The Cleveland Browns had their bye on Week 9.
Through the first half of the season, the Browns went 5-3 and experienced both tremendous highs and lows.
The team has faced plenty of adversity and from most accounts is a 2020 success story.
With that being said, what are 3 questions facing the Browns as they enter the second half of the season?
1. Can The Browns Win the Big Games?
That’s one of the major criticisms of the Browns.
The team beat the Bengals and a depleted Dallas team but struggled mightily with divisional rival powerhouses like the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
December 14 is the rematch from Week 1 with the Ravens, and January 3 is the Pittsburgh game.
The Browns gave up 38 points to each team but only managed to score a total of 13 points in both games.
One could argue that Week 1 against the Ravens was a fluke because there was no preseason.
And the Browns came into the season with a brand new coach and offensive scheme.
However, that argument doesn’t work for the Steelers game.
If the Browns want to be taken seriously as a playoff contender, they need to win one or both of these games.
2. How Will The Offense Change With Nick Chubb Back?
If it feels like the offense has been a series of moving parts that have rotated in and out because of injury, it’s because that has been the case.
Throughout the first half, the Browns have dealt with prolonged absences from Nick Chubb, Wyatt Teller, Austin Hooper, and the season-ending injury for Odell Beckham Jr.
With Chubb, Teller, and Hooper back, how will this offense operate?
Can it get back to the successes of the early weeks of the season?
Will it be able to overcome OBJ’s absence?
Browns rushing average per game with Nick Chubb: 204.5 yards.
Browns rushing average per game without Nick Chubb: 99.9 yards.
— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) October 25, 2020
Wyatt Teller is the unsung hero that was instrumental in the Browns early success.
He went down in Week 5 with a calf injury, and the Browns running game hasn’t been the same.
Highest grade for a guard after four weeks (since '06):
2020 Wyatt Teller – 94.1
2013 Evan Mathis – 93.9
2016 Zack Martin – 93.6
2016 Justin Pugh – 93.3 pic.twitter.com/DO8UC01nuX
— PFF (@PFF) October 5, 2020
Of course, Nick Chubb went down about the same time so it’s hard to measure which was missed the most.
For the Browns to play well down the stretch, the running game has to be the primary focus, and passes to tight ends like Hooper and Bryant have to be on point also.
3. Can The Defense Step Up?
There have been brilliant moments produced by this defense.
And before getting banged up, Myles Garrett was playing like he was the presumed Defensive Player of the Year, but the defensive struggles of recent weeks cannot be ignored.
#Browns Myles Garrett said he tweaked ankle ahead of last week's game and again during the game, so he just needed some time to get it right.
— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) October 30, 2020
Against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 8, the Browns had no takeaways.
Defensive coordinator Joe Woods admits that turnovers are fundamental to the success of the Browns D.
“The thing that we have done best, which is one of the most important statistical categories in the NFL, is turnovers. We have to continue to do that. That has really been one of the main reasons we have been able to win some of these close games.”
These questions begin to get answered on Sunday as the Browns take on the Houston Texans.