Matchup Meter: Browns holding door open to opposing backs
Opponents have learned that beating the Browns means pounding the football. While Cleveland's pass defense ranks among the NFL's elite in yards allowed and opponent QB Rating, the run defense has been horrendous.
Nine opposing backs have gained 85 or more yards against Cleveland this season (six of those players added a touchdown to their performance). It's a list that includes Daniel Thomas, Chris Johnson and Ben Tate. The Browns rank 29th in run defense, allowing 139.3 yards per game, and 30th in attempts allowed per game (32.2).
Cedric Benson's biggest day of 2011 came against Cleveland in the season opener (121 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown). Fantasy owners would be delighted to see similar numbers from a back who has eclipsed the 80-yard mark in just two games this season.
With an opponent QB Rating of 109.7 you'd think the Colts face Aaron Rodgers each week. Only one other NFL team has allowed opposing passers a rating higher than 100. Against NFC West opponents, the Colts secondary has given up nine touchdowns and an average of 288 yards in three contests.
The Chiefs allow 136.3 rushing yards per game (28th most), but the more damaging evidence of the front seven's troubles can be found in recent box scores. In Week 9, Reggie Bush gained 92 yards on 13 carries; the following week, Denver's Lance Ball had 96 yards; against New England on Monday, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen combined for 147 yards on 33 carries.
The Buccaneers allow the fourth most passing yards (265.4) of any unit in the league, and only three teams have given up more passing scores (18). The big play has been partially to blame (Tampa Bay ranks dead last in yards allowed per attempt). Plus, the Buccaneers have given up eight touchdown passes and an average of 250.0 yards in their last three road games.
The Dolphins defense has received little respect. While most of the focus has been on the team's inept offense or Tony Sparano's uncertain future, fans have ignored a defense that ranks second in touchdown runs allowed (three). Miami is one of just seven NFL teams to allow fewer than 100 rushing yards per game, and let's not forget it kept Houston's second-rated backfield out of the end zone and limited it to 4.0 yards per carry.
The Jets are one of two defenses to have allowed fewer than 10 passing scores (eight) and they rank sixth in yards allowed (200.1). Opponents attempt just 30.9 passes per game, and complete just 54.4 percent of their attempts. When these teams met in Week 9, Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completed just 15 of 31 passes for a QB Rating of 51.9.
The Bears allow too many yards per attempt (4.9) but it's almost a moot point because opposing teams rarely keep the ball on the ground. Only San Francisco has allowed fewer rushing attempts than Chicago's 20.5 per game, and the Bears have permitted just six rushing touchdowns all season. A week ago, Chicago limited San Diego to 52 yards on 17 carries (almost half of which came on one 23-yard carry).