Co-written by Chi Okare and Nick Kerver
Dolphins (2-8) vs. Browns (4-6)
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium – Cleveland, OH
When: 1:00 PM EST – Sunday, November 24th
Weather: Low 40’s, partly to mostly cloudy, wind 15 mph
Last Meeting: September 25th, 2016 – Dolphins won 30-24 (OT)
Betting Line: Browns -10.5; O/U 44.5
Well, the Browns had quite an eventful time off, to say the least. The fallout from the Myles Garrett helmet swing in an end-of-game brawl took all of the headlines this past week. After being indefinitely suspended on Friday, with the rest of the 2019 season being the minimum punishment, Garrett had an appeals hearing in New York on Wednesday. However, the appeal did not work, and Garrett remains suspended indefinitely, forcing the Browns to prepare for life without Myles for the rest of 2019.
In the meantime, there is a football game to be played in Cleveland on Sunday, the last of a 3-game homestand for the Browns. Cleveland will be seeking their 3rd-straight win, currently sitting just 2 games outside the Wild Card (Texans hold the 6th seed), with 3 other teams also ahead of them (Raiders, Titans, Steelers). Meanwhile, the Dolphins are in the middle of a deep rebuild which has been described by most as an all-out tank but have won 2 of their last 3 heading into Sunday.
Storyline to Watch: The Browns’ defense will be shorthanded due to suspensions handed to Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi. Additionally, S Morgan Burnett will be out for the rest of the season due to an Achilles injury. Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is 5-1 lifetime against the Browns, and will try to exploit a depleted Browns’ defense.
Injury Report: The aforementioned Burnett will be missing the rest of the season with an Achilles injury. David Njoku (wrist) has been activated off IR and has been a full participant in practice since Wednesday. Both Odell (groin) and Jarvis Landry (hip) have been limited in practice this week but are expected to play Sunday. S Eric Murray (knee) and DE Olivier Vernon (knee) did not practice this week, putting their playing status in jeopardy for Sunday. The Dolphins’ injury report had a number of players who fully practiced on Thursday. Limited were DE Taco Charlton (elbow), QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (right shoulder, forearm), and CB Ken Webster (ankle). Neither team has confirmed game statuses up to this point.
No Pick November: After throwing 11 interceptions in his first 7 games of the season, Baker Mayfield has not thrown an interception in the month of November. The offense has looked better, albeit needing some work, as a result of Baker’s solid play. Mayfield had his highest QBR of the season against the Bills (102.7) and his 3rd-highest against the Steelers (92.3).
Njoku Return?: David Njoku practiced fully on Wednesday after suffering a broken wrist in Week 2 against the Jets, causing Njoku to end up on injured reserve. His game status is unconfirmed, but his positive practice results give him a great chance of suiting up against Miami. Njoku is not listed on the Browns’ injury report, either.
Trap Game: One of coach Freddie Kitchens’ biggest responsibilities this week undoubtedly has been keeping the team’s focus on the Miami Dolphins. With all the conversation surrounding Myles Garrett, Larry Ogunjobi, Mason Rudolph, and Maurkice Pouncey, and the subsequent discussions considering the Browns and Steelers play again next week, combined with the fact that the Dolphins are a team that has not looked threatening for most of the season, it is easy to see a scenario where the team may be in danger of overlooking this Dolphins team. This is still an NFL team though, and one that is hot at the moment at that. If the Browns don’t bring it from the jump on Sunday, they could find themselves playing from behind.
Dynamite Duo: The Browns have not had multiple 1,000-yard receivers in the same season since 2007 when WR Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow both reached that mark. This year, Odell Beckham (692) and Jarvis Landry (695) are on pace to eclipse 1,000 yards. Despite this, the offense still has had trouble getting both of them to click in the same game. This Sunday’s game will be as good an opportunity as any, going against a depleted Dolphins defensive backfield.
Help From an Old Teammate: Duke Johnson was active last Sunday in the Texans game against the Baltimore Ravens. This is relevant because it was the 10th game for the Texans that Johnson was active for, meaning that the draft pick the Browns received in return for him was upgraded from a 4th rounder to a 3rd rounder. Duke gives Browns fans one last thing to cheer for.
Homecoming: Dolphins linebacker and Cleveland native Jerome Baker will be making his first return to Cleveland to play the Browns. Baker, who played his high school football at Benedictine High School and went on to play for Ohio State, is a key player for the Dolphins defense. He leads the team with 75 tackles.
Austin Seibert: The east end of FirstEnergy Stadium (Dawg Pound end) gives both home and away kickers fits for whatever reason, with Seibert missing 2 field goals kicking into the Dawg Pound last Thursday, the 2nd of which wasn’t even close. Last week’s preview talked about Seibert’s perfect start, so maybe a writer’s jinx came into play.
Score Predictions: Chi: 35-21 Browns; Nick: 31-22 Browns