The Cleveland Browns face off against the New England Patriots on Sunday in a game that has season-long implications.
Both teams are fighting their ways out of holes they dug for themselves early in the season.
The Patriots come into Sunday’s matchup with a 5-4 record and are only half a game behind division front-runner, Buffalo.
The Browns are also 5-4 and currently sit in third place in the AFC North, a game and a half behind Baltimore.
A win on Sunday would mean the world for both teams in their respective playoff hopes.
If the Browns hope to come away with a win, here are three matchups that they’re going to have to win.
1. Myles Garrett Vs. Patriots O-Line
A big part of Mac Jones and New England’s success has been their offensive line.
They’ve done a good job of protecting Jones all season long, allowing only 17 sacks thus far.
The Browns, on the other end have recorded 27 team sacks on the season and are averaging just under three sacks per game, tying them for fourth in the NFL.
Their pressure on the opposing quarterback has been led by MVP candidate and sack leader, Myles Garrett.
Garrett is currently first in the NFL in sacks, tackles for loss, and QB hits, and he’s second in QB hurries.
#Browns Myles Garrett is on a historical tear this season.
• 12 sacks (1st)
• 12 TFL (T-1st)
• 66 sack yards (1st) pic.twitter.com/nUOTOBKidd
— MoreForYouCleveland (@MoreForYou_CLE) November 8, 2021
He’s off to the best start in his young and promising career, but has a big task ahead of him going against one of the best offensive lines in football.
The Patriots O-line is also responsible for the great success that New England’s running game has experienced thus far.
If the Browns hope to escape Foxboro with a win, Myles Garrett and the rest of the D-Line are going to have to pressure Mac Jones into mistakes.
2. Anthony Walker Vs. Damien Harris
The Patriots have one of the top rushing offenses in football and it’s been a huge part of their current three-game winning streak.
They’re led on the ground by Damien Harris who has 547 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns.
It’s been a group effort in New England’s backfield, but stopping Harris is paramount to a Cleveland win.
A bulk of that responsibility will fall on Cleveland linebacker and leading tackler, Anthony Walker.
He leads the team with 14 tackles and is coming off of his best game of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals.
#Browns Top D Grades per PFF (70+ / min 10+ snaps) – Wk 9 @ CIN
1.) Warden – 93.1
2.) John Johnson – 85.8
3.) Anthony Walker – 77.5
4.) Myles Garrett – 75.7
5.) Elijah Lee – 74.3
6.) Sheldon Day – 73.6
7.) Ronnie Harrison – 70.6
AJ Green – 83.5 (7 snaps)
— CLEology (@_CLEology) November 8, 2021
In that game, Walker collected 14 tackles, including his lone sack on the season.
The Browns typically only play two linebackers at a time which means that Walker is a primary run-stopper on defense.
He’s going to have to show up in a big way if the Browns hope to slow down Harris and the rest of the Patriot running backs.
3. John Johnson II Vs. Hunter Henry
Browns safety John Johnson II had a rough start to the season, but he’s starting to come into his own.
Patriots tight end Hunter Henry is quickly becoming Mac Jones’ favorite target in the red zone.
The Patriots struggle mightily at wide receiver, leaving Henry as one of the only reliable targets for Jones.
Henry has collected 297 yards and four touchdowns on the season, all of those touchdowns coming in the last five games.
It will likely fall to Johnson to cover Henry in scoring opportunities and shutting him down will be a key to victory for Cleveland.