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Browns vs. Chargers Gameday Thread/Preview

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Things were bright for the Browns last week, but they're back on the road this week against the San Diego Chargers. Even before the season started, I circled this game as what would probably be our most difficult game of the season, unless Phillip Rivers turned out to be a big failure for the Chargers. Rivers hasn't been a failure, and the Chargers are contending for the AFC West title this week. With such tough competition on the road, the Browns due have two things in their favor: they are coming off their best game of the season (doesn't say much), and the Chargers are without two of their starting linebackers. Let's get to the breakdown of this week's game.
- Quarterback
Although Charlie Frye has a little more experience than Phillip Rivers, Rivers has been one of the underrated quarterbacks in the league this season. He's had the benefit of stepping into a solid system, but he's not the type of guy like Jake Plummer who can't execute. Rivers has thrown ten touchdowns and only three interceptions this season and spreads the ball evenly to four people: Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, Keenan McCardell, and Eric Parker. Frye will have more freedom this week, but should have a difficult time against a very tough Chargers defense.
- Running Back
So, LaDainian Tomlinson is still mad that the Browns didn't even give him a look when he was a rookie? I think just about every person in Cleveland feels the same way...Tomlinson is one of a kind. We've never had much success at stopping Tomlinson, and neither have many other teams. Unfortunately, this is the type of game in which I feel Tomlinson could run for 150+ yards and have near 100 yards receiving as well. Want to know an interesting statistic? Reuben Droughns has the same amount of 100+ yard rushing efforts as Tomlinson does this season. Sadly for us, Droughns can't seem to crack 40 yards against a good defense.
- Receiver
Antonio Gates, or Kellen Winslow? That could be the new battle in the NFL among tight ends, as it was previously Gates against Tony Gonzalez. Both tight ends have been the primary weapons on each team, and the race of who is better among the two is neck and neck. The Browns have more potential with their other receivers, but Frye has had a difficult time getting the ball to Braylon Edwards and Joe Jurevicius as of late. On the Chargers, McCardell and Parker have played the role of possession receivers and have done it well, but the tandem has yet to produce a touchdown this season.
- Offensive Line
The offensive line's production coincides with the production of our running game. Against the awful defenses, we thrive. Against any defense that is marginally good, we falter. The Chargers' offensive line has not allowed Rivers to be sacked very often this season, and every good running back (Tomlinson) needs a good offensive line. Rookie left tackle Marcus McNeill has done a fair job for the Chargers. The Browns can only hope that Kelly Butler performs as well as he did last week, but until it's proven against a consistent pass rushing attack, that claim can't be officially made.
- Defensive Line
The Chargers can build substantial pressure with their defensive line from nose tackle Jamal Williams and defensive end Luis Castillo. The Chargers will also see the return of right defensive end Igor Olshansky this week, who has only played in two games this season. The Browns defensive line has made slow progress throughout the season, and Ethan Kelley has started to provide a boost at the nose tackle position in relief. Orpheus Roye should be healthy enough to play this week, but the Chargers still have the edge.
- Linebacker
The linebackers are probably the strongest unit on the Chargers, but I don't care how strong you are: not having Shawne Merriman or Shaun Phillips is going to hurt. The Browns have an injury of their own, and will probably be without Willie McGinest. Although I don't expect it, I hope that the Browns would give some more playing time to Chaun Thompson. I have a feeling the Chargers will still have the better unit in this week's game, but with two of their backups in, I really can't give them the edge until we see what they can do.
- Secondary
The Browns are ranked 5th in pass defense, while the Chargers are ranked sixth. However, the Browns will be without Daven Holly this week due to a mysterious illness. A secondary can only handle so many injuries at times, while the Chargers remain healthy in their group. The edge for the Chargers isn't a whole lot in this category due to how well our safeties are played, and the fact that we haven't been burned for a big play in the passing game since Ralph Brown gave some up earlier this season against the Bengals.
- Special Teams
One poor week with the special teams unit doesn't change the fact that our special teams unit is solid. I underestimated the Jets special teams last week, especially considering the fact that Justin Miller had already returned a touchdown against the Colts this season. With Dennis Northcutt returning this week, the threat on punt returns will be re-established, instead of being nervous every time Joshua Cribbs is about to touch the football.
FINAL PREDICTION: San Diego Chargers 27, Cleveland Browns 16.
The Chargers should clearly control of the tempo of this game, but the Browns have had a habit of making the final score not look like it were a blowout. I hope that the thumb injury that Charlie Frye encountered last week does not affect his performance too much. A lot of people are picking this game to be more like 40-16, but I just don't see our defense getting beat that badly. The Browns still have a bend but don't break philosophy more times than not, and that'll keep the Browns slightly in the game this week.

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!