Stopping the run is priority No. 1 for the Giants on Sunday.
John Schmeelk: Fact- Maybe, MAYBE, there can be an argument made for stopping the Browns pass rushers, but not here. The Browns have one of the best running games in the league from the talent of their backs, to the consistency of the offensive line and to the soundness of the scheme. They check every box and are elite in all of those categories. Nick Chubb's combination of power to break tackles, vision, and big-play ability make him special. Kareem Hunt adds a receiving function to the group, all the while being a high-level runner, himself. The offensive line does not have a weak link and Kevin Stefanski's outside-zone scheme is difficult to slow down when it is executed properly. Everything the the Browns do in the run game creates opportunities in the pass game for Baker Mayfield. If the Giants can stop the Browns' run game, they have a real chance of winning the game. The play of the Giants' edge players, three-techniques and cornerbacks will all be critical.
Lance Medow: Fact- This would also be labeled as priorities Nos. 2 and 3. The Browns rank third in the NFL in rushing yards per game (156) and total rushes (416) and are tied for third in rushing yards per carry (4.9). On top of that, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt each rank in the top 11 in the league in rushing yards per game and are effective in piling up yardage after the catch. Cleveland's game plan is to win the battle in the trenches, pound the ball and wear down opposing defenses. Baker Mayfield has had 30 or less passing attempts in nine of the team's 13 games. It's a big reason why his touchdown-interception ratio has been solid this season and, overall, Cleveland has done a good job protecting the ball. The Giants will need to be physical up front, disciplined in their gap assignments and force the Browns to face lengthy third downs. You want Cleveland to have to rely on their air attack, not on the ground game.
Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray present similar challenges to the Giants in back-to-back weeks.
John Schmeelk: Fiction- They might be smaller, mobile quarterbacks with big arms, but the comparisons end there. Mayfield may use his legs to create time to make a throw, but Murray is more apt to tuck the ball and run with it. The Browns also run much more of their offense from under center and utilize the play-action pass game more frequently. Mayfield has an elite arm that's accurate, but can struggle finding the right touch on some of his passes.
Lance Medow: Fiction- Kyler Murray scrambles a lot more and looks to run more than Mayfield. Case in point, Murray has run the ball 115 times in 13 games. In comparison, Mayfield has just 41 runs. Yet Baker is mobile and can easily extend plays, so you still need to account for his ability to buy time and remain disciplined on the back end of the defense - even if he's not taking off and running like Murray.
The Giants need to force multiple turnovers to beat Cleveland.
John Schmeelk: Fiction- It is more important that the Giants' offense is good at protecting the ball rather than their defense taking it away. The Browns have turned it over 14 times this season, which is tied for the sixth-fewest times in the league. Their focus on the run game makes it very difficult to force them into mistakes. On the other hand, if the Giants turn over the ball to Cleveland deep in their own territory, it would make it very difficult to keep them out of the end zone. The Giants' three turnovers against Arizona last week completely changed the nature of that game.
Lance Medow: Fiction- The Browns have had multiple turnovers in a game three times this season and are 1-2 in those contests. They also lost two other games when they committed just one turnover. If the Browns have multiple turnovers, that certainly increases the Giants' chances of winning, but I don't think it's a necessity for New York to walk away with a victory. This game will still come down to the fundamentals on defense and the Giants' ability to protect the football. Plus, what happens if both teams have multiple turnovers? You can argue that would then cancel out Cleveland's mishaps. Instead of focusing on the Browns' turnovers, it's far more imporant to win the turnover differential. Cleveland has won the turnover battle or finished even in eight of its 13 contests and its record in those games is 8-0. The Browns have lost the turnover battle five times and their record in those contests is 1-4.
The AFC North is the toughest division in football today.
John Schmeelk: Fiction- This is a very tough one. It is either the NFC North or the NFC West. Both divisions have three teams that can make the playoffs and would be dangerous in the postseason. Let's pick the NFC West only because the 49ers are a significantly better team than the Bengals since Joe Burrow was injured. The Ravens, Browns and Steelers might be slightly better overall than the Seahawks, Rams, and Cardinals - but that can change based on performance on any given week. The Giants caught a bad bread having to play both of those divisions this season.
Lance Medow: Fact- The AFC North is the only division in the NFL that showcases three teams with at least eight wins and is in good position to have three representatives in the playoffs. The only other division that can contend with the AFCN is the NFC West, with three teams owning winning records and the Cardinals in position to sniff the playoffs at 7-6. If you throw the term "toughness" into the mix, the AFCN is also atop the list. The Steelers, Ravens and Browns have strong offensive and defensive lines and are built to wear down the opposition – they promote a very physical brand of football. Although the Rams, Seahawks and Cardinals boast the best combined point differential in the NFL (+203), that mark is partially a byproduct of playing the struggling NFC East.
View rare photos of the storied history between the Giants and Browns ahead of their preseason matchup.