Browns/Broncos: 4 Keys To Victory Week 12

November 22, 2023

Andy Billman Tony Camino

Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos Matchups to Watch:

1 – DTR vs Russell Wilson

Andy –

The key for Dorian Thompson-Robinson in this game is to avoid making big mistakes and to control field position.  Ironically, the same can be said for Russell Wilson. He has more experience playing, so he can manage the game at a more elite level.

Yet there’s no significant difference between them, but Wilson has the upper hand because of experience.  The narrative that there is a massive difference between the two is unfair, as Wilson is certainly not winning games for the Broncos.  He makes winning passes, but so does DTR.

I would tell DTR to go downfield a little more in this game and use his legs to help with some RPO for the Browns’ options.   DTR should have some opportunities to go deep once in a while, and that will help keep the Broncos honest with extra linemen in the box.  Finally, keep the same mentality, simple positive play with the pass and run to keep the ball moving.

Tony –

The limitations of what Dorian Thompson-Robinson can do versus what Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson can achieve are vastly different, and the two have distinctly opposite roles heading into Sunday. While the Browns are designed to get the ball out of DTR’s hands as quickly as possible against the tough Steelers’ pass rush, they will need to spend more time in the pocket to throw the ball downfield.

Russell Wilson has been playing his best football with the Denver Broncos over the last few weeks, but it hasn’t been perfect. He ranks first in completion percentage over expected but is middle-of-the-pack in terms of success rate. Wilson isn’t the same quarterback he once was in Seattle, but he excels at taking what the defense gives him with check downs and short routes.

The advantage, without a doubt, is with the Broncos in this one, but the Browns’ formula for winning is not going to be DTR slinging it for 300 yards, whereas that is how the Broncos need to play. The Broncos’ rushing attack has also looked slightly better recently, but DTR just has to protect the football and make plays with his legs, along with a few more downfield throws, to give them every chance to win in Denver.

2 – Browns running game vs. Broncos run defense.

Tony –

The Browns’ run game struggled to gain momentum against Pittsburgh, primarily due to facing a significant number of defenders in the box. Denver’s overall defense ranks last in the NFL in terms of EPA/play, primarily due to their run defense ranking dead last in rushing success rate. Teams have found success on 50.9% of run plays against Denver, emphasizing the Browns’ need to improve their running game in Denver.

The Browns’ offensive line has performed well with the initial push, ranking fifth-best in yards before contact allowed. The Broncos’ defense, on the other hand, allows the fifth-most yards before contact among all offensive lines. The linemen need to establish the tone early in the game.

Although it’s likely that Denver will stack the box and make every effort to stop the run, the Browns must stay ahead of schedule by running the ball more effectively than they did against the Steelers. Pittsburgh, having faced Stefanski’s offense frequently, anticipated the run plays and utilized a stacked box, limiting running room. Against a weaker front like Denver’s, the Browns’ offensive line must capitalize on this potential advantage.

Andy –

It is time for the Browns to run wild on the Broncos defense.  Denver does not handle the run game well, and the Browns must exploit that early and often.  As they have been in previous weeks, the Browns should stay patient and allow the running game to dictate a game plan to wear down the Denver defensive front.

Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt need to be ready to carry the ball quite a bit, and DTR needs to be prepared for a handful of runs.  The offensive line has been successful against two of the more formidable defenses, especially the Steelers, so they should be able to handle the Broncos’ front that does not match up to the previous two opponents. Run, run, run!

3 – Browns defensive line vs. Broncos offensive line

Andy –

The talent of the Browns’ front should allow them to hold their own and make life hectic for the Broncos.  Yes, Denver protects the quarterback, but one can argue they have not played a defensive line like Cleveland’s in previous weeks. 

The Broncos’ run game does not make a huge impact, and they have a hard time making yards. In fact, they need help moving the ball against teams that have a good defense.

The Browns can’t overlook the Broncos’ offensive line and must be prepared for Sean Payton to call specific schemes to confuse them or exploit their overaggressiveness. Other than that, let Myles Garrett go wild.

Tony –

Every week, this is where the Browns will have the best advantage and where they can potentially dominate the game. The Browns’ defense is generating pressure at the fifth-highest rate in the NFL, despite ranking just 11th in blitz rate this season. Denver’s offensive line has done a commendable job protecting their quarterback, allowing the third-fewest pressure rate in the league.

However, the Broncos’ offensive line is less effective in the run game, ranking in the bottom 10 in yards before contact allowed. This has resulted in them being bottom 10 in rushing success rate, providing the Browns with an opportunity to control the line of scrimmage. While the Browns need to find ways to generate pressure on the quarterback to alleviate stress on the corners in coverage, they should have success in stopping the run.

Tackles Garrett Bolles and Mike McGlinchey have consistently performed well over the years, and right guard Quinn Meinerz is having a standout season. Despite the offensive line not being a pushover like some recent teams, the Browns’ defensive line boasts superior talent, and they will need to disrupt the Broncos’ offensive rhythm on Sunday.

4 – Browns special teams vs. Broncos special teams

Tony –

As evidenced in the Steelers’ game, field position from special teams is poised to play a significant role in how the Browns secure victories. Corey Bojorquez has been consistently effective, ranking in the top 10 in net yards per punt. In contrast, Denver’s punter, Riley Dixon, ranks 30th in net yards per punt and 28th in the percentage of punts inside the 20. This suggests that the Browns should hold the advantage when it comes to punting the ball.

Regarding the rest of the special teams, the emphasis remains on making tackles to limit returns and prioritizing ball security. While it would be exciting to see James Proche break one off to flip the field once or twice, preventing turnovers and avoiding giving the ball back in their own territory is of paramount importance. With both teams’ special teams graded inside the top 10 by PFF, field position is poised to be a significant factor in this game once again.

Andy –

The Browns should have a massive special teams advantage in this game regarding punting, as they have a punter, Corey Bojorquez, who can keep the Broncos on their end.  Browns should have good field position throughout the game.

Both teams can make field goals and have good return coverage, but on Sunday, don’t underestimate the punt game.

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