Cleveland Browns (0-0-1) at New Orleans Saints (0-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, Mercedes-Benz Superdome; FOX, Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin (Field reporter)
SERIES HISTORY: 18th regular-season meeting. Browns lead series, 13-4. Cleveland has won eight of the 10 meetings in New Orleans, including the last meeting, a 26-24 victory in 2014. The Browns won the first eight meetings in the series and have won five of the last six. The Saints won three straight in 1984, 1987 and 1990.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Wide receiver Josh Gordon was on the field for 69 plays in the opener, but he was targeted only three times. He wont be on the field at all Sunday. The Browns released him Saturday.
The Saints will try to find ways to generate more of a pass rush against Tyrod Taylor than they had against Ryan Fitzpatrick last week. They didn't sack Fitzpatrick and rarely pressured him. Taylor, on the other hand, was sacked seven times by the Steelers and completed just 15 of 40 passes. New Orleans would like to generate a better pass rush with its front four, but has to be willing to bring linebackers and defensive backs if it's necessary to get the rush that was lacking last week.
The Saints want to run the ball more and better than they did last week. The deficit they faced against Tampa Bay, which reached as much as 24 points, necessitated more passing as the game went along, but the running game never got into a rhythm even when the score was close. Either Mike Gillislee (three carries, one fumble) or Jonathan Williams (one rush) needs to emerge as a steady complement to Alvin Kamara as Mark Ingram II serves the second game of his four-game suspension. The goal is to repeat the passing-game efficiency of last week (82 percent, no interceptions), but do so while playing off an effective running game. "We also wanted to throw it when we began to see how we were getting defended and then what was happening relative to our offense," head coach Sean Payton said. "We'll look closely at the best way we think we have to move the football in this game and understand the type of defense we're playing is quite a bit different than what we just saw."
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Browns CB Denzel Ward vs. Saints WR Michael Thomas. Ward had two interceptions in his rookie debut last week. He will be busy for four quarters on Sunday guarding Thomas. Thomas was targeted 17 times and caught 16 passes for 180 yards. Look for the Browns to disguise their coverages, but fooling Drew Brees will not be easy.
--Saints T Terron Armstead vs. Browns DE Myles Garrett. Armstead is capable of holding his own against Garrett without requiring constant help. Garrett had six tackles, including two sacks, and the Browns pass rush figures to begin with him. If he can beat Armstead and force New Orleans to give him help, or if Garrett gets to Drew Brees, it will disrupt what New Orleans is trying to do offensively.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Browns TE David Njoku. Njoku is one of the most perplexing players on the Browns roster. He is capable of making spectacular jumping, twisting in the air catches, but he also drops passes a seventh-round draft pick should make. He dropped two last week that hit him squarely in the hands. The Browns won't give up on him, but quarterback Tyrod Taylor can be excused if he looks elsewhere in crunch time.
FAST FACTS: BROWNS QB Tyrod Taylor rushed for 77 yards with TD & had pass TD last week. Has 95+ rating in 2 of past 3 vs. NFC. Has lowest career INT pct. (1.45 pct.) in NFL history among QBs with 1,250 career att. ... RB Carlos Hyde rushed for TD in Week 1. Had rush TD in only career game vs. NO (11/9/14 with SF). Has 95+ scrimmage yards in 3 of his past 5 vs. NFC. ... RB Duke Johnson Jr. has 5+ catches in 3 of his past 4. Has 238 scrimmage yards (79.3 per game) & TD catch in past 3 vs. NFC. Since 2015, ranks 2nd among NFL RBs with 189 receptions. ... WR Jarvis Landry had 7 catches for 106 yards last week. Aims for 4th in row vs. NFC with TD catch. Has 2 TD catches in past 2 on road vs. NFC South. Since entering league in 2014, is 1 of 3 WRs with 400+ catches (407). ... DE Myles Garrett had 2 sacks last week, his 2nd career multi-sack game. Aims for 4th in row with sack. LB Joe Schobert had team-high 8 tackles & 2 FRs in Week 1. Has 12+ tackles in 3 of past 4 on road. ... LB Christian Kirksey has 8+ tackles & TFL in 4 of past 6 vs. NFC. ... LB Jamie Collins Sr. had FR in only career meeting (10/13/13 with NE). ... CB Damarious Randall had INT in only career game vs. NO (10/22/17 with GB). ... Rookie CB Denzel Ward had 2 INTs in NFL debut last week & is 4th-youngest player (21 years, 134 days) in NFL history with multi-INT game. ... SAINTS QB Drew Brees completed 37 of 45 (82.2 pct.) for 439 yards with 3 TDs & 0 INTs for 129.5 rating last week. Has 16 career games with 400+ pass yards, most in NFL history. In his past 11 at home vs. AFC, has 3,952 pass yards (359.3 per game) with 34 TDs vs. 6 INTs for 120.3 rating. ... RB Alvin Kamara had 141 scrimmage yards (112 rec., 29 rush) & 3 TDs (2 rush, 1 rec.) in Week 1. Aims for 4th in row vs. AFC with TD. In past 6 at home, has 714 scrimmage yards (119 per game) & 9 TDs (5 rush, 4 rec.). ... WR Michael Thomas had 16 catches for 180 yards & TD in Week 1. His 16 receptions surpassed Keenan Allen's 15 catches (9/13/15) for most receptions in single game on Kickoff Weekend in NFL history. In his past 3 (incl. playoffs), has 31 catches for 396 yards (132 per game) & 3 TDs. Aims for 3rd in row at home with 100+ rec. yards (incl. postseason). ... WR Ted Ginn Jr. had 68 rec. yards & TD last week. Aims for 4th in row at home with TD (incl. postseason). ... DE Cameron Jordan has 3 sacks in his past 3. In his past 8 at home, has 7 sacks, 8 PD & INT. ... CB Marshon Lattimore has INT, 5 PD & FF in 4 career games vs. AFC. Has 2 INTs & 8 PD in his past 3 at home.
PREDICTION: The Browns will run into an angry bunch after the Saints gave up 48 points in an opening-week loss to Tampa Bay. Cleveland is improved, but still have to learn how to win.