By: Russ Goldman
After beating the Vikings 28-18 at home at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots are on the road to play the Clevelend Browns. Before each Patriots game this season, as always here’s a preview with my five keys to the game that I hope will lead to a Patriots victory.
WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live on CBS Sunday at 1PM PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.
GAME NOTES: The Browns last game was two weeks ago, where they upset the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome 30-17. Eric Mangini’s team has had two weeks to prepare for the Patriots as they are coming off their bye week. The Browns are 2-5 but have played many teams close this season. This not a team to take lightly, and I am expecting another tough game this week for the Patriots.
On defense, this Browns unit is improving and its strength could very well be in their linebackers. Scott Fujita and Matt Roth have done a good job getting after the passer so far this year at outside linebacker, with Fujita accumulating 3.5 sacks on the season. The weakness of this defense are the defensive backs. The Browns are currently 26th in the NFL against the pass, so the Patriots should be able to take advantage of cornerbacks Eric Wright and Sheldon Brown.
On offense, The Browns have been led by Peyton Hillis who has been a pleasant surprise at running back. He leads the Brown running the ball with 460 yards and 4.4 yards per carry average, but the big question for this unit will be the quarterback. They will be starting rookie Colt McCoy against the Patriots on Sunday, and looking at his stats he’s been decent so far this season. He is 32-of-49 for 355 yards and one touchdown pass. One of his weapons should be familiar to the Patriots in tight end Ben Watson. He leads the Browns in receptions with 30 and two touchdown passes. The Browns primary wide receivers are Chansi Stucky and Mohamed Massaquoi.
This is your classic trap game for New England. On paper the Patriots should win this game comfortably. However, I am expecting a tight game with a team that has had two weeks to prepare for the Patriots. The Browns will be a challenge on Sunday and should not be taken lightly.
Here are my “five keys” which I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.
1. The Patriots need to contain Peyton Hillis. Hillis has a smash mouth style that the Patriots usually have been able to do well against in the past. He’s averaging 4.4 yards per carry, but if Vince Wilfork and company can stuff Hillis, that could force the ball into the hands of Colt McCoy – which leads me to my next point…
2. The Patriots need to confuse Colt McCoy on defense. With a rookie quarterback I think the Patriots could force McCoy into making mistakes just by simply confusing their coverages. I don’t think they need to put continuous pressure on him. In fact, disguising coverages and putting more defenders in throwing lanes could cause turnovers for the Browns offense.
This could be a good time for Brandon Tate to have a breakout game. (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)
3. Tom Brady needs to victimize the secondary of the Browns. The Browns defense gives up an average of 244 yards per game in passing yards. This is the type of secondary that you could see breakout games by Brandon Tate and Deion Branch. The defensive backs are the weakness of the Browns defense and Brady need to really exploit and go after them Sunday.
4. The Patriots Special teams need to contain Joshua Cribbs. Cribbs has been quite a threat on punt returns and kickoffs so far this season for Cleveland, and the Patriots cannot afford to give the Browns a short field to start drives. Even though he has not broken a return for a touchdown this season, he is always a threat to take one to the house – and hopefully New England doesn’t allow him to get his first one Sunday.
5. The Patriots need to limit their own turnovers. If the Patriots play a solid game, and don’t turn the ball over, the Browns could have a tough time scoring. The Pats are at their best when they don’t beat themselves, and that’s been the case so far this season. Through seven games, the Pats have just six give-aways, on four interceptions and two lost fumbles – 2nd fewest in the league. I have a feeling that Mangini’s team will probably be fairly disciplined as well, so the Pats cannot give too many gifts to a team that is struggling on offense.
The Patriots I think have too much offense for the Browns, and I feel the team from Cleveland will struggle to put points on the baord. However, I don’t see this game as a blowout and I am predicting a 21-14 Patriots victory over the Browns.
What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.