Imagine, just for a moment, you are a second-year quarterback playing in the NFL. The hype surrounding your career is beginning to fade. It feels like a long time ago since you threw for 27 touchdowns and were the darling of the league.
Now, behind all the bravado and the bold claims, your team is 3-6 and the playoffs seem a distant memory.
On a short week, what you really don’t want is to have to face one of the most ferocious defences in football, who also happen to be in your division.
— Underground Zone (@undergroundfam1) November 10, 2019
For us, this is a bad dream. For Baker Mayfield, this is week 11.
No one in the league has more interceptions than Minkah Fitzpatrick. From a season of tanking with the Miami Dolphins, the second-year safety is tearing up teams, with five takeaways, two fumble recoveries and two touchdowns and looking every part a fantastic pick up after his trade to the Steelers.
Mayfield still has more interceptions than touchdowns, with his average yards per throw down 0.6 from last season and his completion percentage sitting at 59.9.
There are signs of life though. Since the bye week, in three games, he has four TDs and one INT, he has completed 66% of his passes for 705 yards. And this all came against teams ranked within the league’s top 10 pass defences.
On the opposite side, Mason Rudolph will start under centre for the visitors, hoping to improve on his return of 11 touchdowns in seven games and a QB rating of 93.0.
He may not be consistently throwing over 200 yards, but he’s not being picked more than once per game, actually his average is 0.57.
The 17-12 win over the Rams was the first time under Rudolph the Steelers have failed to hit the 20 point mark. The same can’t be said for the Browns. In nine attempts, they have only reached 20 points on three occasions. However, the 16 points on Sunday against the Bills could have been 23 if Freddie Kitchens knew how to mix things up on the goal line.
Baker is improving, the Dawg Pound will be in full voice and their defence is good enough to cause Rudolph as many problems as the Steelers D will bring.
Since losing to the Baltimore Ravens in OT, the Steelers are 3-0, the defence looks a force and Mason Rudolph is gaining confidence game-by-game. One reason is his connection with James Washington.
The second year wide receiver has been targeted 17 times in those three weeks. Gaining 180, and catching his first touchdown of the season against the Rams on Sunday.
It’s easy to see why. The QB and the wideout played three full seasons together at Oklahoma State before joining the NFL. In 39 games, with Rudolph playing the same amount, the 23-year-old caught 33 TDs and gained over 3800 yards.
They have a connection and it’s hard to see the play caller move away from a player he knows and trusts. Washington caught 198 passes with Rudolph as the starting QB in college, so it’s wise to trust this is a partnership which is only going to grow as the season progresses.
With Kareem Hunt on the active roster, the @Browns used "Pony Personnel" (2 HB) featuring Hunt & Nick Chubb on the field together for 28 of 65 plays (43%).@NickChubb21 gained 113 of his 116 rush yards on 11 carries with Hunt also on the field.#BUFvsCLE | #Browns pic.twitter.com/dTk7qf7ydd
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 10, 2019
Fantasy players were worried about Nick Chubb’s production with the introduction of Kareem Hunt in Week 10, but they needn’t have been.
The Browns featured both players in 28 of 65 snaps against the Bills and more importantly, Chubb picked up 113 of his 116 rushing yards on 11 carries, of which Hunt was on the field for every single one.
There is potential for this to become a devastating two-headed monster, with both able to play as pass catchers on third-down. Hunt is still finding his feet in the offence and getting back his game sharpness, but this is the player who led the NFL in yards back in 2017.
If Freddie Kitchens can work Hunt’s yards and snaps into the playbook with Chubb, this could be the way the Browns find success. Teams will be more wary of throwing against this Steelers D – especially looking at Mayfield’s numbers.
Ground and pound could be the way forward for the struggling Browns.