We’ve already met the Browns and previewed the game, and now it’s time to take a deeper look at this Christmas Eve matchup. Listen as Will DeWitt goes through his weekly five matchups and three keys that you must pay attention to on Sunday.
First up, let’s analyze the five critical matchups.
1. Prince Amukamara vs Josh Gordon
Since his return, Josh Gordon has already seen 28 balls thrown his way in a three-game stretch. I’m sure Kendall Wright is envious. But in all seriousness, this will be a big-time matchup for both Amukamara and Kyle Fuller. Taking a look at Gordon’s splits, the majority of his production has come along Amukamara’s left sideline (3 catches – 75 yards). So that’ll put the most pressure on No. 20.
Over the last four week’s, Amukamara has given up 13 catches on 24 targets and has allowed a passer rating of only 68.2 when quarterbacks throw in his direction. Gordon still possesses that game-changing talent, but what’s hindering the wideout is his quarterback – DeShone Kizer.
Kizer has struggled mightily with his deep ball accuracy. He has difficulty pushing the ball downfield where Gordon thrives. Instead, the majority of his catches are coming off shallow crossing routes, quick hitches, and slants.
The Browns will still take those deep shots, as Gordon does lead the league in deep targets (20+ yards) since his return. So, it’ll be up to Amukamara to ensure he doesn’t get too physical, grab a jersey, and get called for pass interference. Those hurt every bit as a completed catch. Amukamara was called for both PI and holding last week, so he’ll need to be more aware of how he uses his hands.
In terms of pure talent, Gordon wins this matchup. However, Kizer’s lack of accuracy and overall ability at this point in his career puts Gordon in a bad spot.
Edge: Prince Amukamra
2. Danny Trevathan vs Isiah Crowell (and Duke Johnson)
When looking at Cleveland’s dual-threat coming out of the backfield, it appears that a lot of pressure will be put on inside linebacker Danny Trevathan who is the Bears best run defender at linebacker.
With Isiah Crowell, Trevathan will need to make sure he doesn’t bust out a big run as he tends to do on a weekly basis. When Trevathan gets his hands on a guy, he rarely misses. In fact, he’s only missed two tackles this season. However, Detroit did a good job at getting a block on No. 59, and in turn, take him out of the play. Surely, Cleveland is looking to do the same.
Crowell is averaging 6.9 yards per carry in December with 234 yards on 34 attempts and he has a run that has gone for 20+ in five of his last seven games. Limiting those big runs is key.
If that’s not enough to worry about, then take a look at Duke Johnson Jr. who leads the Browns with 61 catches for 537 yards and three touchdowns. On a per game basis, he’s averaging somewhere in the ballpark of 4-5 catches per game and 40 yards in his last five games. He hasn’t been much of a threat as a runner this month (only averaging 1.7 yards per carry) so when Johnson is in the lineup, look for the Browns to try to get the ball in his hands as a receiver.
This season, Trevathan has allowed a catch on 86 percent of balls thrown his way and 199 yards after the catch. So, he’ll need to pay extra attention to Johnson and stick to him like glue whenever he’s in his route.
Edge: Cleveland’s Backs
3. Lamarr Houston vs Shon Coleman
Since his return, Lamarr Houston has been fun to watch. He has four sacks in three games (the third most in the NFL in that time span) and has been the one player we can count on to get after the quarterback.
He’ll be squaring off against Coleman, who is someone Houston should have no problem with. Coleman has given up the NFL’s second-most pressures (57) and fourth-most sacks (6).
We talked about it in the game preview podcast that getting pressure on Kizer and speeding up his decision making will go a long way towards the Bears defense not only limiting what Cleveland can do offensively, but also it gives the unit the best chances for creating turnovers.
The one thing I want to see out of Houston this week is just a little more consistency. It’s been all or nothing from him so far. Either he’s making a sack, or being stood up at the line. There hasn’t been much in between. If he can find a way to generate pressure consistently, he’ll give the defense a large boost.
Edge: Lamarr Houston
4. Jordan Howard vs Joe Schobert
Howard has struggled to have any sort of consistency over the last month due to facing good run defenses and a struggling offensive line. In fact, since October, Howard has eclipsed the century mark only twice and has failed to reach 60 yards in four games.
Cleveland does give up the fewest yards per carry in the entire NFL (3.3) and shouldn’t fear the Bears up front with injuries to Tom Compton and Josh Sitton last week. Chicago has had a hard time generating a push, creating holes, and Howard has suffered as a result.
When (or if) he gets into some open space, he’ll be seeing a ton of Schobert, who leads Cleveland with 127 total tackles. Schobert’s run stop percentage of 10.3 is the fourth-best in the league and is one spot ahead of Luke Kuechly.
However, the Cleveland linebacker does have one glaring weakness, and that is wrapping up the ball carrier. In fact, he has eight missed tackles this season, which is the fourth-most at the position.
Howard is one of the better backs in terms of shedding tackles in open space and fighting through contact. If the Bears’ offensive line can give Howard a chance, without him being touched in the backfield play after play, and give him some room, I have no doubt he can take care of Schobert in one-on-one situations. Well, at least enough to make an impact play.
Edge: Jordan Howard
5. Charles Leno Jr. vs Myles Garrett
Beleive it or not, Leno Jr. is putting together arguably his best season. It’s a storyline that’s been overlooked this year, but the left tackle is proving to be worth the contract he signed a handful of months ago.
On 465 passing snaps, he’s only allowed two sacks, three hits and 15 hurries. That’s some solid protection on the blindside. However, Leno Jr. has had issues with penalties this season as he leads the team with 12.
Going up against this year’s top pick in Garrett, he’ll have his hands full. But it won’t be his toughest matchup of the year as he’s gone toe-to-toe against some of the league’s best pass rushers.
Garrett does have 10 hits, 17 hurries and five sacks this season, but he hasn’t recorded a sack since Week 12. How well Leno Jr. can keep him out of the backfield will be key to Trubisky’s success.
Edge: Charles Leno Jr.