New England Patriots: Browns may provide toughest challenge yet

Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots have ripped off three straight wins and are currently positioned as a playoff team. However, there is still plenty of work to be done.

This week the Patriots are back at home in Gillette Stadium, hosting the Cleveland Browns in what could be one of the most pivotal games of the season.

The Browns are not the best team that the Patriots have matched up with this season, but they are coming into this game desperate to keep themselves alive in the AFC North, which is the toughest division in football at the moment.

The Patriots are also still very much in the hunt for the AFC East, as the Buffalo Bills lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars in an absolute stunner last week.

The Browns are coming off a dominant 41-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, who just two weeks ago were the number one seed in the AFC. Cleveland played their best game of the season and got back to playing their brand of football following the release of Odell Beckham Jr., who is now a Los Angeles Ram.

Both teams come into this contest at 5-4 with playoff implications hanging in the balance. If the Patriots are going to extend their winning streak to four games, they will need to play the best game they have played all season.

53. 47. 1 PM ET. 5-4. Patriots -2.5. 5-4. CBS. Sunday, November 14th

How can the New England Patriots beat the Cleveland Browns?

It starts with defending Cleveland’s rushing attack, which will be severely hampered if Nick Chubb can’t suit up. Chubb tested positive for COVID-19 and has been ruled out for Sunday’s action.

That would leave D’Ernest Johnson as the primary ball carrier. Johnson performed very well in his lone start this season against the Denver Broncos, where he had 22 rushing attempts for 146 yards and a touchdown.

The Browns may not have the best passing attack on the surface, but they are not to be taken lightly either. Donovan Peoples-Jones is emerging as one of Baker Mayfield’s go-to targets, Jarvis Landry is always reliable, and their two tight ends in Austin Hooper and David Njoku can cause problems over the middle and up the seams.

On the other side, the Patriots need more out of their passing game than what they’ve provided the last two weeks. In his last two games, Mac Jones is 30-53 (56.6 completion percentage) for 356 yards (6.7 yards per attempt) with one touchdown and one interception.

The pass catchers will need to step up as well and help out their quarterback. Hunter Henry is the best red zone weapon on the team, but he can’t be the one scoring all the touchdowns. Maybe this will be the week where Jakobi Meyers finally finds the end zone.

There is speculation that the Patriots will rely on Jonnu Smith in the backfield, as Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson‘s statuses are currently up in the air. Both backs suffered head injuries against the Carolina Panthers and are going through concussion protocol.

This could be Smith’s breakout game, as he has been largely disappointing despite being signed to be a focal point in the Patriots passing attack.

While the Patriots haven’t exactly needed the offense to be spectacular to win in recent weeks, they also cannot expect the defense to get a pick six for the third game in a row either. They will need a complete performance in all three phases in order to come away with a win.

Next. How the Patriots will beat the Browns in Week 10. dark

This game will likely be extremely competitive, and the New England Patriots will need to fight for every inch in order to improve their record to 6-4 and keep themselves on the path to a playoff berth.