The Cleveland Browns have looked sharp throughout the preseason, and will hit the road to square off against the Atlanta Falcons in Sunday’s Week 3 exhibition finale. Continue reading for our full preview and matchups to watch for in this one.
Cleveland Browns vs Atlanta Falcons: What you need to know
- Falcons host the Browns at Mercedes Benz Stadium on Sunday, August 29th at 8:00 pm ET on NBC.
- Sportsnaut says the Cleveland Browns will beat the Atlanta Falcons, 20-17.
- Odds: The Browns are favorites by six points with the over/under set at 36.
Feleipe Franks/Josh Rosen vs Kyle Lauletta
Despite going undrafted, Feleipe Franks had a chance to beat out AJ McCarron for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind Matt Ryan even before McCarron went down with a season-ending injury. However, former first-round pick Josh Rosen just signed with Atlanta, so he’ll be trying to get up to speed with the playbook in time to play.
Meanwhile, the Browns will play Baker Mayfield some, and Case Keenum may see snaps, too. Third-stringer Kyle Lauletta has the most at stake, though, because Cleveland could very well proceed with only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. This is another shot for Lauletta to prove he deserves better than mere practice squad duty.
- Rosen Resurgence: Bad situations in Arizona and Miami got Rosen’s career off on the wrong foot. Short-lived stints in Tampa Bay and San Francisco didn’t provide a path to any meaningful playing time. Could he ultimately become Ryan’s successor?
- Lauletta Learning: Completing 33 of 50 passes for 364 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason has gotten Lauletta some notice in Cleveland. He’s showing better command and accuracy than at any other point in his career. There’s no question Lauletta has a cannon right arm. If he doesn’t stick with the Browns, another team might rush to scoop him up.
Advantage: Cleveland Browns
Hayden Hurst vs Browns linebackers
Since we haven’t really seen him in action yet, it’s safe to assume rookie No. 4 overall pick Kyle Pitts won’t be on the field for the Falcons. The phenomenal young tight end should be protected at all costs, which means another former first-round draft choice at the position, Hayden Hurst, ought to get plenty of work for the home team.
Hurst is going to be facing a Cleveland linebacker corps that, despite injuries of late, is still much deeper and better than last year. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was a consensus first-round talent who fell to Round 2, and he’s legitimately fighting for a starting spot. However, he suffered a forehead gash on a weightlifting accident, and he’s been ruled out.
- Hurst Hustling: Sporting a trimmer frame and facing direct competition from one of the most universally acclaimed draft prospects in recent memory, Hurst can only get better alongside Pitts. Without the latter on the field, though, the Browns can key in on Hurst. It’ll be interesting to see how he responds.
- JOK Is OK: The former Notre Dame star missed a chunk of Browns training camp in the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols, and thankfully, seems fine after the aforementioned lifting mishap. Mack Wilson and Malcolm Smith should be seeing some action and coverage duties on Hurst, but Owusu-Koramoah’s absence will hurt.
Advantage: Atlanta Falcons
Kevin Stefanski vs Arthur Smith
It’s not like reigning Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski is resting on any laurels for the Browns. He’s got Cleveland weathering injury adversity without much issue leading up to the season. He’s being smart about resting certain key players. Everything is so organized. Who would’ve thought the Browns would be like this a few years ago?
The learning curve as a first-time NFL head coach is something Stefanski went through last year amid unimaginable circumstances. Arthur Smith is weathering that storm now, following a successful stint as Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator.
- Superb Stefanski: Imagine taking the Browns job, with all their instability and dysfunction, and having the confidence to say, “Yep, this is the right time and opportunity.” Stefanski is the coolest customer around. Nothing fazes him. It’s refreshing to see in Cleveland, that’s for sure.
- King Arthur: Owner Arthur Blank gave a long leash to Smith’s predecessor, Dan Quinn. The Falcons’ flailing defense was a big reason for Quinn getting the pink slip. No matter how well Smith does with the offense, his fate will likely be tied more to how much Atlanta improves defensively. Not a great situation to be in, really.
Advantage: Cleveland Browns
The bottom line: Even the Browns’ backup defenders could push a lot of Falcons for their starting jobs. Plus, Cleveland’s second-unit offensive line has performed well in game situations. All this seems to point to a victory for the visitors.