Rams vs. Browns: Breaking down the matchups and picking which team will win
A look at how the Rams (2-0) and Cleveland Browns (1-1) match up heading into their Sunday night showdown:
When Rams have the ball
After failing to score a touchdown in the first half of their two victories, the Rams are aiming for a more productive start. Quarterback Jared Goff has made some big plays — his 57-yard strike to Brandin Cooks against the New Orleans Saints could not have been placed any better — but the fourth-year pro can be more efficient. Coach Sean McVay is deploying running back Todd Gurley on a more limited basis. The three-time Pro Bowl selection is sharing the workload with Malcolm Brown. The Rams will be without tight end Tyler Higbee, who suffered a bruised lung last week against the Saints. Gerald Everett will start in his place and Johnny Mundt will be activated as a backup. Right guard Austin Blythe suffered a left ankle sprain against the Saints and he was listed as questionable Friday. If Blythe sits out, Jamil Demby would start in his place. That would give the Rams three second-year pros — center Brian Allen, left guard Joe Noteboom and Demby — starting as interior linemen. That might not bode well against a Browns defense led by end Myles Garrett, who leads the NFL with five sacks. End Olivier Vernon also is a threat for a unit that looked suspect in a 43-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans but did not give up a touchdown in a 23-3 victory over the injury-decimated New York Jets.
When Browns have the ball
Quarterback Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, showed as a rookie that he could make plays, and he gave long-suffering Browns fans hope that years of a quarterback drought was finally over. Mayfield had three passes intercepted by the Titans, but he played better against the Jets. Receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are game-breaking play-makers who will test cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. With running back Kareem Hunt suspended for the first eight games, second-year pro Nick Chubb is making the most of his opportunities. Against the Jets, Chubb rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown in 18 carries and also caught four passes, one for a touchdown. The Browns will be without tight end David Njoku, who suffered a wrist injury and a concussion against the Jets. Rams defensive linemen will see a familiar face across the line of scrimmage. Left tackle Greg Robinson, the No.2 overall pick by the Rams in 2014, will try to slow down a pass rush that features Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers and edge rushers Dante Fowler and Clay Matthews. Fowler and Matthews each have two sacks, Brockers one. Donald was limited during several days of practice because of a back injury, but is expected to be fighting through double teams as usual on Sunday.
When they kick
Greg Zuerlein has made five of six field-goal attempts and has carried the Rams in the first half. Punter Johnny Hekker is averaging 49 yards per kick. Johnny Hekker JoJo Natson’s 32-yard punt return set up a touchdown against the Saints. Browns kicker Austin Seibert has made all three of his field-goal attempts. Dontrell Hilliard returns kickoffs and punts. Landry also returns punts.
Gary Klein’s prediction
The Browns might not be all they were hyped to be, but this “Sunday Night Football” appearance is their chance to make a statement in what will likely resemble a playoff-like atmosphere. That still won’t be enough against a Rams team that is primed for a breakout game.
RAMS 33, BROWNS 20
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