Cleveland already ranks second in the league in yards per carry (5.2) and adds Kareem Hunt, who is returning from an eight-week suspension. He joins Nick Chubb, who is fourth in the NFL with 806 rushing yards and tied for fourth among running backs with an average rush of 5.2 yards. Chubb is a patient, efficient runner who isn’t afraid to spend time behind the line of scrimmage waiting for the hole to open before bursting through it. That means it will be imperative that the Bills honor their gap integrity, which has been the hot topic as the run defense has slipped over the last three weeks. The Bills are now 19th against the run, allowing 111.6 yards per game. EDGE: Browns.

When the Browns pass: Quarterback Baker Mayfield has found a way to do something opposing defensive coordinators have long struggled with: taking Odell Beckham Jr. out of the game. The Browns acquired the superstar receiver this offseason and have decided not to throw him the ball when it matters. Beckham has just three targets in the red zone, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Last week against the Broncos, he got a step on his defender, but Mayfield instead threw toward Jarvis Landry, who was double covered, and the pass was incomplete. Forcing the ball to OBJ, who is likely to draw coverage from Tre’Davious White, seems like the exact type of overcorrection a team like the Browns is destined to make. The Bills want to turn the Browns into a one-dimensional offense. EDGE: Bills.

Special teams: The Browns have a big advantage in Football Outsiders’ rankings of special-teams units, with Cleveland at No. 4 and Buffalo at No. 24. The one weakness with Cleveland’s special teams is its punt coverage. The Browns allow an average punt return of 11.3 yards, which is 30th in the NFL. Cleveland punter Jamie Gillan might have the best nickname in the NFL. “The Scottish Hammer” has a net average of 41.9 yards. Browns kicker Austin Seibert is perfect on field goals this season, although he does not have an attempt from 50-plus yards. EDGE: Browns.

Coaching: Freddie Kitchens has a mess on his hands. There is no other way to put it: The Browns’ coach looks in over his head. With his quarterback getting into feuds with media members, his star receiver more concerned with fighting the NFL’s dress code instead of opposing defenses and his now-former safety making racially charged death threats on social media, Kitchens is the ringleader of a circus. Under his direction, Mayfield has regressed and the Browns have become perhaps the most undisciplined team in the NFL with a league-high 75 penalties. By comparison, the Bills are the model of stability under Sean McDermott. The one thing Kitchens has in his favor, though, is desperation. The Browns have to know their season, and perhaps their coach’s job, is on the line Sunday. EDGE: Bills.

Prediction: Browns 20, Bills 17

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