This week, the Cleveland Browns will be at home to take on the St. Louis Rams. The side storyline for this game is the fact that head coach Pat Shurmur will be facing the team he was the offensive coordinator for last year. Despite Shurmur being an offensive coach, both his former and his current team have struggled to move the ball or put points on the board this year. Who will come out victorious?
|QB||The Rams definitely have more of a commitment to Sam Bradford than the Browns do to Colt McCoy, but I have yet to be very impressed with what I have seen out of him last season and this season. He has had similar disadvantages that McCoy has had (poor pass protection and a lack of receivers), but his completion percentage isn't good (55%) and he has only tossed three touchdowns this year. We already know the deal with McCoy; he has eight more games to prove himself, and it is games like this where he can really help pad his stats.
|RB||Right now, Steven Jackson is the guy who makes the Rams' offense ticks. After missing the majority of the first three games of the season, he has played very well, especially over the past two weeks where he is averaging about 140 yards rushing per game. The Browns will turn to Chris Ogbonnaya and Thomas Clayton again this week. While the tandem doesn't spell trouble for the average NFL team, the Rams are ranked 32nd in the league at defending the run, so they could have some opportunities to succeed.|
|WR||Does one guy really make a big difference in a receiver core? It depends. When Brandon Lloyd joined the Rams a couple of weeks ago, he added instant credibility to a unit that really didn't have any star power left. In that regard, the Rams have the best individual player. Collectively though, I still like some of the individual skill sets that some of the Browns' receivers and tight ends offer better than what is on the Rams. That's why this is an even ranking this week.|
|OL||The Rams have had a tough time protecting Sam Bradford consistently, but Steven Jackson wouldn't be able to average over 5 yards per carry if the offensive line wasn't doing something right. I'm just so disappointed with the Browns' situation at the guard positions and right tackle that I don't see myself giving them a favorable ranking over anyone.|
Chris Long is having a solid season with seven sacks, and he could be in for a field day against the hobbled Tony Pashos. The rest of the line can bring some decent pressure as well, but they have been very susceptible to the run. This is a great week for rookie Jabaal Sheard and Phil Taylor to have a break out game at home again because Bradford is a little hobbled still and has been beat up at times this season.
|LB||James Laurinaitas and D'Qwell Jackson both man the middle linebacker position well for these 4-3 defenses. The Rams start Brady Poppinga and Chris Chamberlain at the outside linebacker positions, two players who have been average at best. While Chris Gocong has had some impressive moments this season, I generally feel the same about he and Scott Fujita.
|DB||The Browns are the top-ranked pass defense in the league right now, and while you cannot attribute that to the secondary being full of shutdown players, it is still a testament to what they have been able to do compared to the past few years. Losing T.J. Ward will be a big blow to the run defense, but hopefully Dimitri Patterson returns at nickelback to help in some cases. The Rams have been decimated across the board at cornerback this year, from starters to backups. Whether McCoy can take advantage of that remains to be seen.|
Phil Dawson has been an MVP. Brad Maynard has been a savior. Joshua Cribbs finally made an impact on a return last week. There was still an issue with covering a punt last week for the Browns, but overall I still see them with some more difference makers than the Rams. The Rams' kick returner is Quinn Porter, who was a running back for Cleveland in the preseason.
The Rams have played better the past two weeks than they did in their first six games, but more times than not, they have been blown out of the water this season. It would be unfair to project that the struggling Browns' offense can pull that feat off all of a sudden, and I can't imagine what losing to a 1-7 team would do to Shurmur's credibility. The only thing he can hang his hat on this season so far is that his defense has gotten the job done against some of the worst teams in the league. The Rams are in that class, so I see Cleveland moving to an unimpressive 4-5.
CHRIS' OVERALL NFL PREDICTIONS RECORD: 77-39
CHRIS' RECORD AT PICKING BROWNS GAMES: 5-3