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Chargers vs. Browns Week 5 Game Preview: Bolts must limit Nick Chubb, force Jacoby Brissett to make plays

While the Browns can run rampant on defenses, the Chargers rank 11th in total defensive DVOA and own one of the best run stop win rates in the NFL.

Cleveland Browns v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Chargers (2-2) and Browns (2-2) face off this week in a game between two teams that are looking to remain in the group of “contenders” on the season and a big win to keep either of them from dipping below .500 would go a long way in helping them sustain that status as a team.

I want to give a big shoutout to our good friend Chris Pokorny from our Browns sister site, Dawgs By Nature, who stopped by to help us preview this matchup.

As it stands, the Browns could very well run all over the Chargers this weekend. But if the Bolts find a way to mitigate Nick Chubb, Cleveland would have to turn to a quarterback who has yet to show he can be THE reason they win a football game this season.

It’s bound to be an exciting matchup, so let’s go ahead and dive right in, shall we?

1.) It truly seems like this team is running through the legs of Nick Chubb. Is that a sustainable path to success for this team? Or will Jacoby Brissett have to start making more plays with his arm for the team to start stacking wins?

Nick Chubb is no doubt an awesome running back, and it’s true that there are maybe 2 or 3 throws this season that I look at Jacoby Brissett and think, “Ahhh, I wish he had that one back.” Brissett has fit this offense very well, throwing intermediate passes on a bullet and making smart decisions. He also converts quarterback sneaks every time, which has been a huge, underrated asset because 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1 situations have been like a 100% success rate instead of putting it to chance. There are some tradeoffs that we have to live with, like the fact that he doesn’t throw a reliable deep ball with accuracy, he’s sometimes a tick slow with making a decision, and as we found out last week, he gets disrupted trying to throw a screen pass when a defensive end stands in his way.

If it was truly just the offense we were focused on for these next seven games, then Cleveland, even with Brissett, could absolutely contend with any team, But yes, it’s Chubb (and the offensive line) that opens up what the passing game is able to do. The issue that Cleveland will have for these next seven games rests with their defense.

2.) Myles Garrett is banged up after his one-vehicle car crash and did not play this past week against the Falcons. How is his health entering this week and will fellow edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney also be back in time to face the Chargers?

Myles Garrett has some soreness from the accident, but after missing last week’s game, he’s practiced on a limited basis the past two days. The vibe is that he will play on Sunday against the Chargers.

It’s a different story for Jadeveon Clowney. Although there are times where he could play on gameday without having practiced, that circumstance only usually happens if the team rests him during the week for general soreness. Clowney is coming off of an ankle injury, and has not practiced once since suffering it, including this Wednesday and Thursday. If he had a legitimate chance of playing, I feel the team would evaluate him for a practice and then see how he feels Sunday morning. We’ll see what his status is on Friday, but I’m not optimistic right now.

3.) If you were Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, how would you go about scheming against this Browns defense? Which matchups would you attempt to exploit?

If it was last week, I would’ve suggested going with the running game all day, lol. Cleveland was missing ¾ of their starting defensive line, yet the Falcons just kept passing it with Marcus Mariota. Finally, at the end of the third quarter, they ran it every single play. 10 plays, all runs, and it led to a touchdown. It was one of the most embarrassing displays of defense you’ll ever see in the NFL for that stretch of action. I think the Chargers still need to capitalize on the Browns’ struggles from last week, even though they seem like a pass-first team. Linebacker Jacob Phillips, who took over for the injured Anthony Walker, also struggled mightily.

4.) Same question as above but flip sides of the ball. If you were defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill, how would you go about game-planning against the Browns offense?

The Browns have been utilizing the screen game to their running backs and tight ends quite well, but last week, I think the Falcons made all five of our attempts fail. It was a case where the running back was open and had room in front if the pass had gotten there, but the defensive ends on either side were very disciplined in getting in Jacoby Brissett’s passing lane to prevent him from delivering the screen pass. Believe it or not, those couple of plays were a big factor in us losing a close game like that.

5.) The Chargers are currently 2.5-point favorites on the road over the Browns, per DraftKings Sportsbook, with the over/under set at 47.5. Go ahead and give us a short game summary, a final score prediction, and whether you’re taking the over or under in this game.

I see this being a high-scoring affair, but not quite as high as the last time the Browns battled Justin Herbert. When I think back to that game, though, I do remember that the Chargers extended several drives by going for it on fourth down early on, even when backed up in their own territory.

Cleveland’s defensive question marks are bound to lead to some confusion, with the Chargers capitalizing. The Browns tend to dominate games in the time of possession department, but what seems to be happening is the team puts together two long touchdown drives on offense, and then the defense allows a quick score; one lull by the offense, and then before you know it, we’re behind, thinking, “what the hell, we’ve controlled the clock and are still losing.” I would take the Chargers (-2), picking them to win by a field goal.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.