The 49ers are 3-0 and are in first place in the NFC West. They’re facing another division leader on Monday Night Football in the Cleveland Browns. Both teams have plenty of talent, but to paraphrase Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens, talent doesn’t mean squat. Numbers never tell the entire story, but let’s take a look at some stats that could let us know more about both teams.
That’s the average yards per drive for the Browns offense. A Browns offense that features arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL, Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, who is now injured, and a No. 1 overall selection. That’s good for 21st in the NFL. For reference, the 49ers are averaging just under 36 yards per drive, and are seventh in the NFL. The Browns have not been consistent moving the ball against the 14th, 12th, 10th, and 29th ranked defenses per DVOA. So above average defenses, save the Ravens, but neither of those defenses has game-changers. The 49ers have game-changers.
That’s the average time of possession for opposing offenses facing the 49ers defense this year. Seriously. You know where I’m going with this. One offense struggles to move the ball. One defense punches you in the mouth and goes back to the bench well-rested. The Niners defensive line has overwhelmed opposing offensive lines, and I’d be shocked if that changes Monday Night.
That’s the percentage of touchdowns the Browns have allowed in the red zone after four games. Seventy. That ranks Cleveland 27th in the NFL. The 49ers are allowing 25% of red zone drives to end in a touchdown. They’re tied for first. Most NFL games are close. It comes down to who can put the ball in the end zone. The data suggests Cleveland will stall when, at the most critical moment.
The most frustrating part of the 49ers season, aside from injuries, has been their execution. Mainly, penalties. They’ve gifted first downs to opposing offenses and shot themselves in the foot when the Niners have the ball. Cleveland is averaging two more penalties than San Francisco, at 10.2 per game. Monday could be a sloppy game.
That is the percentage of plays where the Browns defense has missed a tackle. That’s the fourth-highest number in the league. This could be the game where we see the running backs, and Deebo Samuel turns short gains into explosive plays on offense. The 49ers are on the opposite end of this. They’re missing a tackle 8.2% of the time, which is the third-fewest in the NFL. Cleveland hasn’t been good when it comes to open-field tackling.
Browns’ safety Jermaine Whitehead has missed six tackles, and linebacker Joe Schobert has missed five. Look for a ton of quick passes and screens from the 49ers to let their playmakers do the work. The Browns cornerbacks are returning from injury as well. They’re good athletes, but they haven’t been sound at tackling this season, either. Some of Shanahan’s best run plays are where he gets Breida, a 1-on-1 opportunity with a cornerback. That’s a matchup you’ll take every day of the week if you’re a Niners fan.
We know Shanahan is going to run the ball. No offense in the NFL runs it more than the 49ers. He uses it to set up his play-action passing game, and boy does it work. The Browns allow 7.18 yards per attempt when you rush to the right end. The only teams to allow more yards in that area are the Bengals, Steelers, and Cardinals.
Outside and stretch zone to the right, anybody?
The 49ers are top-5 on all rushes to the right side through three games, averaging six yards a pop. We talked about the 49ers running game and how they match up against Cleveland Wednesday. The more you dig into stats, and watch the Browns, the matchup favors the home team.
I’ll be back with stats that favor the Browns when I find them.