The Arizona Cardinals go back on the road this week where they've been more dominant than at home. Arizona is 3-0 away from the Valley with double-digit victories over the Titans, Jaguars and Rams.
This Sunday, the Cardinals head to Cleveland to face a 3-2 Browns team that just lost a shootout 47-42 against the Chargers.
The two sides are both in the top six in scoring offenses and top 12 in defensive DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average).
Both teams will be missing key contributors, though, which will throw a wrench into what looks like a highly competitive matchup.
Sunday, Oct. 17 at 1:05 p.m.
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Betting line (sisportsbook)
The Browns offensive strength is the Cardinals defensive weakness.
Cleveland has the top rushing offense in the NFL in yards, average and DVOA.
They utilize counters and draws up the middle where they have blocked well.
Their two running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are No. 1 and No. 2 in the league, respectively, in yards after contact per rush.
"Both do things at a high level whether it's the pass game, run game, screen game . . . Coach (Kevin) Stefanski does a great job building off of that with the play-action game, the boots and nakeds," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "So it's a dynamic offense."
But, the Cardinals won't need to tackle Chubb, as he is out with a calf injury. That will put more responsibility on Hunt, who still creates problems as a rusher and pass-catcher.
The Cardinals defense allows the second most yards per carry this season, although it has had stretches of solid play to pair with inconsistencies.
A wrinkle here is the offensive line health of Cleveland. Three starters are listed as questionable.
The Cardinals defense is also dealing with injuries and players out.
Edge rusher Chandler Jones is likely out with COVID-19, while cornerbacks Marco Wilson and Byron Murphy Jr. and linebacker Jordan Hicks are all game-day decisions.
Overall, the Cardinals defense is one of six NFL teams allowing fewer than 20 points per game (19.0).
"It can it can look ugly at times, (but at the) end of the day, it's about keeping points to a minimum," defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. "So that's the ultimate goal this Sunday."
The Browns will test Arizona's open-field tackling and vision, as Cleveland runs a lot of screens and utilizes their tight ends in the passing game.
The Cardinals offense had been rolling up until last week. The 49ers held Arizona to a season-low 17 points, although the Cardinals stepped up in the fourth quarter when needed.
Arizona has the weapons to make Sunday difficult for a banged-up Browns secondary. Cleveland's top two corners are questionable for this game.
After last week, four Cardinals have 21 or more catches: DeAndre Hopkins, Chase Edmonds, Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore.
The Chargers hurt the Browns down the field, which is an area where Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray could take advantage.
Arizona is second in the NFL in net yards per pass attempt.
The Browns have a difficult front seven to deal with, though, led by defensive end Myles Garrett. He leads the league with seven sacks in five games and will attract plenty of attention if he plays.
"They've done a great job building that roster with great athletes, they fly around, they're physical, (they're a) great front," Kingsbury said.
The Browns list of questionable players for Sunday is lengthy:
Both Cleveland starting offensive tackles missed practice on Friday and backup Chris Hubbard is on injured reserve.
Hunt himself is a question, although he progressed to limited on Friday.
For the Cardinals:
The Cardinals will not have their head coach and play-caller on the sideline. Kingsbury tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, as did quarterbacks coach Cam Turner, defensive end Zach Allen and general manager Steve Keim.
Murray vs. Mayfield
Murray was Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield's backup for a season at Oklahoma when the latter won the Heisman. Murray then won the award the following year.
Both quarterbacks were the No. 1 overall picks in their respective drafts, and they spoke about each other this week.
"He is obviously a tremendous athlete, but I think he sees and understands the concepts in space a lot better than people might give him credit for," Mayfield told the Cleveland media.
“I watched it first-hand each and every day – how hard he worked, made throws that a lot of people can’t make," Murray said. "I saw it all and I can legitimately say he’s like that.”
These two teams faced each other in 2019, the first battle between Murray and Mayfield. The Cardinals won that game 38-24 as Murray passed for 219 yards and ran for 56.
Since 2000, the Cardinals have won five of six games against Cleveland, although the Browns own the all-time series 33-15-3.
The first time the two played was in 1950.
Players to watch
With Chandler Jones likely out, Golden could take advantage of J.J. Watt double teams to help against the run and in the pass-rush.
With Chandler Jones expected to miss Sunday, all eyes will be on pass-rushers such as Dennis Gardeck to take advantage of likely one-on-one matchups with J.J. Watt commanding attention.
The Cardinals will face a run-heavy attack, so Collins could get more snaps this week after he received a career-high in them last Sunday.