After a letdown performance in Week 2, the Washington Football Team will look to bounce back and keep the season on track against a talented Cleveland Browns squad. It’s been a tale of two paths to get to this point for each team.

For Washington, they started the season 1-0 after an improbable 17 point comeback against Philadelphia in their first game but fell flat on their face in Week 2 losing to Arizona 15-30. Which Washington will show up in Week 3? For Cleveland, they started the season 0-1 by getting abused by the Baltimore Ravens, their divisional rival, but had a very nice bounce-back game against the Bengals on Thursday Night Football.

Which versions will we see this Sunday? That will decide which team is victorious. What are some of the key match-ups of the game, what does each team bring to the table, and what do our Washington analysts expect the score to be? Find out in this Washington vs Cleveland Week 3 preview.

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Washington vs Cleveland Week 3 preview

Washington Football Team preview

We’re now two games into the season and it’s become obvious that a number of Washington’s wins will simply come down to how well their defense can perform. The offense is young and inexperienced and it shows. However, the offense does not lack talent. Terry McLaurin is a growing superstar and currently sits eighth in the NFL in receiving yards.

The team’s third-round pick, Antonio Gibson, has shown in two games that he’s the most talented rusher on the team and quietly had a really impressive game against Arizona. However, if the offense is to move the ball it really comes down to two things. The offensive line’s ability to maintain a pocket, and Dwayne Haskins’ ability to win from it.

Related | Cleveland Browns’ Offensive line faces another challenge against Washington in Week 3

It’s been two straight weeks now that the offense hasn’t produced until well into the second half and come from behind wins aren’t a sustainable way to succeed. In Week 3, the offense must find a way to put the ball in the end-zone in the first quarter.

Expect Washington to try and get McLaurin targets early in this game, as they push the tempo to try and get Haskins as comfortable as possible. Also expect a big game from tight-end Logan Thomas facing a Brown’s linebacking corps that could be considered the worst in football.

Can the defense continue to improve?

On defense, Washington has actually been strong through nearly all facets. The only glaring weakness has been the safety play, specifically the horrendous free safety play in Cover-1 and Cover-3. Kyler Murray abused Troy Apke for the entire Week 2 game, as he has now been targeted 16 times for eight completions, 162 yards, and a touchdown.

He’s also directly responsible for two of Murray’s rushing touchdowns. If Washington could get better safety play for the rest of the season, they could have a legitimate top-10 unit. Oh, and the defensive line is genuinely good enough to win another game or two by themselves.

Against Cleveland, Washington’s run defense will have its first major test of the season. Luckily, they don’t have to worry about Baker Mayfield nearly as much as they did Murray, but the Cleveland running backs are comfortably the most talented unit in football.

The Browns currently have the fifth and eight leading rushers in the NFL in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, respectively, and Washington’s front seven will have to come to play on Sunday. Outside of the running backs, Washington must be careful of Odell Beckham Jr., who torched the team consistently in a Giant’s uniform. Getting after Mayfield and stopping the run are the keys to beating the Cleveland Browns.

Cleveland Browns preview

The Browns were blown out and only scored six points in Week 1 and 35 points in Week 2. The offense is volatile, thanks to their quarterback. Mayfield is one of the best young gunslingers in football when he’s hot, playing aggressive, and trusting his reads. However, when he’s double-clutching, overthinking, and trying to play it safe he’s just not a very good passer. He’s thrown 37 interceptions in 32 games, so Washington needs to try and get their hands on the football.

As mentioned in the Washington preview, the Browns have one of the most talented running back duos in football history. It’s not impossible to envision them having two top ten rushers, statistically, come the end of the season. They’re currently second in total rushing yards despite being outside the top ten in rush attempts. They face a nasty Washington front seven, however, which is comfortably the best they’ve faced this year.

On defense, the Browns have struggled but they’ve also been eviscerated by injuries, and it only getting worse this week. Star cornerback Denzel Ward injured his groin on Thursday and could be out for Sunday’s game. Meanwhile, the other starting corner Greedy Williams is still trying to return from a shoulder injury. If neither corner can go, it could mean disaster for Cleveland’s secondary.

Cleveland’s defense does possess a very talented defensive line, built around superstar pass rusher Myles Garrett. They also have an impressive trio of defensive tackles in Sheldon Richardson, Larry Ogunjobi, and Jordan Elliott. If both Olivier Vernon and Adrian Clayborn are healthy than Cleveland’s pass rush could be an issue for a Washington offensive line that is well below average.

Match-Ups to watch

Myles Garrett vs Washington RT 

Washington’s starting right tackle, Morgan Moses, has been playing his best football in three years. However, he did not participate in practice on Thursday and could be out for the Cleveland game. The likely replacement would be journeyman swing-tackle Cornelius Lucas, who has been a quality spot starter throughout his career. However, whichever player is on the field will have their hands full with Garrett.

Chase Young vs Jedrick Wills

This will likely be the match-up everyone wants to see, and for good reason. Jedrick Wills has looked like a future perennially All-Pro for Cleveland after being selected 10th overall and moving to left tackle. He hasn’t faced an edge defender even close to the same level as second overall pick Chase Young, who is currently leading the NFL in sacks. Which of these top 10 picks will win when individually matched-up against each other?

Baker Mayfield vs Dwayne Haskins

I know they technically aren’t able to play directly against each other, but these two teams live and die with the quarterback position. Can Baker build off his Thursday night success against Cincinnati, or will he relegate back to the player he was against Baltimore? Will Haskins finally move the offense down the field in the first quarter against an injured Browns’ defense, or will Washington continue to start slow and let the game get away from them like it did in Week 2?

Overview

The Washington Football Team vs Cleveland Browns Week 3 match-up is a pivotal point for the two teams. Starting 2-1 gives teams a much higher chance to reach the postseason than 1-2 does. With Washington in a wide-open NFC East and Cleveland in an ultra-competitive AFC North, these two teams desperately need every win they can get. Which team can get after the opposing quarterback will be pivotal, and which superstar receiver has the better game could be the deciding factor in the game outcome.

Oli Hodgkinson: Cleveland 20-17 Washington

Ian Cummings: Cleveland 24-20 Washington

Matt Valdovinos: Washington 27-Cleveland 20