NFL Week 4 Preview: Bengals at Browns
Each week, the PFF analysis team will bring you break downs of the most important matchups for each game of the NFL season.
Coverage by: Lorin Cox
Matchup: Cincinnati Bengals offense vs. Cleveland Browns defense
- TE Tyler Kroft vs. S Jabrill Peppers – With Tyler Eifert sidelined by injury, Kroft played in a career-high 98.4 percent of his offense’s snaps last week, earning the second-highest receiving grade of any game his career at 73.7. He was tied for second on his team with three targets and three catches, and he’ll have another big role this week against Peppers in coverage. Peppers has allowed three catches on three targets this season for 48 yards, and he has been caught a few times over-pursuing. He’s the third-lowest graded safety in the NFL this season at 35.1 overall as he’s still adjusting to the NFL game.
- HB Joe Mixon vs. S Derrick Kindred – Kindred has played very well in his first season as a full-time starting safety, the 10th-highest graded player at his position at 85.3 overall. He’s been particularly strong against the run, and he’s tied for a team high with 10 stops this season. His 11.3-percent run-stop percentage is the highest among safeties in the NFL, and he’ll have a tall task trying to stop Mixon in this one. The rookie is the 10th-highest graded running back in the league this season at 78.5 overall. 82 of his 107 yards have come after contact this season, and he’s caught all seven targets thrown his way this year.
- C Russell Bodine vs. DI Danny Shelton – Bodine has taken a step back so far in 2017 after showing some improvement in 2016. He’s currently the third lowest-graded center in the NFL at 40.6 overall. Pass blocking was a big issue early on, as he allowed seven pressures in the first two games, and his run blocking hasn’t fared all that better. He’ll face plenty of Shelton in the middle of the Browns’ defense, who has a 74.9 overall grade. His six stops this season is tied for eighth most among defensive tackles, He is also in the top 10 in run-stop percentage (11.8 percent). Shelton has only generated one pressure as a pass-rusher, but he’s also only missed one tackle and isn’t used in many passing situations in Cleveland.
Coverage by: David Neumann
Matchup: Cleveland Browns offense vs. Cincinnati Bengals defense
- T Joe Thomas vs. EDGE Carl Lawson — Lawson has been an absolute terror off the edge to start the season. The rookie pass-rusher has the second-best pass-rush productivity among edge defenders through three games, picking up three sacks on 68 pass-rush snaps. With all but two of those pass-rushes coming from the defense’s right side, he figures to spend Sunday facing off against the NFL’s best left tackle. Thomas continues to perform at an elite level in his 11th season, earning the highest-overall grade (89.8) among tackles so far this season while giving up zero sacks in pass protection.
- LG Joel Bitonio and RG Kevin Zeitler vs. DI Geno Atkins — Lawson and Thomas isn’t the only intriguing matchup in the trenches in this game, as Cleveland’s guards will have their hands full with one of the league’s best interior defenders. Atkins is the fifth-highest graded interior defender (89.1) after three games and has been problem for guards in pass protection — his 15 total pressures are tied for the second most among interior defenders and his 15.4 pass-rush productivity ranks third. Bitonio and Zeitler have been solid to start the season, with both players grading among the top 30 guards. Lapses have popped up for both in pass protection, however, with Bitonio allowing a pair of sacks (tied for second-most among guards) and Zeitler having surrendered eight total pressures (tied for sixth-most).
- QB DeShone Kizer vs. pressure — How the Browns’ offensive line holds up in those previous matchups will go a long way toward determining how comfortable their rookie quarterback will be in the pocket this week. Cincinnati has pressured opposing quarterbacks on 47.0 percent of dropbacks, the league’s second-highest rate. It’s been ugly for Kizer when under duress through three games, as he ranks among the bottom quartile of passers in both adjusted completion percentage (56.0 percent, 26th) and passer rating (40.8, 27th) under pressure.