To put it simply, the Eagles need to contain the Browns rushing attack if they want to come out of Week 11 victorious.
The two headed monster of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt is undoubtedly the best one-two combo in the NFL. Chubb runs with power and is very efficient, averaging 6.1 yards per carry this season. Hunt is elusive and has the ability to make something out of nothing, and Cleveland tends to use him as a receiver more so than Chubb. They’re both dynamic running backs, and new Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has built his entire offensive attack around them.
They’re also coming off a game in which both rushed for over 100 yards.
Cleveland is 4th in the NFL in total rushing yards, and the three teams ahead of them (Arizona, Baltimore, and New England) all have quarterbacks who like to run the ball themselves. Baker Mayfield isn’t that type of quarterback, obviously. They’re tied for 3rd in rushing yards per attempt, and they’ve gained 77 first downs on the ground, good for 6th most in the league.
The Eagles run defense has been lack luster this season, giving up 1,197 yards on the ground through 9 games played, 8th most of any NFL defense. Teams have averaged 133 rushing yards per game against this once formidable run defense.
Obviously, when your defense doesn’t have a legit starting linebacker, a poor run defense is to be expected. But what’s really killed the Birds defense this season are runs from quarterbacks and wide receivers/tight ends.
QBs have averaged 7.1 yards per carry, while WRs/TEs have averaged a whopping 9.1 yards per carry. QB read options, jet sweeps, and misdirection runs have been the Achilles heal of Jim Schwartz’s unit.
The Browns don’t generally rely on those types of running plays to get yards. They just turn and hand it to one of their two Pro Bowl caliber backs. Before Odell Beckham Jr. got hurt, Stefanski liked getting the ball into his hands on end arounds and jet sweeps, but since he’s been on the sideline they’ve shied away from those kinds of plays.
That bodes well for this Eagles defense, who have only allowed 3.4 yards per carry to running backs this season. With their solid defensive line, offenses have struggled running your traditional handoff runs against them.
But like I said, Chubb and Hunt are two of the best in the business, so if any offense is going to break that trend, it’ll be the Browns. Cleveland may have the best offensive line this Eagles front has faced all season, too. Each of their starting lineman are athletic, making it easy for them to run stretch plays and counters. They’ve also only allowed 12 sacks this season, 4th-best in the NFL.
Stopping the Browns offensive attack will be no easy task for Schwartz and Co.. But forcing Mayfield to beat them with his arm is really the only way I see the Eagles winning this ball game.