Every team, no matter their record, has strengths and weaknesses. The Browns certainly test that assertion, as you will soon see. The way this works: Each offense will be pitted against the opposing defense and compared on an array of key statistical attributes based on their respective rank in the NFL. The charts that follow show the rank of each unit for each of these categories. What you want to look for is where there is a big disparity between the height of one bar and another. Keep in mind that since these are rankings, lower numbers are better, so tall bars are bad.
Seahawks Offense vs Browns Defense
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Seahawks offensive weaknesses vs Browns defensive strengths
Defensive strengths…defensive strengths…still searching…well the Browns are better than half the league in opponent completion percentage. They are roughly in the middle of the league in opponent 3rd down conversion rate and red zone touchdown rate. Those third down and red zone numbers are probably the only thing keeping this Browns defense from being a historically bad defense.
Seattle still ranks poorly in sack rate, although they finally moved out of the cellar this week, but they are one of the best in the NFL in that statistic over the past six weeks. Red zone is still ranked lower than most teams, but that is also skewed by early season struggles. Seattle ranked 32nd in that number just five weeks ago.
The Browns have been showing some signs of late that should be mentioned. They have held their last three opponents (SF, CIN, BAL) to 233 yards passing or less. This trend has been going on for about five weeks, with the Steelers being the only offense to eclipse that number (PIT had 399 passing yards).
Cleveland also recorded 9 sacks last week versus the 49ers, but that was really an aberration. They did not have more than 1 sack in any of their previous three games. The Browns have only held three teams under 100 yards rushing, but two of those happened in the last four games. That stretch also included a 104 yard rushing game for the Ravens, so the rush defense has been stronger of late.
Browns defensive weaknesses vs Seahawks offensive strengths
Where to begin? The Browns give up a ton of points, a ton of yards, and they are about equally bad at defending the pass as they are the run. They are 28th in opponent yards per attempt and 29th in opponent rushing yards. They will be facing an offense ranked 2nd and 1st in those categories.
Cleveland has allowed 30+ points in eight of their thirteen games this year. Seattle is the hottest offense in the NFL. There is very little evidence to suggest that trend should slow down this week.
Browns Offense vs Seahawks Defense
Browns offensive strengths vs Seahawks defensive weaknesses
At least the Browns can claim some strengths on offense. They are surprisingly strong on 3rd downs (6th) for a team that struggles to run the ball as much as they do. A lot of that should be credited to heady play by Josh McCown when he was healthy at quarterback. McCown had a sterling 129.5 passer rating on 3rd downs, with 7 TDs and only 1 INT. Johnny Manziel has done pretty well there with a 109.0 rating, and four TD passes.
Manziel had a gaudy 372 yard passing day a few weeks ago against the Steelers, but was also sacked six times for over 40 yards. The real difference in games when Manziel starts appears to be the Browns rushing totals.
Cleveland averages 107.5 yards rushing when Manziel starts, compared to 76.3 yards rushing when he does not.
Interestingly, the Browns score a little less (17.8 vs 18.8), but also surrender a lot less (21.3 opponent points per game vs 30.2). For a guy with a reputation as a scrambler, he does not have any particularly impressive rushing totals. His best games are about 30 yards rushing this year.
McCown helped the Browns to a low interception rate most of the season, and Manziel has been reasonably strong in that area as well.
Browns offensive weaknesses vs Seahawks defensive strengths
The big things here are going to be the run game and the red zone. Cleveland is terrible in both, and Seattle is elite in both. The Browns have rushed for over 100 yards in five games, and two of their three wins came in those contests.
They are coming off a 230 yard rushing performance against the 49ers that should get the Seahawks attention. Seattle has been absolutely dominating against the ground game this year, and especially lately. No team has more than 59 rushing yards against the Seahawks in the past four weeks, and the last two had 31 yards or less.
Even if the Browns find a way to get the ball moving against a great run defense and 3rd down defense, they are going to have a heck of a time getting in the end zone. Getting to 10 points would be an accomplishment for the Browns and an embarrassment for the Seahawks.
Seahawks kicking vs Browns returning
Browns kicking vs Seahawks returning
The Browns have a nice return game, especially on punts. They will need a great special teams play or two to make this a competitive game.