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Cleveland Browns vs Washington Commanders Preview: 3 matchups to watch

The Washington Commanders host the Cleveland Browns

New Orleans Saints v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Washington Commanders lost to the San Francisco 49ers 37-20 and currently sit in the 7th seed in the NFC with a 7-7-1 record. Thanks to other teams losing last week, Washington still controls their path to the playoffs. They can clinch this week if they win and the Lions, Seahawks, and Packers all lose. Washington also clinches by simply winning their final two games.

Washington comes home after last Saturday’s road trip to the West Coast, and they remain favorites over the Cleveland Browns. The Browns have already been eliminated from the playoffs, but this is a huge game for Washington. You can check out the odds for this one courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Matchup 1: Put the pressure on Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson has played 4 games since returning from a suspension that kept him off the football field since the end of the 2020 NFL season. He’s still “shaking off the rust” and the Browns have gone 2-2 with him under center. He is averaging 176 passing yards per game and he has thrown 2 TDs along with 3 INTs. Watson also has 100 yards on the ground while picking up 1 touchdown. He has been sacked 8 times in the last 4 games.

Watson has not returned to the QB that caused the Browns to trade multiple 1st round picks and give him a five-year, $230 million contract. The Browns offensive line should not give the Commanders defense as much trouble as the 49ers did, so there will be plenty of opportunities to bring the pressure to Watson, and force mistakes and turnovers.

Matchup 2: Protect Carson Wentz

Carson Wentz is Washington’s starter again, and they will need to protect him if they want to put his arm to use today. Washington’s offensive line has had issues against the pass rush all season, and are on their 4th starting center again. Wentz had two drives to shake off his rust last week after not playing since a Week 6 broken finger put him on the shelf. He faced some pressure on the first drive, but was able to lead the team on a touchdown drive. The following 2 point conversion was blown up with pressure up the middle, which effectively put the game out of reach.

Matchup 3: Stop the Browns running game

Deshaun Watson might still be rusty, but they still have two capable running backs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt who can do some damage on the ground. Chubb is the lead back, and the player the defense will be focusing on. He has 1,344 rushing yards this season along with 12 rushing TDs. He hasn’t scored since Watson took over as QB, and that’s a streak Washington will need to extend to help them get the win today.

Washington has allowed the 13th-most rushing yards in the NFL this season, allowing an average of 114.4 yards per game on the ground. They have been limiting rushing TDs this season, only allowing 10 which is the 5th-best in the league. Washington’s second level of their defense is dealing with injuries which could affect their run defense, and they will need whoever is available to step up vs the Browns.