The Giants take on the Cleveland Browns (9-4) on Sunday. Cleveland is tied for the top Wild Card seed in the AFC. Their -20 point differential does not indicate a record that's five games over .500. Cleveland's +6 turnover ratio is sixth-best in the NFL and explains part of that discrepancy. They are coming off a 47-42 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the final minutes.
(All advanced statistics are provided by Pro Football Focus)
When the Browns have the ball
* The Browns' offense starts with their rushing attack. Their most common run scheme is outside zone, which accounts for nearly 40% of their ground game. They will mix up their other runs with a variety of other concepts between the tackles. Only one team runs the ball more frequently than Cleveland's 64% run rate on 1st-and-10. The Browns average the third-most rushing yards per game (156.2), and rank fourth in yards per rush (4.88). Their 65 runs of 10+ yards is the most in the NFL, and their 18 runs of 20+ yards ranks second. There will be a lot of pressure on Giants edge players and three techniques to contain the Browns outside zone run.
* The Browns have a rushing attack featuring two of the most talented backs in the NFL. Nick Chubb is their primary ball carrier, and his 881 rushing yards ranks fifth in the league despite missing four games with a knee injury. He is a powerful runner with a big frame (5'11, 227) and thick legs that make him very difficult to bring down. He can grind out yards but also break tackles to turn short gains into long ones. Chubb's forced missed tackle per carry rate (0.27) is the highest in the NFL. He also leads the league in yards after contact per rushing attempt. Chubb has 11 runs of 20+ yards, trailing only the Titans' Derrick Henry.
* Kareem Hunt has 772 rushing yards and averages just under 4.4 yards per carry. Hunt is eighth in the league in missed tackles forced and seventh in the league in yards gained after contact. He is also tied for second on the team with 31 catches. Hunt has five rushing touchdowns and five receiving touchdowns.
* Chubb and Hunt are running behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. They do not have a significant weakness across the line, where they line up (right to left): Jack Conklin, Wyatt Teller, JC Tretter, Joel Bitonio and rookie Jedrick Wills. They run block and pass block in conjunction with one another extremely well. Wills has allowed the most pressures of the group, giving up four sacks, five quarterback hits, and nine quarterback hurries. Teller has not practiced this week with an ankle injury, while Conklin and Tretter have been limited with knee injuries.
* The Browns commitment to the run and relatively conservative approach allows them to protect the football. Their 14 giveaways is tied for sixth-fewest in the NFL and only one team has lost fewer yards to negative plays on offense.
* Baker Mayfield is playing his best football of the season. He is coming off back to back games where he has thrown for more than 330 yards and six combined touchdowns. His interception against Baltimore last week is his only one over his last six games. Mayfield does a lot of his damage off of play-action passes and quarterback movement - 33% of the Browns passes are play-action, which is the fourth-highest rate in the NFL. He has a cannon for an arm, and is accurate with the football. Mayfield is mobile and will use his legs to create time to throw by rolling outside the pocket. Mayfield has had issues this year when facing pressure, completing just 36 of 94 passes for 398 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. He has only been pressured on 23% of his dropbacks, which is the third-lowest rate in the NFL. The Browns have only allowed 17 sacks, which is tied for fifth-fewest in the league.
* Jarvis Landry is Mayfield's top receiving target. His 60 catches are nearly twice as many as the Browns' next highest receiver. Landry is not the fastest receiver, but he is an excellent route runner and has elite hands. He knows how to position his body to create space to make contested catches. Landry will also be used on trick plays. He is 4-of-4 for 75 passing yards and a touchdown this season.
* Rashard Higgins and Donovon Peoples-Jones are the second and third receivers. Peoples-Jones has emerged as a legitimate big-play deep threat with his size and speed, while Higgins is dangerous in the intermediate areas of the field. The Browns use a three tight ends - Austin Hooper (their best blocker), rookie Harrison Bryant, and the athletic David Njoku.
* The Browns' 113.2 quarterback rating on throws that travel more than 20 yards down field is ninth in the NFL. They throw it deep about 12% of the time, which is close to the league average.
* The Browns score touchdowns on 73% of their red zone attempts, which is tied for fourth in the NFL. They are 12th in the league on third-down conversions (43%).
Keys for the Giants defense
1. Stop the Run – specifically the outside zone
2. Put pressure on Baker Mayfield
3. Don't let Jarvis Landry beat them
When the Giants have the ball
* The stars of the Browns' defense are on the lineman. Their 34 sacks is tied for the 11th in the NFL. Cleveland gets pressure on the opposing quarterback at a league average rate of 32% of opponents' passes, but they do it by blitzing at the sixth-lowest rate (22%) in the league. The Browns have not been effective when they blitz, allowing a passer rating of 105.
Myles Garrett's 10.5 sacks are tied for fourth in the NFL despite the fact he missed two games after being put on the COVID-19 list. Garrett's 50 total pressures rank 16th. Garrett and fellow defensive end Olivier Vernon split their time on the left and right sides of the defensive line. Garrett's speed off the edge is elite, and he is a constant threat to win to the outside of offensive tackles.
* Former Giant Olivier Vernon has come on strong in recent weeks after a slow start to the season. He has seven sacks and 12 quarterback hits. Eight of those quarterback hits and four of those sacks have come in his last four games. He is still violent and strong coming off the ball and is able to win with power against opposing offensive tackles. He plays with relentless effort and never stops chasing the football.
* It is important not to forget the presence of Sheldon Richardson in the middle of the defensive line. He has 4.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits. His 53 tackles are the fifth-most on the team out of his three-technique spot. He is a quality player that the Giants will have to be aware of throughout the game.
* Former Giants linebacker BJ Goodson leads the Browns in tackles with 84. He is a three-down linebacker that has played the third-most snaps on the team. Malcolm Smith is the other linebacker who will stay on the field on passing downs.
* The Browns' run defense allows 114 yards per game (16th)) and 4.4 yards per carry (15th). They have struggled defending runs off-tackle or off the edge. Teams have gained 8 yards per carry on 18 rushes to the right end and 5.3 yards per rush behind the left tackle.
* There are a number of injuries that bear watching in the secondary. Denzel Ward has missed three games on injured reserve coming off of a calf injury. Ward, a 2018 first-round pick, is their best cover cornerback and has allowed only 32 catches on 57 targets for 344 yards and four touchdowns this season. Nickel cornerbacks MJ Stewart (shoulder) and Kevin Johnson (groin) have also been limited in practice this week. Johnson is the likely starting nickel if he is healthy, and would replace Ward outside if he cannot return from injury. Safety Andrew Sendejo hurt his shoulder last week and has not practiced so far this week. If Sendejo cannot play Sheldrick Redwine would likely get the start at safety.
* Veteran Terrence Mitchell is the other outside cornerback and Karl Joseph is the other starting safety. The Browns have done a good job of preventing big plays, allowing only 37 pass plays of 20+ yards, which is tied for 9th-fewest in the NFL.
* The Browns' defense is in the lower third of the league in their situational football. They are allowing opponents to convert 44% of their third downs (24th). Opponents score touchdowns on 65% of their red zone appearances, which ranks 23rd. They have also struggled stopping offenses at the end of halves, allowing the fifth-most points in the league in those situations.
* Cleveland's 20 takeaways, 10 interceptions and 10 fumbles, is tied for the seventh most in the NFL.
Keys for the Giants offense
1. Run the ball successfully at the Cleveland pass rushers
2. Protect the quarterback on passing downs
3. Do not turn the football over
View rare photos of the storied history between the Giants and Browns ahead of their preseason matchup.