Barking down south – Cleveland Browns at Atlanta Falcons preview and what to watch for

The ground game once again could be vital for the Browns to start 3-1 for only the second time since the 2001 season.

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The early afternoon sleight on Sunday will feature two NFL teams coming off a strong win the week prior. The visiting Cleveland Browns, who won on Thursday Night Football over the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24, head to Mercedes -Benz Stadium to take on the Atlanta Falcons, who defeated the Seattle Seahawks 27-23 the week prior.

Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota as well as Atlanta's weapons in Cordarrelle Patterson, Drake London and Kyle Pitts give just enough to squeak by Seattle last week. But, with Seattle's defense ranking at twenty-fifth overall in yards per game allowed and Cleveland's being ranked fourteenth, it may not be so easy for Mariota and company. Mind you, Browns superstar Myles Garrett is considered day-to-day after suffering injuries in a car crash so, perhaps the Falcons have a fighter's chance at home.

Today, Right Down Euclid will be breaking down what to watch for in Sunday's game between Cleveland and Atlanta.

Browns at Falcons odds, moneyline, over/under and more

All odds were provided by FanDuel Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of Right Down Euclid.

What to watch for

Cleveland leaning on their best offensive player once again

Sunday's game against the Falcons may be something that old-school Browns fans adore. By that, we mean that Cleveland will have a healthy diet of Nick Chubb running the football, along with plenty of Jacoby Brissett and Kareem Hunt sprinkled in. Atlanta currently possesses the seventeenth-worst rushing attack, allowing 109.3 yards per game on the ground. Just last week they saw Seattle running back Rashaad Penny carve them up for 66 yards on 14 attempts, which was Penny's best performance so far this season.

Sure, the performance put on by the Seahawks and Penny was impressive against the Falcons. But, despite this, Seattle still has the fourth-worst rushing attack entering week 4. Cleveland, meanwhile, is the no. 1 rushing team in the NFL – averaging 190.7 yards per game on the ground. Chubb could get things going fairly quickly and then Brissett and Hunt can cause the floodgates to burst. If that were to happen, this game between the Browns and the Falcons could be over before it could ever get started.

Don't fall for the trap

Atlanta returns home after a two-game road trip where they almost beat the Los Angeles Rams and got their first win over the Seahawks. They’ve played relatively well despite their 1-2 record, but, at the end of the day, don't have the talent to keep pace with the Browns. That's no disrespect to Atlanta either, mind you. They're just in the midst of a rebuild after moving on from Matt Ryan.

The thing is, the Falcons still have to feel good about their chances heading into this one, despite the gap in talent. Again, they almost beat the defending champion Rams and found a way to gut out a win against a hostile crowd in Seattle. Cleveland needs to make Mariota and company uncomfortable early and cause their youth and inexperience to ultimately be their downfall.

If not, Atlanta can easily carry their forward momentum from the last game into Sunday's matchup against the Browns. They have a few interesting weapons on offense, especially tight end Kyle Pitts. With Cleveland's defense, unfortunately, keeping things close this season, things could get hard – especially with Myles Garrett possibly out. Again, making the Falcons beat themselves is key in this matchup and avoiding what's setting up to be a trap game.

Denzel Ward should find his groove again

Denzel Ward had a tough outing in Week 3 against the Steelers. He was matched up against Pittsburgh's Diontae Johnson for the majority of the night and Johnson pulled in eight receptions for 84 yards. There were also a few plays where Johnson got open but Mitch Trubisky completely missed on the pass. Had those connected, the game might have been much tighter and Ward would have really been feeling the heat.

With that being said, Ward is still a solid player who just got matched up against a veteran receiver that happens to be a technician when it comes to route running. He'll likely shadow Falcons rookie Drake London, Atlanta's top wideout, for the majority of the game. If Cleveland forces pressure on Mariota and, in return, forces errant throws, look for Ward to capitalize and look like his old self on the field.

A fairly lackluster Seahawks rushing attack was rolling last week against the Falcons. The Browns should use this to their advantage this week. Image credit: Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Final prediction

If the Browns establish the running game early into this one, then things should take care of themselves against the Falcons. Brissett should do just enough to keep the offense balanced, getting plenty of easy targets to Amari Cooper and David Njoku. Factor all of this in on top of an extended 10-day break, Cleveland should take care of business and shift their focus to Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers the following week at home. That's where the real fun, as well as the season, truly begins for the Browns.

Cleveland 30, Atlanta 17

Featured image credit: Nick Cammett/Getty Images

Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at He can also be found three to five times a week on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.

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