After two solid wins in their first three games of the season, the Cleveland Browns have a great opportunity to move to 3-1 on the season and solidify their chances of returning to the playoffs.
This Sunday, they will take on the Atlanta Falcons, a team that is struggling with a 1-2 record.
It’s a natural instinct for fans of a 2-1 team to look at an opponent that is 1-2 and think there is little or no reason for concern, but in the NFL, where every game is very significant and meaningful, it isn’t exactly a bad thing to have a slight abundance of concern.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski’s game plan may start with containing these three Falcons players.
Atlanta’s starting quarterback isn’t off to the greatest start, as he has posted 640 passing yards, a 63.3 completion percentage, as many touchdowns as interceptions (three) and an 85.4 passer rating.
But he’s coming off an improved performance in Week 3, during which he had 229 passing yards while completing a solid 13 of 20 passes and managing a 99.8 QB rating.
Mariota also had a rushing touchdown in the Falcons’ win on Sunday over the Seattle Seahawks, and he had another one in Week 1.
Marcus Mariota takes it himself for the touchdown!
— Oregon Football (@oregonfootball) September 25, 2022
It’s easy to forget that he was the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft after three outstanding seasons at the University of Oregon, and although he hasn’t really panned out, he’s always a threat to have a big game.
Cleveland has had trouble denying teams rushing touchdowns, as they rank 27th in that category, but they are 11th in rushing yards per attempt allowed and seventh in total rushing yards allowed.
A point of emphasis that’s related to not letting Mariota gain yards with his feet is containing Patterson, the Falcons’ top running back.
In his nine previous seasons, he was never known as a prolific back, as his high water mark was last season when he tallied 618 yards and six touchdowns in 16 games and 13 starts.
But so far this year, Patterson has been on point.
He ran for 120 yards and a touchdown in Atlanta’s season opener, and after a quiet Week 2, he put up 141 yards and a touchdown on Sunday versus Seattle.
Hell of a drive here by the #Falcons.
Marcus Mariota and Kyle Pitts shined here capped by CP. pic.twitter.com/dhkr334ucA
— Miles Garrett (@MilesGarrettTV) September 25, 2022
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound man currently ranks fifth in yards per rushing attempt with 6.2 and third in total rushing yards with 302.
It’s up to the Browns to do to Patterson what the Los Angeles Rams did to him in Week 2 when they limited him to just 41 rushing yards.
London, the eighth overall pick in April’s NFL draft, is having a strong rookie season so far.
He has collected 214 yards and two touchdowns in three contests, and Pro Football Focus is giving him plenty of flowers as a result.
According to its metrics, he is the seventh highest-graded wide receiver in the league, which is not too shabby for a rookie.
#Falcons rookie Drake London is PFF’s 7th highest graded WR out of a possible 158.
— Evan Birchfield (@EvanBirchfield) September 26, 2022
He is also, in its eyes, the highest graded rookie wideout, and the publication had this to say about him:
“London has flashed remarkable consistency within the Falcons’ offense over three weeks of action,” wrote Sam Monson. “He saw six targets this week, catching three of them for 54 yards and a touchdown. London is a perfect fit for Arthur Smith’s offense, catching in-breaking routes and breaking tackles after the reception.”
Cleveland will need to make sure they get to London after every reception and not allow him to get loose and add to his 4.9 yards after the catch per reception.