This is an important week for the Cleveland Browns to see where they stand. Are they a team that has struggled but is still on the rise, or is it going to be a long rest of the season, especially since the team is already falling behind in the division race? Seattle has the same record as the Browns, but I don't think they have very many favorable matchups against Cleveland, as you will see after the jump.
|QB||Week after week, we've seen Colt McCoy unable to make the [good] type of presnap reads he seemed to be making in the preseason. He has kept his interception rate down, but I think he needs to be more aggressive with a few of his throws. He needs to start challenging the defense on tight passes over the middle, and he needs to deliver on his deep balls thrown down the sideline. If he starts completing those, the lanes for the running game will open up.
I don't have faith in Charlie Whitehurst being able to come in and deliver an exceptional performance against the Browns. That doesn't mean it will cost Seattle a victory, but Whitehurst won't be an "X Factor" when it comes to determining the outcome of the game unless it as because he was a detriment.
Marshawn Lynch is a good running back, but Seattle is not the type of team that pounds the ball regularly. In five games this season, Lynch is averaging just under 12 carries per game. I think that is a byproduct of Seattle having too many rushes stopped behind the line of scrimmage, and the fact that they fall behind early.
Does all of that sound similar to Cleveland? It kind of does. Since Peyton Hillis has not practiced all week, I'm going to assume that Montario Hardesty will get the start and the bulk of the action. A word of advice for calling routes that involve Hardesty: do not put him in a position where he has to catch the ball over the middle.
|WR||It is tough to understand how the Browns can fail to find a solid receiver, while you see a team like the Seahaws pick up Doug Baldwin as an undrafted free agent and produce fairly well. The Seahawks also have Sidney Rice on their team, and he has been a good deep threat. What I like to see here is that the Seahawks don't have a tight end who the Browns' defense should fear.
With Greg Little put in a position to start last week, he really came through and I'm looking forward to how he does this week. As much as I would like to see tight end Evan Moore involved in the offense, maybe the focus should just be placed on getting Ben Watson involved over the middle some more. We've seen too many crossing routes with him and it is starting to become too predictable.
|OL||The Seahawks' quarterbacks have been sacked 20 times in 5 games, while Colt McCoy has only been brought down 8 times. With the Browns, that number doesn't tell the story of how many big hits he has taken and how often he has been forced to leave the pocket early.
Still, on an overall basis, Cleveland's line has had better protection than Seattle's this year. The Seahawks' offensive line gets a slight boost with Robert Gallery set to return after missing four weeks, but their starting center is listed as doubtful. A youngster is expected to make his first career start in his place.
|DL||Seattle's best pass rushing threat is Chris Clemons, who will be lined up against Tony Pashos most of the game. The Seahawks' defensive line does a fair job at stuffing the run, but their inability to rush the passer could provide McCoy with some more time to throw this week.
Cleveland's defensive line has fallen off just a tad the past two games, but I'm looking for them to have one of their best games of the season from all four linemen, especially Phil Taylor coming up the middle on a new center.
|LB||Last year, the loss of Scott Fujita on defense was a big blow. Keep in mind that several things have changed this year though: 1. Fujita has not looked as effective, 2. Kaluka Maiava was on injured reserve last year, and 3. the Browns ran a 3-4 defense a year ago. Maiava looked good in the preseason, and I'd love to see if he can provide a spark.
David Hawthorne is the leader up the middle for the Seahawks, but if we're comparing the two, D'Qwell Jackson has continued to make some pretty high-quality plays that helps give Cleveland the edge here in terms of impact.
|DB||It would be a big letdown if Joe Haden can't go tomorrow, because that just makes things all-the-more-difficult for Whitehurst. Even without Haden though, I think our secondary could hold their own against Seattle.
The Seahawks have been very vulnerable against the pass this year, but safety Earl Thomas remains a standout. Veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant landed on the injured reserve in Week 4 though, forcing Seattle to start a very young group of corners (one fourth-rounder from 2010, and one undrafted player from 2011).
|ST||Despite the fact that the Browns gave up two touchdowns on special teams last week, until I start seeing issues regularly, I can't be too concerned. Prior to that, our special teams play had been solid. The Seahawks have a good punt returner in Leon Washington, and while I haven't been high on kicker Steven Hauschka, he drilled a 61-yarder earlier this season.
Seattle's new "thing" is to run a hurry-up offense, but if the Browns' defensive line gets pressure to kill a play or if Haden is targeted and breaks up a pass, that can render that approach as useless. A big key for Cleveland is to not fall behind early. We need to let our defense have the freedom of working with a lead, and so far they've really only been able to do that against the Colts in Week 2 (where they came up with two turnovers). Despite Seattle scoring 30+ points against their past two opponents, Atlanta and the Giants, I have a feeling they will really struggle under Whitehurst and Cleveland's pass-happy approach will actually look good for once due to who they are facing.
FINAL PREDICTION: Cleveland Browns
CHRIS' OVERALL NFL PREDICTIONS RECORD: 62-28
CHRIS' RECORD AT PICKING BROWNS GAMES: 3-2