All eyes are on the Sunday night matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs facing the Buffalo Bills. But, the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Chargers matchup is one of the most intriguing of the young season. Both teams are off to 3-1 starts and fighting for a divisional crown.
The Chargers are fresh off back-to-back impressive victories against the Chiefs and Las Vegas Raiders, and the Browns’ only loss of the year came at the expense of Patrick Mahomes and company. A pair of 3-1 teams, both with realistic playoff hopes, battle it out at SoFi Stadium.
But, the Browns and Baker Mayfield might be without a long list of players after Friday’s injury report was a lengthy one, including names such as Jedrick Wills and Myles Garrett.
Browns injury woes might be a difference
Yes, the Browns have a ton of players on the injury report listed as questionable, and the situation will be worth monitoring by the time Sunday rolls around. The list is a long one, and it definitely isn’t an encouraging sign.
The good news is that all but two players– Wills and Garrett– participated in Friday’s practice. Still, having that many players on the fence is tough.
Moreover, losing Wills and Garrett would be detrimental, especially against an impressive Chargers’ group that handled the previously undefeated Raiders at ease and frustrated Derek Carr.
Denzel Ward could also be a major loss if he can’t go, as the Chargers offense runs heavily through the arm of Justin Herbert with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams being beneficiaries. If Garrett or Ward is out for this game, the Chargers’ offense might have a field day. Greg Newsome is already out, and cornerback Troy Hill is questionable as well, which could be crucial for the Cleveland defense.
Browns offense could take a major hit, especially with the lingering injury to Baker Mayfield
It was revealed this past week that Mayfield was dealing with a shoulder injury to his non-throwing arm. That could be a cause for concern, although Mayfield will tough it out and play until he can’t go any longer.
Other names on the injury report for the Browns offense are David Njoku and Chris Hubbard, not to mention Wills. That could be two offensive linemen and a tight end, not to mention the injury that Mayfield is dealing with.
Hubbard is now out for the season and the Browns are dealt another massive blow to their depth up front.
The Chargers’ defense has played well and they are suddenly looking for their third straight victory and a chance to take sole possession of the top spot in the AFC West with a victory. Joey Bosa and Derwin James could have a field day, especially if Wills is missing from the lineup.
LA frustrated Carr and the Raiders, pitching a first-half shutout on Monday night, and Mayfield and the Browns offense could be in serious trouble if Wills and Njoku are forced to miss the game on Sunday.
Defensive injuries open the way for a monster Justin Herbert game
The Chargers young signal-caller has been more than outstanding in his first year-plus in the NFL. Herbert just set another impressive NFL record in a victory over the Raiders and has the Chargers playing outstanding football in the first year of Joe Lombardi’s new offensive system.
Mike Williams and Keenan Allen could be in line for monster games, especially with the looming injuries to the Browns secondary, and Austin Ekeler ran wild on the Raiders defense for more than 100 yards.
Things definitely aren’t trending in the right direction for Cleveland, and the injury report for the Browns will be one worth monitoring very closely. If they are missing players– especially on defense– Herbert could have a field day and a perfect shot to go 4-1 on the season.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference