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Regular Season Game 5 - Cleveland Browns vs. Carolina Panthers

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Last week, I said that we must win, or the season would be over. Well, things didn't look good at first, but our troops got things together and pulled out one of the best comebacks in team history, even though it didn't have that feeling of a "monster" comeback or anything, seeing as we did it over a three quarter span. Today, we're taking on the Carolina Panthers, a team that has been on the rise since seeing the return of Steve Smith. With Gary Baxter out for the Browns already and Leigh Bodden being considered a game-time decision, it looks like Ralph Brown and Daven Holly will need to bring their "A++" game if we want to ever see Dennis Northcutt have a chance to return a punt today. Let's get to today's breakdown of the Browns vs. the Panthers. Today's game starts at 1:00 PM EST, and will be announced by Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon on CBS.
- Quarterback
Although Charlie Frye has been very impressive the past couple of weeks, it'll take a win over a defense like the Carolina Panthers before I can consider him better or even with a quarterback like Jake Delhomme. Delhomme likes to sling the ball down the field and come up with big plays to Steve Smith and Keyshawn Johnson. One thing about Delhomme: if he's off, he's off. Probably three times during a season on average, he will have games where he throws two picks and fumbles the ball twice. The Browns can only hope he has one of those games today, but that's unlikely with our secondary situation. Frye will have to hope he's not hit as much as he was against the Baltimore Ravens - you saw what happened to Chris Simms.
- Running Back
Reuben Droughns had his first 100-yard game of the season last week, but is still battling shoulder problems and probably will not be at 100%. The Panthers have found their deadly tandem of running backs with DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams. Both running backs have made big plays in just about every game they've played this year and will be tough for the Browns to bring down. When Droughns faced the Panthers when he was with the Denver Broncos, he torched them for over 190 yards rushing. Don't expect that to happen today, because getting 80 yards would be a stretch.
- Receiver
The Panthers one-two punch of Steve Smith and Keyshawn Johnson can be deadly, but the same thing can be said about Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow over the past two weeks. Both of those groups are the strengths of their respective offenses, and will be the players that make the game changing plays today. The Browns have a little more depth at the position with Joe Jurevicius, while the Panthers lack a tight end threat and receivers past their top two.
- Offensive Line
Panthers starting center Justin Hartwig will either be out again, or will be a backup due to a groin injury. The Browns offensive line has been brilliant in their discipline this year, as I still don't think they've had a false start penalty against them, and if they did, it was only one or two. Our line has too much trouble against blitzing defenses though, meaning Julius Peppers will be looking to feast on us all day long.
- Defensive Line
As the Browns' defensive line shows signs of progress with someone like Simon Fraser, we are completely overmatched at this position. The Panthers have Kris Jenkins, Julius Peppers, Maake Kemoeatu and Mike Rucker all on one like. Rucker and Peppers will be after Frye all day, and even if he does get the football off, he's bound to take a couple of hits from each of them. Orpheus Roye came up with the big fourth-down stop last week, and if they encounter that situation this week, don't be surprised if the Panthers throw the ball.
- Linebacker
The Panthers are still hurting at this position from the absence of Dan Morgan, who is still out with the lingering effects of a concussion. Kamerion Wimbley had a career-high two sacks last week, and the amount of penetration the Browns are getting is starting to increase week by week. The Browns don't have a huge advantage at this position, but they finally have the right personnel starting, by making Matt Stewart the veteran backup.
- Secondary
If Gary Baxter and Leigh Bodden are out, I can't imagine how much Jake Delhomme will be salivating at the thought of throwing touchdown after touchdown to Steve Smith and Keyshawn Johnson. If Bodden does play, even he wouldn't be able to stop Smith in one-on-one coverage. If you bring safety help over to double cover him, he'll still get a lot of catches, but you'll prevent him from breaking a big play. Unfortunately, now when you double Smith, you're leaving Keyshawn in one-on-one coverage with someone like Daven Holly. The Panthers are sharp in the secondary with Chris Gamble and Ken Lucas, but it'll be intersting to see if Braylon Edwards can do to Gamble what he in their Michigan/OSU rivalry. For once, I hope the Michigan side crushes the OSU side.
- Special Teams
Do I really need to explain myself week after week about the Browns special teams, especially with how we dominated the Raiders 110% in this category last week? The Panthers have a dangerous kicker in John Kasay, but Steve Smith hasn't been handling the kick return duties since his injury.
FINAL PREDICTION: Carolina Panthers 23, Cleveland Browns 16.
The Browns offense will move the ball fairly well today, but we'll see a lot of Phil Dawson on the field. Carolina won't try to pile it on, because they usually stumble and make mistakes that way. The Panthers will let us hang in the game, but come up with a big touchdown during the fourth quarter to give them the lead, and Frye won't be able to pull out a rally this time around.

This is the official gameday thread for today's game. Any comments you would like to make before, during, or after the game should be placed into this thread. Enjoy the game, and GO BROWNS!