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Browns vs Broncos 5 questions: How sustainable is Cleveland’s success?

Cleveland is 7-3 heading into Week 12 and brings one of the best defenses in the NFL to Denver. How are fans feeling?

NFL: NOV 19 Steelers at Browns Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns head to Denver as one of the best teams in the AFC.

Despite the fact the Browns are without their starting running back and quarterback. Cleveland just continues to find ways to win games. Of course, it helps to have one of the best defenses in the NFL.

The Browns (7-3) now head out on the road to face the hottest team in the league the Denver Broncos.

DraftKings Sportsbook leans Denver’s way as the home team. The Broncos (5-5) are a slight home favorite over Cleveland. The total sits at 36. With how well both defenses are playing, the under is the safe bet on Sunday.

To preview Sunday’s game, we go behind enemy lines to get a feel for the Browns with Chris Pokorny from Dawgs By Nature. Here are my answers to Chris’ 5 questions for those who want to check them out.

MHR: How is the Dawg Pound feeling heading into Week 12?

Chris: Fans are going to feel pretty good heading into every game because of the defense, which is good enough to carry them to a victory any given week. The offense has obviously had things a bit rough injury-wise, with Deshaun Watson, Nick Chubb, and both original starting offensive tackles out. Last week was a feel-good win with rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson (DTR), and while the optimistic fan hopes the playbook can expand as he gets more experience, we’re also looking at it like, “Ugh, are we really going to be able to consistently win like this?”

On top of that, this game against Denver was initially viewed as a piece of cake when the Broncos were 1-5, but now Denver has won four straight games, including contests against the Chiefs and Bills. I think fans are still predicting a victory because of Cleveland’s defense, but understand that it can easily go the other way.

MHR: Why have the Browns continued to win games despite injuries to some key players? And how sustainable is this for Cleveland?

Chris: This sort of goes back to the first question: although the injuries have plagued the team offensively, the defense has been pretty healthy and dominant all season. That helps create great field position for much of the game, and that allows those field goals to add up and be the difference maker in some low-scoring games.

Is it sustainable? I don’t think Cleveland has faced a top-tier offense in good weather conditions, so I don’t know if it’s sustainable come playoff time. The offense certainly needs to stop losing the turnover battle, at the very least. If the offense can manage the game a hair more effectively, then I think it can be sustainable when you pair it with the defense and how well kicker Dustin Hopkins is hitting his field goals.

MHR: How do the Browns win on Sunday? What is the plan of attack offensively and defensively?

Chris: On offense, the Browns were able to get by in the first half last week against Pittsburgh by running the ball and having DTR throw short passes quickly. In the second half, the Pittsburgh Steelers made the adjustment and just played every short route tight, and also continuously blitzed the run game, to create a lot of negative plays and three-and-outs. I know DTR isn’t meant to push the ball downfield a ton, and you also don’t want to put too much on the rookie’s plate just yet, but head coach Kevin Stefanski also has to incorporate some type of intermediate or downfield threat in order to let those short passes or the run game to continue to be successful.

On defense, it seems like the Broncos have turned Russell Wilson into a very effective game manager, who still has that ability to create the big play at crunch time (i.e. to close out last week’s game). The Browns have relied on man-to-man coverage with their top three cornerbacks, and then allowing their pass rushers to disrupt the opposing offense. Unfortunately, cornerback Denzel Ward hasn’t practiced all week with a shoulder injury, so it is looking like he won’t play on Sunday, which presses the team further down the depth chart. Cleveland will still be in good shape because of all the rest of the talent they have, so I don’t expect their strategy to change a whole lot.

MHR: What is your best bet for Sunday’s game at DraftKings Sportsbook? What do you think of the current spread and the Broncos being the favorite?

Chris: I think any time the Browns are an underdog against a team that doesn’t feature an elite offense or elite defense, you have to take them against the spread (+1.5). That pretty much makes them a straight-up pick, since you don’t see a ton of 1-point victories. On the same note, the spread also makes sense, given the fact that Cleveland is a road team, they don’t have Deshaun Watson, and Denver has won four straight games.

MHR: What are your expectations and predictions for Sunday’s game?

Chris: I like the Browns to play another solid game defensively, and Cleveland’s offense to be a little better at moving the ball in DTR’s second straight start. I’ll go with the Browns winning 20-13.