After a tough loss against the Ravens on Monday night, the Cleveland Browns have a short turnaround for their next game.
The Browns are heading up to the Meadowlands, playing the Giants, who currently sit at 5-8 and second in the NFC East.
This is the home stretch for the regular season, and the Browns need every win to improve their seeding in the playoffs.
Here are three keys for the Browns to beat the Giants on Sunday.
1. The Defense NEEDS To Step Up
This cannot be said enough.
While the Browns have been slightly above the league average against the run, they can be torched on the ground.
For every game where they bottle up Derrick Henry, they have multiple games like they had on Monday against the Ravens, or like they did against the Raiders.
The defense cost the Browns the win on Monday night.
Yes, the Browns had four sacks, including 2 by Olivier Vernon, who has started getting to opposing QBs of late.
#NFL Sack Leaders – Weeks 8 -14
Olivier Vernon 7
Jamal Adams 6.5
T.J. Watt 6
Haason Reddick 5
Cameron Jordan 5 pic.twitter.com/N7ruuSNxTX
— Cyrus #D4L 🐶🎄 (@CyrusD4L) December 16, 2020
The pass rush overall has been the only real positive for the Browns on the season.
The Browns are currently ranked 19th overall on the defensive side of the ball, giving up 363.1 ypg.
While the Giants aren’t what you would call an offensive powerhouse, the way the Browns defense has been playing could lead to big plays from anywhere on the field.
Defensive coordinator Joe Woods has his work cut out for him the rest of the season, and into the playoffs.
2. Let It Fly!
We all know the Browns are going to run the ball, and run it well.
The Giants do rank seventh in the NFL against the run, giving up 101.5 ypg.
Hunt and Chubb have shown they can be good against anyone, so I’m not really worried about them.
But where do the Giants stack up against the pass?
They rank 17th, giving up 241.5 ypg, and they sit around midway in the league with 33 sacks (one behind the Browns as a team).
So Coach Stefanski, let it fly.
Baker Mayfield has performed admirably the last two weeks, stepping up when needed.
There isn’t a real lockdown corner for the Giants, which would give Mayfield the opportunity to rack up some yards through the air.
While Mayfield has had a good rapport with Jarvis Landry for most of the season, he’s started to work very well with wideouts Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones, who caught three passes on Monday night.
📽 Superbe passe de Baker Mayfield pour Donovan Peoples-Jones ! #Browns
— NFL France (@NFLFrance) December 15, 2020
Even with the loss, Mayfield has kept up his great play from the Tennessee game.
Against this Giants team, there is no reason for that not to continue.
3. Stick To The Basics
It’s that simple. The Browns need to keep it simple.
The Browns offense is at its’ best when they’re running the ball, allowing Mayfield to work off play-action and called bootlegs.
This gets Mayfield out from behind the big boys on the offensive line, giving him clear line of sight to make his reads.
On defense? Yeah, same applies. I would even cut out some of the more complex schemes for this unit.
Woods knows the strength of the defense is the defensive line.
Simplify the coverages, ensuring the DBs and LBs are in coverage.
I say this because on Baltimore’s last TD, Vernon dropped back in coverage and essentially set a pick, ensuring Hollywood Brown would have little to no opposition in catching the ball.
The defense also needs some work on tackling.
There were way too many arm tackles trying to be made against J.K. Dobbins and Lamar Jackson.
Tackling drills can’t hurt.
And in the defense’s situation, going the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) route can’t either.