The Patriots return home to Gillette Stadium with a winning record for the first time since Week 1 of last season and back in the midst of the AFC Playoff race. They’ll be facing the Cleveland Browns who also enter the game on a high note and who are 5-4 as well.
This is an important game for both teams as both are in the playoff hunt and are both still in line for winning their respective divisions. After a slow start to the season, the Patriots have an opportunity to win their fourth straight game.
This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Charles Davis as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the radio (98.5 The Sportshub), Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello
The Patriots (5-4) beat the Carolina Panthers 24-6 as the defense was dominant holding Carolina to just 240 yards. J.C. Jackson returned a pick-six 88 yards for a TD and Rhamondre Stevenson had over 100 total yards of offense
The Browns (5-4) blew out the Cincinnati Bengals 41-16, Nick Chubb ran for 137 yards on just 14 carries while Baker Mayfield threw for two TDs.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2021 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out. So, here is our look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.
First up is the Patriots offense:
Patriots RBs vs Browns Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Cleveland
The Patriots’ running game had arguably their best game of the year last week but lost both Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson to injuries. Both are in concussion protocol and are unlikely to play. That leaves them Brandon Bolden, J.J. Taylor, and possibly TE Jonnu Smith to take a few carries.
This is going against a tough Cleveland defense that is 3rd in the league allowing less than 85 yards per game. Malik Jackson and Malik McDowell will have to be accounted for Isaiah Wynn (who was strong in the running game last week) and possibly Trent Brown who was back on the practice field this week.
Normally this would be tough sledding with all of their backs, but being depleted this week makes that job even tougher against the Browns. Look for Josh McDaniels to try to get creative with possibly Smith adding to the running game.
Patriots WRs vs Browns Secondary – Razor’s Edge Cleveland
The Patriots’ passing game has been a bit of an afterthought the past two games, as they’ve relied on the running game to get ahead and set the tempo. They won’t have that luxury this week.
The Cleveland secondary is good, but what is concerning is their pass rush with Myles Garrett leading the way with 12.5 sacks already. He is borderline unblockable and if they are going to keep him at bay, they probably double-team him or leave a RB in to help out. Jadaveon Clowney is still an effective pass rusher, while Cleveland is aggressive and likes to send blitzers for all points.
Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, and Jakobi Meyers will be facing a very talented group of cornerbacks in Denzel Ward (99-yd INT return for a TD last week), rookie Greg Newsome, and Greedy Williams. Safeties Ronnie Harrison and John Johnson are solid.
One area to keep an eye on is the tight ends. Cleveland’s pass defense is excellent but in the past three games, they’ve allowed 21 catches for 185 yards against opposing tight ends. So, this could be a Hunter Henry game.
Next up is the Cleveland offense:
Browns RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots’ run defense was outstanding last week against Carolina limiting them to just 78 yards and 3.4 yards per rush. They did it playing more of a base 3-4 in trying to take away the running game and forcing the game into Sam Darnold’s hands. And although Baker Mayfield is much more talented, they may opt for a similar game plan.
The Browns running game is outstanding, bolstered by one of the best offensive lines in football. However, like the Patriots, Cleveland could be shorthanded in the running back department. It was already announced that Kareem Hunt won’t return off of IR this week and the Browns may be without Nick Chubb, who tested positive for COVID-19 this week. If he isn’t available, it would severely hamper the Browns running game which ranks second in the league averaging a whopping 160.2 yards per game.
The Patriots’ front seven will be facing D’Ernest Johnson who has been very good spelling Chubb and Hunt, averaging more than 5 yards per carry on the ground. But Lawrence Guy, Christian Barmore, and Davon Godchaux will have to really step up against an excellent OL. The linebackers too will have to be very active to win this matchup, even if Chubb is missing.
Browns WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots’ secondary is coming off a string of very good performances with J.C. Jackson and Adrian Phillips having a pair of interceptions in successive weeks. The Patriots pass rush led by Matthew Judon, Josh Uche, and Barmore from the inside will have to have a big day going against a strong OL. However, the Browns have allowed 24 sacks.
The wildcard is Mayfield, and which one shows up when he’s on, he’s very, very good but he’s been erratic at times, and this week, he’s the X-factor. He has good weapons in WRs Jarvis Landry, and Donovan Peoples and use a two-tight end set with the excellent go-to guy in David Njoku and Austin Hooper.
The key from a Patriots perspective is getting pressure on Mayfield and forcing him into making mistakes and getting rid of the ball early
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots’ Nick Folk has been amazingly consistent this season although he did miss a 54-yard field goal last week. Jake Bailey is adept at pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line. Gunner Olszewski has been on fire lately but he too suffered a concussion last Sunday and his status is in doubt. The coverage units have been excellent.
Cleveland’s kicker Chase McLaughlin and punter Jamie Gillan have been equally solid this year and they have Anthony Schwartz (kickoffs) and Domenic Felton (punts) as returners. But their return game has only been so-so. Their coverage units are solid.
Next up, who wins and why…
This week’s game is a big one for both teams and we should expect an almost playoff-like atmosphere. This one should be another rock fight right to finish.
Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:
Quick Hitters to the WRs/TEs– The Patriots will be keenly aware of where Garrett is and even nursing a foot injury, he’ll be a guy to watch (and double team). To help the passing game, the Patriots and Mac Jones will have to rely on quick slants and crossers which should utilize Bourne, Meyers, and Henry. They’ll have to target Agoholor more to loosen up the coverage more than they’ve done in recent weeks.
Slow Down the Run and Force the Browns into Obvious Passing Situations – The Patriots’ front seven have another difficult task, the Browns running game is their strength but their passing game is inconsistent. They have to keep Mayfield in the pocket and force him into making inaccurate throws.
Clean. It. Up. – The Patriots have been turning the ball over far too often and making far too many mistakes (penalties). This won’t continue to work against good teams and that begins with the Browns this week. No turnovers and limit the flags has to be a priority this week.
I’m drinking the Kool-Aid this week, I think the home team runs their winning streak to four in a row in a very hard-fought game. Jones scores a late TD for the win against a good Browns team. Patriots 24-20
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Baker Mayfield Bill Belichick Devin McCourty Hunter Henry. Cleveland Browns Jamie Collins Jarvis Landry Kyle Van Noy Mac Jones Matthew Judon Myles Garrett New England Patriots NFL Nick Chubb Patriots Patriots edge rushers