The 0-7 Cleveland Browns welcome the 6-1 Dallas Cowboys to FirstEnergy Stadium in Week 9.
Cleveland will be the underdogs on home soil, with Odds Shark tipping the Cowboys as seven-point favorites. Those odds make sense since Dallas has all the attributes to exploit the Browns’ biggest weaknesses.
In particular, the NFL‘s top rushing attack can victimize the league’s 31st-ranked run defense. Things could get ugly for the Browns once rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott gets rolling.
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The ex-Ohio State star has been terrorizing pro defenses with his blend of track speed and sledgehammer-like force. It also helps Elliott is rushing behind the strongest run-blocking line in the game.
Cleveland’s chances of winning the vital battles in the trenches look slim. It’s easy to imagine nose tackle Danny Shelton will be suffocated by Cowboys guard Zack Martin and center Travis Frederick.
But Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton has to find a way to slow the run. He must get Dallas rookie passer Dak Prescott into obvious passing situations. The Browns have the edge-rushers to make Prescott uncomfortable in the pocket, including an exciting new weapon.
The trade to net linebacker Jamie Collins from the New England Patriots has given Horton a legitimate blue-chipper. Collins is versatile, but Horton should turn him into a full-time outside pass-rusher. The 250-pounder has the speed and strength to collapse the pocket from either side.
Collins was seen as too much of a freelancer in New England. But Browns head coach Hue Jackson wants the Pro Bowler to follow his own lead in Cleveland, per Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain-Dealer.
Jackson and Horton will also be delighted Joe Haden is still a Brown after the trade deadline. The quality cornerback was a target for one NFC South club, admits ESPN’s Ed Werder:
#Saints made play for #Browns CB Joe Haden before #NFL trade deadline but determined price was too high, per sources