by Will Strome, NFLWeather.com | 12-23-2017 17:00
The 2017 campaign for both the Browns and the Bears has been a dark and dreary one, in fact, both seasons for the storied franchises have been about as bleak as the ice-cold Christmas Eve weather destined for Chicago on Sunday.
According to NFLWeather.com, conditions along the banks of Lake Michigan will be nothing short of miserable. The thermometer will read in the low-20s for the 1pm EST kickoff but a piercing 10-14mph breeze will drop the wind chill down to almost single digits. Precipitation is not currently in the forecast but the lake-effect could easily provide some afternoon flurries.
Both teams have already played in and lost one game featuring freezing temperatures this season, but a week 16 win would be the perfect early Christmas gift for fans crazy enough to brave the frozen front inside Solider Field. Week 16 is particularly important, as it is typically the championship week in most fantasy playoff formats, and this cold matchup could provide an option that could potentially win a fantasy championship; despite both teams never once being mentioned in the NFL postseason debate all year.
USA Today's Steve Gardner believes that particular play could be in the form of the Chicago Bears defense, which has scored double digits in daily fantasy five times already this season. "The Bears are this week's click to pick, playing at home against the winless Cleveland Browns" Gardner wrote. "QB DeShone Kizer has thrown an NFL-high 19 interceptions. Defenses matched up against the Browns rank first in fantasy points, with an average of 12.8 per week." In a frosty matchup against Cincinnati in week 14, the Bears defense put up 11 in Draft Kings following the 33-7 frigid road win.
Against the Bengals, it wasn't just the Chicago (4-10) defense that rose to the occasion despite the crummy conditions. Rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky had his best outing of the season, completing 25-of-32 attempts for 271 yards and a pair of touchdowns (one rushing). But his most impressive stat from the victory was zero turnovers. The rookie targeted Kendall Wright 11 times and the wideout hauled in 10 for 1-7 yards. Wright was one of eight different receivers Trubisky found against the Bengals. For only $4,700 in DK, Trubisky could be a sneaky cheap play this week against a D that allowed Brett Hundley to throw for three TD’s in similar playing conditions.
As electric as the Bears passing game was in the cold at Cincy, the ground game was even more on fire. Jordan Howard torched the Bengals for 147 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns while Tarik Cohen added 80 yards on 12 touches. The Browns haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher each of the last three weeks but given how dominating the Bears rushing attack has been all season, averaging almost 120 yards on the ground per game, that streak for Cleveland is likely to come to an end.
Like Chicago, the Browns (0-14) offensive strength has been the ground game and if Cleveland has any intention of breaking the winless streak this weekend, the boys in the backfield need to overcome the Bears front seven and the less than favorable conditions. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. have been the one-two punch all season and Sunday will be no different. While Johnson Jr. sees more action in the passing down on third downs, the Crow will dominate the early down touches and if snow becomes a factor as temps plummet, Crowell could see an even heavier dose of carries.
According to the NFLWeather.com Historical Analytics, since 2009 the Browns are 6-10 when temps are below-32 including a devastating 27-21 overtime loss to Green Bay this season. Over the same span, Chicago isn’t exactly much better, posting an 8-11 record with the 33-7 shivering win over Cincy was the first frozen W for the Bears since November of 2014.
For Cleveland to break the duck, Kizer needs to play like the Browns QB of the future. In terrible conditions against GB, the rookie put up admirable numbers during his three TD performance but his two interceptions were the ultimate determining factor in the loss to the Packers. Josh Gordon was heavily involved in that loss at home and he'll be the go-to guy early and often against Chicago.
If the Bears can’t figure out a solution to stopping Gordon, Sunday night will be a silent night in Chicago.
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