Detroit News scouting report: Lions at Browns

Detroit News
By Steve Kornacki |  Special to The Detroit News

Lions at Browns

► Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland

► TV/radio: Fox/97.1

► Records: Lions 0-8-1, Browns 5-5

► Line: Cleveland by 11

Detroit News contributor Steve Kornacki breaks down the Detroit Lions’ Week 11 matchup against the Cleveland Browns.

Key matchup

BROWNS RECEIVERS VS. LIONS PASS DEFENSE

Donovan Peoples-Jones, the five-star recruit from Detroit’s Cass Tech who was Cleveland’s sixth-round pick out of the University of Michigan in 2020, has moved into the starting lineup with the Browns granting three-time Pro Bowler Odell Beckham Jr. his release last week. That enabled him to sign with the Los Angeles Rams. DPJ has replaced OBJ, and has 16 catches for 330 yards and three touchdowns — already surpassing each of those statistics from his rookie season.

“Donovan’s been a guy that we can rely on and continue to count on,” Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield said.  “He’s a great player for us, and he’ll continue to be that.”

He lines up with Landry, who played in five straight Pro Bowls (2015-19) and averaged 1,004 yards receiving over his first seven seasons. Those numbers are way down for Landry this year: 23 catches, 219 yards and no touchdowns. But he remains a threat who can’t be overlooked.

Detroit has three cornerbacks — including Jeff Okudah — out with injuries. Amani Oruwariye has stepped up with three interceptions but lacks consistency, and Jerry Jacobs and Bobby Price are other young corners who could develop.

Detroit’s 12.8 yards allowed per catch is next-to-worst in the NFL and only nine teams have surrendered more than its 16 touchdown passes. Just eight teams have fewer than its five interceptions.

Browns to watch

► Myles Garrett, DE: He leads the NFL with 13 sacks, and Cleveland is tied for the league lead with 29 sacks. The Lions allowed four sacks last Sunday to Pittsburgh. However, it’s worth noting that Detroit limited Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt (12.5 sacks) to one sack last week, and offensive tackles Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell stepped up big. Neither allowed a sack. Garrett (6-foot-4, 272) was the No. 1 overall pick out of Texas A&M in 2017, and already has 55.5 career sacks and three Pro Bowl selections. He’s also the first to lead the Browns in sacks four consecutive seasons.

► Baker Mayfield, QB: How will this banged-up playmaker fare while playing with a completely torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder, foot injury and a bad knee? Mayfield suffered a knee contusion in the third quarter of last Sunday’s surprising 45-7 loss at New England. He was cleared to return in the game, but held out because of the score. Mayfield said this week after sitting out a practice that he plans to play against the Lions, but nine-year vet Case Keenum would be the replacement. Mayfield has thrown for 1,990 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick in 2018 has come far since beginning his college career as a walk-on at Texas Tech. He joined Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to reach 3,500 yards passing and 20 TDs in each of their first three seasons.

 Nick Chubb, RB: He missed last Sunday’s game after testing positive for COVID-19 (despite being vaccinated) but is averaging 103 yards rushing in the seven games he’s played with six touchdowns. Coach Kevin Stefanski said playing Chubb against Detroit is a “day to day” decision based on his daily COVID tests, and D’Ernest Johnson (99 yards rushing, 58 yards receiving against New England) would get the call if his absence continues. Chubb’s 5.23 yards per carry leads the NFL since his debut in 2018, when he was a second-round pick out of Georgia. Chubb (5-11, 227) has accumulated 4,278 yards and 34 TDs, and made the last two Pro Bowls.

Facts and figures

► These are two of the NFL’s most sack-prone teams. The Browns have allowed 30 (only the Bears have surrendered more) and the Lions have given up 27.

► Detroit didn’t turn the ball over last week, while Cleveland had one turnover. However, ball security didn’t result in scoring productivity for either team. The Browns scored only seven points in a loss and the Lions had 16 in a tie.

► Rushing is a lop-sided, season-long advantage for Cleveland despite Detroit’s running game being on the rise. The Lions average 4.9 yards per carry with 974 yards on the ground, while the Browns’ numbers are 5.9 and 1,541 in those two categories.

► The Lions and Cleveland both have converted 73 percent of goal-to-go opportunities.

Steve Kornacki is a freelance writer.

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