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Week 5 Preview: New England Patriots likely game plan vs. Cleveland Browns

Sorry for the late game plan article, my focus has been towards something else.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots face a complete unknown with the Cleveland Browns.

Take away Terrelle Pyror: Pryor has been the Browns best playmaker of the season, so I expect the Patriots to try to neutralize his impact. I would expect them to put a safety over the top of him and have the corners just play sides, but if they want a specific guy underneath him, I would opt for either Justin Coleman or Logan Ryan. Malcolm Butler will have to win his 1-on-1 on the other side of the field unless the Patriots are able to play their 3-safety base defense against the run and funnel Duron Harmon to his side of the field.

Stop the run with a light box: The Browns have a very good rushing attack headlined by Isaiah Crowell, who is averaging 6.5 yards per attempt. He averaged 7.4 YPC against the Ravens, so he's very capable of slicing up a good run defense. The Browns might have turmoil across their QB and skill positions on offense, but their offensive line and running game is no joke. In order for the Patriots to be able to successfully shut down the Browns offense, they cannot be forced to have to replace a 3rd safety with a 3rd linebacker to stop the run since that opens up the downfield shots. That puts a lot of pressure on the edge rushers to funnel the ball inside to the big DTs and LBs inside and those guys need to make the stops. If the Browns are able to run the ball, it puts a lot of pressure on everyone in the secondary and the offense.

Chris Hogan needs to step up: 7 of Chris Hogan's 8 catches came with Jimmy Garoppolo playing QB. With the Patriots having to adjust their offense to Jacoby Brissett's strengths and his thumb injury limiting their game plan against the Bills, he's been lost in the shuffle. With Tom Brady returning at QB, Hogan's role in the offense should increase. With Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowkski, and LeGarrette Blount all battling injuries this week, Hogan may be the most important player on the perimeter. If Hogan is able to carry a large portion of the offense, the Patriots should be fine on that side of the ball.

Special Teams needs to keep winning the field position battle: One thing that has buoyed the Patriots to a 3-1 start has been the solid play from their special teams units. I don't expect Brady to be clicking on all cylinders since he's been out for 5 weeks from any game action. That means we'll likely see some errors on timing routes from both the QB and WRs. That could mean that Ryan Allen could be punting more than we'd like and red zone drives ending in Gostkowski FG attempts instead of touchdowns. If the Patriots can make Cody Kessler go 80+ yards every drive while creating short fields for Tom, this could get ugly quick.

For the final score, I predict a Patriots 27-24 victory. I don't think the Browns will roll over and suck like they usually do against NFL teams. They are 0-4, but had the lead in the 4th quarter in their last 3 games and an opportunity to win 2 of them and didn't deliver. If the Patriots think the Browns will be a cakewalk, they're in for a rude awakening. Fortunately, I think the loss to Buffalo last week plus the return of Brady will ignite the team to play harder.