The New York Giants have a prime opportunity to absolutely demolish the Cleveland Browns’ offense this Sunday.
It’s no secret around the NFL that the Cleveland Browns are very bad.
Cleveland has been putrid this season, posting a winless 0-11 record thus far and becoming the first NFL team to be eliminated from playoff contention. Additionally, with their bye week coming up next week, there’s a feeling that the Browns will simply come out to take their lumps against the Giants before getting away from the losing culture and cold weather of Cleveland.
However, with the Cowboys on a roll in the division and the Vikings and Redskins hot on New York’s tail in the wild card race, the Giants simply cannot afford to lose in Cleveland.
Luckily for New York, there is a hidden motivation buried beneath the cliché narratives that surround this team: the defense isn’t getting any respect.
Currently, the Giants rank 15th in the NFL in yards allowed per game and 11th in points allowed per game, which is certainly good, but nothing to write home about. However, in Football Outsiders DVOA, which is oftentimes a much better representation of the overall quality of a particular defense, the Giants rank eighth in defense and are right in the mix with the best defenses in the league.
So, why can’t the Giants get any respect as an elite defense?
Part of it is they don’t look elite in traditional defensive stats, which can mostly be attributed to the schedule. According to Football Outsiders, the Giants have faced the third toughest schedule in the league this season, with match-ups against Dallas, Baltimore, and a healthy Minnesota team. Perhaps if New York got an easier schedule, their defense would look a bit more dominant and, as such, would get a bit more respect.
Against the Browns, who are undoubtedly the worst team in the NFL, the Giants’ defense has the opportunity for a statement game.
Shockingly enough, the Browns are primarily a passing offense, throwing the ball 64 percent of the time. That ranks third in the league behind just Green Bay and Jacksonville. For all the complaints from Giants fans over the past few weeks about a one-dimensional offense, the Browns are even more one-dimensional than New York.
While the Giants’ strength is certainly against the run, there exists a great opportunity to showcase their pass rush against Cleveland. The Browns are allowing an NFL worst 3.5 sacks per game, which has contributed to their rotating cast of quarterbacks this season.
Josh McCown will start on Sunday, but Browns fans have seen QB snaps from RG3, Cody Kessler, Charlie Whitehurst, Kevin Hogan, and even Terrelle Pryor this season. That lack of quarterback continuity has affected the offense’s ability to establish a rhythm all season.
Additionally, while New York struggled early to put up sack numbers, they have come alive these past few weeks in getting to the quarterback. After compiling just nine sacks through their first seven games, the Giants now have nine sacks in their last three weeks. Unsurprisingly, all those games have resulted in wins.
If they can put together yet another multi-sack performance against Cleveland, the Giants should be able to completely stifle the Browns’ offense, and take advantage of a very young Cleveland defense with their superior offensive weapons.
New York needs a marquee defensive performance and, while the team has come up with massive stops late in the past two games, they have yet to put up four consecutive quarters of great defensive football. Against Cleveland, they have the opportunity to do that and build some momentum heading into the difficult end of their schedule.