Falcons at Browns
The Atlanta Falcons have revived their playoff hopes with a three-game winning streak, and they’ll look to keep rolling when they visit the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. While the Falcons have been streaking back to .500, the Browns have lost four straight.
The Falcons still are three games behind New Orleans in the NFC South, but they’re in the crowded wild-card mix. Falcons coach Dan Quinn told reporters thinking about Cleveland’s defense, which has forced a league-high 23 turnovers, is “enough to keep me up late at night.” The takeaways haven’t been enough to buoy the Browns lately, as they’re coming off a 37-21 loss to Kansas City last week in Gregg Williams’ debut as interim head coach. Cleveland’s offense has not registered 400 total yards during the skid.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Falcons -6. O/U: 50.5
ABOUT THE FALCONS (4-4): Atlanta’s passing game has been in high gear during the winning streak, as Matt Ryan has passed for at least 350 yards in a franchise-record three consecutive contests. Julio Jones ranks second in the league in receiving yards (933) but caught his first touchdown pass of the season last week, as rookie Calvin Ridley (seven touchdowns) has become Ryan’s favorite red-zone target. Atlanta’s secondary has been suspect, but the run defense is rounding into form as it has held the last two opponents under 80 yards.
ABOUT THE BROWNS (2-6-1): Cleveland’s crop of talented rookies is filling key roles, especially on offense with quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Nick Chubb. Duke Johnson has been a big part of the Browns’ passing game - he made nine catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns last week - and could be in line for another big game, as the Chiefs allow running backs to record a league-high 8.5 receptions per contest. The takeaways have bailed out a unit that ranks 30th in total defense, although second-year end Myles Garrett has recorded nine sacks - tying him for third in the NFL.
1. Jones needs 13 receiving yards to become the fastest to 10,000 in NFL history. Jones will be playing in his 103rd game, while Calvin Johnson (115) holds the current mark.
2. The Browns claimed DBs Phillip Gaines (Buffalo) and Jermaine Whitehead (Green Bay) off waivers on Wednesday and placed two starters - LB Christian Kirksey (hamstring) and DB E.J. Gaines (concussion) - on injured reserve.
3. The Falcons signed former Oakland and Seattle DE Bruce Irvin on Wednesday, bolstering a defense that has been decimated by injuries.