Kareem Hunt celebrates during the Browns' game with the Chargers in Week 5
Kareem Hunt celebrates during the Browns' game with the Chargers in Week 5

On the list of teams built to potentially end the Arizona Cardinals' unbeaten start to the season, the Cleveland Browns are near the top.

However, the Browns are tasked with dealing the Cardinals their first loss of the season without their best offensive player, with running back Nick Chubb ruled out because of a calf injury.

That blow robs the Browns of a runner who is second only to Tony Pollard of the Dallas Cowboys (6.37) in yards per attempt among running backs with 5.81 and is also second with 14 runs of 10 yards or more through five games of the 2021 campaign.

Second to Pollard (4.56) among backs with at least 10 attempts in yards per carry on plays where a defender disrupts the run, Chubb (4.21) stands as arguably the elite running back in the NFL, his remarkable blend of vision, elusiveness, power and speed helping establish him as the focal point of Cleveland's attack.

Yet they may still be able to succeed against the Cardinals' defense without Chubb in their backfield.

While the Cardinals have done an excellent job keeping opponents out of the endzone – their 82 offensive points allowed are the third-fewest in the league – they have struggled to contain opposing running backs.

Arizona's defense has allowed an opponent rushing average of 5.39 yards per carry; only the Los Angeles Chargers (5.59) have performed worse in that regard.

And the Browns do have an extremely reliable reserve to call upon to take advantage of that weakness.

Kareem Hunt is averaging 5.36 yards per carry and, reflecting his ability to stay on his feet through attempted tackles, leads all backs with at least 10 carries with 3.10 yards after contact per rush.

Cleveland's success on the ground is a testament to the strength of their offensive line.

Every member of the Browns' starting offensive line has a double-team adjusted run-block win rate of at least 79 per cent, though tackles Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin are both questionable for Sunday.

Conversely, only three members of Arizona's defensive front have a double-team adjusted run defense win rate above 30 per cent.

In other words, the Browns have a clear matchup advantage in the run game and, even without Chubb, have a back with the ability to exploit it.

Cleveland's run game made a huge contribution to them scoring 42 points in a losing effort against the Chargers last week. With MVP candidate Kyler Murray helming an often explosive offense, they may need a similar showing this week to improve to 4-2. Thankfully, Hunt is more than capable of delivering such a performance. 

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