In Enemy Territory: Chicago Bears vs. Cleveland Browns

In Enemy Territory: Chicago Bears vs. Cleveland Browns
Browns’ WR Josh Gordon

The Chicago Bears will try to stay in the NFC North division race when they travel to Cleveland to face the Browns. Here’s an in-depth game preview that will provide key matchups, Browns’ personnel, scheme and score prediction:

On offense

When the Bears’ offense takes the field, they will be up against a talented defense led by defensive coordinator Ray Horton. The former Arizona Cardinals DC is very aggressive and creative with his blitz packages.

Head coach Marc Trestman thrives on defenses that are aggressive as the protection this for the most part has held up all season, and the QBs, whether Jay Cutler or Josh McCown, have been successful in getting the ball out of their hands quickly.

Sunday it will be Cutler under center as McCown resumes duty in the backup role. In order for the Bears’ offense to successfully attack the Browns’ defense, the protection has to hold up. Here’s a key matchup to keep an eye on:

LT Jermon Bushrod vs. ROLB Paul Kruger

Bushrod had arguably his best game of the season against Dallas Cowboys’ DE Demarcus Ware. This Sunday, he gets another test against Browns’ rush LB Kruger. The sack total is low for Kruger this season, but he still is making his impact as a pass rusher with 34 QB hurries according to Pro Football Focus.

To help Cutler knock the rust off, Bushrod and LG Matt Slauson can’t allow blindside pressure. If they do, expect a long afternoon for No. 6.

On the other edge of the line, it would be encouraging to see Jordan Mills build on his solid performance from Monday night as he draws a tough assignment against LOLB Jabaal Sheard. Sheard doesn’t have high sack numbers, but he is second on the team in QB hurries with 22 according to PFF.

Sheard is also a solid run defender, so it will be interesting keeping a close eye on that aspect of the matchup. Here’s another key matchup to watch on the line for the Bears:

RG Kyle Long vs. LDE Ahtyba Rubin

It has been a solid year for the rookie, Long, who has become a fan favorite among most Bears fans. He, along with new additions Slauson, Bushrod and Mills, have shown the mean streak and nastiness that has been missing from the Chicago Bears’ OL for quite some time.

While Long is gradually improving as a pass blocker each week, his run blocking has been consistently solid. Browns LDE Rubin grades out as the team’s best run defender. He’s a big space eater who can at times be a brick wall for the Browns’ D-line.

If Matt Forte is going to have a big day on the ground, the interior line must dominate and open holes up the middle.

The passing game will be an interesting aspect. CB Joe Haden is arguably the best CB in football. Haden plays very physical, successfully re-routing teams’ best WRs and making the QB go elsewhere with the ball.

The interesting thing to watch is who he will mostly be matched up against, Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffery. I expect Horton to throw a lot of looks at the two dynamic WRs, which should open up interesting matchups between TE Martellus Bennett and Browns standout safety T.J. Ward. Expect D’Qwell Jackson to get some assignments to cover Bennett also.

On defense

STOP JOSH GORDON, STOP JOSH GORDON, STOP JOSH GORDON, STOP JOSH GORDON!

The second-year WR is leading the league in receiving yards with 1,400. The former Baylor standout at 6-3, 225 pounds is a big athletic WR who has all the tools to be the very best in the game. He’s quick getting in and out of his breaks and has the elite speed to blow the top off a defense.

Tim Jennings will likely get the assignment against Gordon, but it’s going to take a creative game plan from DC Mel Tucker to contain, statistically, the best WR in the game.

If the Bears manage to stop Gordon, the Browns have very little at the skill positions. TE Jordan Cameron could likely be a matchup problem for an inexperienced LB group, but WRs Greg Little and Davon Bass have struggled to establish themselves as consistent No. 2 targets.

However, if the Bears’ d-line is not generating a pass rush, it’s going to be easy for the opposition to find openings in the secondary. Here’s a key matchup to watch on the defensive line:

DE Corey Wootton/Shea McClellin vs. RT Mitchell Schwartz

With Julius Peppers drawing a tough matchup with LT Joe Thomas, it’s on DEs Wootton and McClellin to turn it up a couple notches rushing the passer. Schwartz is their worst pass protector on that OL, so both Wootton and McClellin have an opportunity to have big game against the struggling RT.

It’s well documented about the Bears’ struggles against the run and even against no name back in Chris Ogbonnaya. Why shouldn’t we expect another big day on the ground from another opposing RB?

Center Alex Mack is an excellent starting Center, and he’s their highest graded run blocker on the team. It’s on Stephen Paea, Jeremiah Ratliff and the rest of this Bears’ front seven to have some pride and not allow themselves to get embarrassed for the seventh straight week in a row by a RB.

This will be no walk in the park for the Bears, but I am expecting the team to get by a Browns team that is talented, but not there yet as far as being a contender.

Score Prediction: Bears 27, Browns 21

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