The Week Three version of "Thursday Night time Soccer'' options an old-school AFC North rivalry, because the Cleveland Browns play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Each of those groups are coming off dispiriting losses per week in the past, after that they had picked up victories within the remaining moments in Week 1.
The Browns blew a double-digit lead within the final two minutes of their recreation in opposition to the Jets, whereas the Steelers barely moved the ball all day in opposition to the Patriots. Every of those groups is seeking to get again within the win column and leap, not less than, momentarily, into first place within the division, and hopefully set up some type of basis on which to make a run to the playoffs.
Which ones will get again to their profitable methods? We'll discover out quickly sufficient. Earlier than we break down the matchup, this is how one can watch this night's contest.
The way to watch
Date: Thursday, Sept. 22 | Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland)
Stream: Amazon Prime Video
Observe: CBS Sports activities App
Odds: Browns -4.5, O/U 38.5
When the Steelers have the ball
Pittsburgh's offense is in main bother. By two video games, the Steelers have managed simply 510 yards, 30th within the NFL. On a per-play foundation, they really rank 31st. They're 26th in factors per drive, 29th in Tru Media's EPA per play, and 22nd in Soccer Outsiders' offensive DVOA.
A lot of the points start alongside the offensive line, the place issues are fairly dire. They merely can not generate any push in anyway within the run recreation. They've one of many league's highest first-down run charges (50 p.c), and on these performs have averaged simply 2.9 yards per rush. Regardless of going through eight-man containers on solely 18 p.c of runs, the Steelers have averaged simply 1.30 yards earlier than contact per try. On performs the place Najee Harris was the ball-carrier (versus Mitchell Trubisky, Jaylen Warren, or Chase Claypool), that determine is even worse -- simply 0.44 per try.
However Harris, who handled a Lisfranc harm throughout coaching camp and injured his foot once more in Week 1, simply doesn't look wholesome. Among the many 44 gamers with not less than 15 rush makes an attempt this season, he ranks 32nd in prevented sort out price and 31st in yards after contact per try. Final season, he ranked seventh in prevented sort out price and 21st in yards after contact among the many 53 gamers with 100 carries or extra.
The Browns have yielded solely 3.77 yards per rush to this point this season, and a ridiculous 0.33 earlier than contact. The thought of the Steelers discovering speeding success on this recreation, given how issues have gone to this point this yr, appears slightly far-fetched. And that places the sport in Trubisky's arms, which is ... not nice.
Trubisky is 42 of 71 (59.2 p.c) for 362 yards (5.2 per try), two touchdowns, and one interception to this point this season. That is regardless of a below-average stress price (28 p.c) and one of many lowest blitz charges within the league (20 p.c). He is thrown into a good window on 22.5 p.c of his passes, based on NFL.com's Subsequent Gen Stats, and has been off track along with his throws 16.7 p.c of the time, per Tru Media. He has did not discover a reference to explosive rookie George Pickens, who has been on the sphere for 78 p.c of the staff's offensive snaps however has been focused solely 5 occasions. His numbers with the opposite pass-catchers aren't significantly better: Claypool has eight receptions for simply 44 yards on 12 targets. Diontae Johnson is down a career-low 8.6 yards per reception. Pat Freiermuth's catch price is right down to 52.9 p.c (from 75.9 a yr in the past).
This isn't a tenable scenario for an offense, and there isn't any motive to count on that it's going to get higher any time quickly. The time for Pickett is coming, maybe as quickly as tonight if Trubisky struggles. With a mini-bye earlier than the staff's Week Four recreation in opposition to the Jets, there may be most likely no higher alternative to make the swap.
If Trubisky (or Pickett) can determine a technique to attempt to push the ball down the sphere, there would possibly truly be some alternatives obtainable. Cleveland has allowed extra completions on throws of 20-plus air yards than any staff within the NFL besides the Jaguars, regardless of having performed in opposition to Baker Mayfield and Joe Flacco. Getting the ball downfield usually requires time within the pocket, although, and the extra time within the pocket, the extra alternative for the protection to generate stress. Cleveland ranks seventh within the NFL in stress price to this point this season, with Myles Garrett main the best way. Trubisky has lengthy been wildly inclined to stress, and would far slightly do away with the ball shortly and briefly areas than take his possibilities with rushers in his face. For these causes, he appears way more more likely to proceed focusing on beneath throws, and thus to create few -- if any -- explosive performs.
When the Browns have the ball
Predictably, the Browns have run the ball early and infrequently, and with nice success. The Nick Chubb/Kareem Hunt duo is likely one of the NFL's finest, and has powered the Browns to five.28 yards per carry regardless of going through eight-man containers on the second-highest price within the NFL (33 p.c of carries, per Tru Media). They've an NFL-best 12 runs of 15 yards or extra, good for a league-high 15.Eight p.c share of their complete carries.
The flexibility to generate explosives within the run recreation is especially necessary, as a result of the go recreation is extra of a possession-based, move-the-chains kind of unit in the intervening time, with Jacoby Brissett beneath middle. Pittsburgh has carried out a powerful job in opposition to the run to this point this season, however has additionally performed in opposition to two comparatively weak offensive strains (Cincinnati, New England) in comparison with the one it would face in opposition to Cleveland on Thursday night time. With out T.J. Watt, the Steelers is likely to be extra inclined to the bottom assault than it has been to this point, now that it is tasked with going up in opposition to one of many league's finest run-blocking models.
In fact, the Steelers are not any slouches up entrance -- even sans Watt. They nonetheless carry Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alualu, Larry Ogunjobi, Chris Wormley, Alex Highsmith, and even Malik Reed to the desk. They'll nonetheless get after the quarterback and get him to the bottom or just hold him boxed into the pocket, the place he'll must take care of heavy stress.
The Browns will certainly attempt to get Jacoby Brissett on the transfer with play-action and bootleg ideas, with the one main downfield perimeter they've in the intervening time is Amari Cooper. Tight finish David Njoku, an elite athlete, has seen his snap price rise after getting a giant contract this offseason, however has but to turn into considerably extra concerned within the passing recreation. It is tempting to say this could be an excellent week to lastly get him going, however he might must take care of the main target of Minkah Fitzpatrick for a lot of the night. Fitzpatrick is off to a terrific begin to the season with two interceptions in as many weeks, and he covers as a lot of the again finish of the sphere as any security in soccer. Any Brissett go to his deep half of the sphere is liable to get picked if it is remotely off-target.
In the long run, this recreation appears more likely to come right down to a matter of belief by which offense can have any measure of success in transferring the ball. Given the relative energy of Cleveland's run recreation compared to any side of Pittsburgh's offense, that is the best way we've got to lean.
Prediction: Browns 20, Steelers 13