The New England Patriots are coming off their third straight win, after beating the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, and look to continue their winning streak against the Cleveland Browns this weekend. Both the Patriots and the Browns come into the matchup with 5-4 records.

ABC6 Sports Director Nick Coit said that he expects the Patriots to continue to trend up this week.

Running Back Crisis

A main concern for both teams on Sunday is the questionable availability of running backs. The Patriots’ Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris, who have been standouts in the last few games, both suffered concussions during last Sunday’s game.

Both backs did not practice on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday and their statuses for this week’s game remain in doubt. Stevenson and Harris are unlikely to suit up on Sunday, so expect Brandon Bolden and JJ Taylor to get the workload.

The Browns have their own running back struggles, as both Nick Chubb and Demitric Felton tested positive for COVID-19 this week. They are both fully vaccinated, so there is still a chance that they play on Sunday. There are a total of six Browns players who are currently on the COVID reserve list, either because they tested positive or because they are unvaccinated and deemed in close contact to someone with COVID.

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Key Game for Playoff Seeding

Now past the midway point of the season, this week’s AFC matchup could play a big role in deciding playoff seeding, Coit said. If the playoffs started today, the Patriots would be the seventh, and last, team in the AFC playoffs. Equally as important, the Browns would miss the playoffs if they started today.

Patriots Will Make it Four in a Row

Despite the questions at running back, Coit expects the Patriots to get their fourth win in a row this weekend, and take one step closer to securing a coveted playoff spot.

Additional reporting by Sierra Fiore

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