The Cardinals travel to Cleveland looking to start the season undefeated at 6-0 for the third time in franchise history. A victory would extend their winning streak over the Browns to five games, dating back to 2007. But the Browns are undefeated at home this season. This is arguably the Cardinals' toughest challenge this season.
Here are five Cardinals to watch Sunday at Cleveland:
Murray beat the Browns as a rookie in 2019. Two years later, Murray will face them again, this time in their "Dawg Pound" atmosphere. Murray is more polished this go-round, leading one of the NFL's most dynamic offenses during his MVP-caliber year. The Browns are different and better, too. They're AFC contenders with a top-five-ranked defense in sacks and total yards allowed. Quarterback Baker Mayfield, who leads a top-five offense, wants to even the score against his former Oklahoma teammate. Sunday should be a classic. Get your popcorn ready.
Humphries was solid guarding the left side of the offensive line against the 49ers Sunday, earning a 72.3 Pro Football Focus grade. But the 49ers still created pressure on the quarterback, and Sunday won't be easier dealing with All-Pro Myles Garrett. Garrett leads the NFL in sacks with seven. Humphries and the rest of the offensive line's ability to protect Murray will factor in the outcome of this game.
Not having starting center Rodney Hudson Sunday vs. the Browns hurts given how productive and valuable he's been for one of the NFL's best offensive lines. On the bright side, backup center Garcia has been effective in picking up where Hudson left off. According to Pro Football Focus, Garcia's 74.6 grade was the highest amongst the Cardinals' offensive line against a top-ten 49ers defense. It is no shock coach Kliff Kingsbury said the team is fully confident in having Garcia step in place of Hudson.
Allen is coming off a game with a sack and several momentum-changing plays that ignited the defense. Cardinals fans hope that carries over against the Browns, who have allowed the sixth-most sacks this season. Yes, the number one goal for the defense is to stop the Browns' rushing attack, which ranks first in the NFL -- but Allen and the rest of the defensive line's ability to put pressure on Mayfield will factor in the Cardinals' ability to remain undefeated. The Browns' passing attack lit up the Chargers defense last week, despite the Browns losing the game..
The linebacker played 14 percent of the defensive snaps Sunday in his second game since returning from an ACL injury, an uptick from the five percent he played against the Rams in Week Four. Expect that number to increase Sunday at Cleveland, with Chandler Jones out of the lineup due to Covid protocols. Gardeck will be relied on more to generate heat on Mayfield throughout the game.
Images of the top players to watch Sunday in Cleveland: QB Kyler Murray, LT D.J. Humphries, C Max Garcia, DE Zach Allen and OLB Dennis Gardeck.