The Cleveland Browns have not beaten the Bears since Oct. 9, 2005. The Bears sport a three-game win streak against the Browns.
Much has changed, though, since they last squared off in 2017. Cleveland drafted quarterback Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick the following spring. The Bears have since moved on from Mitch Trubisky. The biggest change might be this: The Browns are good now.
Cleveland made its first playoff appearance in nearly two decades last season. If ever there was a time for the Browns to pick up a win against the Bears, this might be it.
Here are five things to watch in the Week 3 matchup.
1. Baker Mayfield vs. the Bears secondary
Matthew Stafford and the Rams showed that a good quarterback can make plays against this Bears secondary. Baker Mayfield is blossoming into a good quarterback.
The Browns are scoring 30 points per game through two weeks, but so far it has been more because they boast the No. 3 rushing attack in the league (154.5 yards per game) than because of the quarterback play. They were already without receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who is still recovering from a torn ACL last year, and now Jarvis Landry has gone down with a knee injury in Week 2.
That being said, Mayfield can be a dangerous quarterback. He will test the secondary more than Joe Burrow did in Week 2.
2. Beckham’s return
While Landry went injured reserve this week, Beckham will make his return. Beckham tore his ACL in Week 7 of last season. He didn’t play in either of the first two games in 2021.
Beckham is expected to play, but we still don’t know how much we’ll see him on the field right away. With Landry on IR, Cleveland’s receiving corp is particularly thin.
Our best guess is that Beckham won’t see a full complement of snaps this weekend.
3. Nick Chubb vs. the Bears’ front
The aforementioned Browns run game is stout, and Nick Chubb is the top reason why. Chubb’s 178 rushing yards ranks fifth in the NFL through two weeks, and his three rushing touchdowns are tied with Derrick Henry for the league lead.
Neither the Rams nor the Bengals ran the ball well against the Bears. Cleveland is likely to try it at a heavier clip than either of those first two opponents. If Chubb finds holes and keeps the chains moving, it could be a long afternoon for the Bears.
4. What does the Justin Fields playbook look like?
Justin Fields is a different quarterback than Andy Dalton. His ability to use his legs makes him harder to defend.
The Bears need to use that to their advantage. The plan of attack last week against the Bengals looked the same once Fields went into the game. But with more time to prepare for the possibility that Fields will be playing, there’s no reason the coaching staff couldn’t adjust the plan of attack to play into Fields’ strengths. That could mean more run-pass options and more rolling him out of the pocket.
5. Myles Garrett vs. the Bears’ offensive tackles
The Bears’ 39-year-old left tackle Jason Peters has acquitted himself well through the first two games. Browns defensive end Myles Garrett is a different cat, though.
The 2017 No. 1 overall draft pick was a first-team All-Pro performer in 2020. He has 10 or more sacks in each of the past three seasons. He has a unique ability to wreak havoc on quarterbacks. Peters and right tackle Germain Ifedi could have their hands full. They need to know where Garrett is at all times.