There's no denying that Sunday could like be a "battle of the backs" when the Vikings and Browns face off at U.S. Bank Stadium.
In fact, analytics site Pro Football Focus opined that the featuring of Minnesota's backfield and Cleveland's is the biggest storyline of the day for the matchup. PFF's Ben Linsey wrote:
The Browns and Vikings own two of the league's fiercest rushing attacks yet [approach] the ground game in two distinctly different ways. Cleveland utilizes a top-tier duo, riding the unique skill sets of both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to the NFL lead in rushing touchdowns and the third-highest team-wide rushing grade. Chubb and Hunt have been individually spectacular as well, possessing the second- and third-highest overall grades among all running backs so far this year.
Minnesota tends to prefer a one-man committee, whether that be presumed starter Dalvin Cook or Alexander Mattison in a reserve capacity like we saw last week. Both backs have excelled in that role, with Mattison coming off a 112-yard performance that included the fourth-most missed tackles of any rusher in Week 3.
It's unclear yet if Cook will play against the Browns Sunday after missing the Vikings Week 3 contest against Seattle. But as Linsey pointed out, Mattison certainly proved his capability.
In addition to the biggest storyline, Linsey also highlighted the "matchup to watch" for Sunday's game. He pointed to Vikings left tackle Rashod Hill and Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett, who has 5.5 sacks already this season.
Fresh off one of the most dominant individual pass-rushing performances in recent memory, Garrett has another prime opportunity to rewrite the history books this weekend against Hill.
Hill, a sixth-year pro out of Southern Miss, has allowed at least three pressures in each game this season, leading to the sixth-lowest pass-blocking grade of any left tackle through three weeks. Garrett, on the other hand, may be having his best start to a season as a pro, racking up his highest pressure percentage (21.2%) and win percentage (29.4%) through his first three games of a season.
Stefanski maintaining focus on 'business trip' in 'return home'
Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski will be returning to Minnesota, the place he called home for 14 seasons, this weekend. But both he and his former coworkers inside the Vikings organization are keeping their sights set on one thing: obtaining a victory.
The Associated Press' Tom Withers wrote about the reunion, of sorts, for an article posted by the Tribune Chronicle.
He referenced a quote by Stefanski, who said this weekend's visit is a "business trip" only. Withers wrote:
While Stefanski isn't being outwardly sentimental about his homecoming against the Vikings on Sunday, the return is bound to be an emotional one for the NFL's reigning Coach of the Year.
"I mean 14 years is a long time," Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said.
Stefanski's going back to where he got his start as an administrative assistant under coach Brad Childress in 2006. It's where his three children were born and where his impact still resonates in the Vikings locker room.
Stefanski is happy to be at the helm in Cleveland and also told reporters, "I would [say] my whole time there [in Minnesota] was very impactful. It is a really well-run organization from top to bottom."
Stefanski's innate knowledge of the Vikings would seem to give the Browns an advantage heading into this week's game. However, they know him just as well and the teams mirror each other in so many ways.
There are several former Vikings assistants on Stefanski's staff, including [Defensive Coordinator] Joe Woods and [Special Teams Coordinator] Mike Priefer.
Stefanski was asked if he feels the need to be more creative because of the familiarity on both sides.
"I don't think so," he said. "They have really good football players. I know they have really good coaches. The challenge is just in that. We have to put together a game plan that our guys can understand, go execute and not think too much."