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Buccaneers vs. Browns Gameday Preview

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The Browns will look to move to 2-0 at home in December, as we will be playing our second most winnable game of the season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Don't get too worried about their offensive outburst under Tim Rattay last week, because before that, they hadn't scored a touchdown since Thanksgiving. The Buccaneers offense is horrid, and although the Browns defense is beat up, I like what I saw from linebackers Leon Williams and Chaun Thompson last week. Let's get to the breakdown of the game...

OFFENSE

Category Buccaneers Browns
Points Scored 13.0 (31st) 16.0 (30th)
Passing 172.8 (26th) 187.4 (21st)
Rushing 90.0 (29th) 79.8 (30th)
Total Offense (yards) 262.8 (30th) 267.1 (29th)

DEFENSE

Category Buccaneers Browns
Points Scored 23.0 (25th) 22.8 (24th)
Passing 217.6 (24th) 211.2 (18th)
Rushing 121.0 (21st) 144.7 (30th)
Total Defense (yards) 338.6 (23rd) 355.9 (31st)
- Quarterback
The Buccaneers finally decided to pull the trigger and bench rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski last week, and it almost paid off as veteran Tim Rattay came in and delivered the biggest offensive boost the team had seen all season long. However, I think people are overestimating the fact that Rattay can suddenly do this all the time now, especially against "the Browns". Most of Rattay's passes gave me the impression that he more of less had a "once in a season" type of game. The Buccaneers offense is no where close to matching that. Anderson will make his first home start, and remember, he did an outstanding job in relief of Frye against Kansas City a couple of weeks ago.
- Running Back
The Buccaneers will be without starting running back Carnell Williams, meaning veteran Michael Pittman will get the start. There's nothing wrong with Pittman, but there's still a reason that he's been relegated to backup duty. The Browns are without backup running back Jason Wright, so Reuben Droughns should see a lot of carries against Tampa Bay. Remember, Droughns has had his best success against winnable opponents such as the Raiders and the Jets.
- Receiver
The Buccaneers only threat in the receiving game is receiver Joey Galloway. Beyond that, it's hard to find a lot of success with Michael Clayton and Ike Hilliard. However, don't forget to keep tight end Alex Smith in your mind. The Browns receivers have done well with Anderson at quarterback, and even Kellen Winslow started to get a little more comfortable with him last week.
- Offensive Line
The Browns will be missing our backup starter, Kelly Butler, who was filling in for Ryan Tucker. That means that Nat Dorsey will get the start, and he'll have a chance to show that he was worth the trade for Melvin Fowler. Neither team has been able to run the ball with outstanding ability or protect their quarterback well enough on the season, so it's not even worth trying to decide whether one team has the edge over the other.
- Defensive Line
Tampa Bay doesn't have a huge edge here, but I think I'd take anyone over our defensive line at this point. Ted Washington, Alvin McKinley, and Simon Fraser just can't get it done. However, against a mediocre Tampa Bay team, our line should actually look like an average defensive line, rather than being 100% absent. The Buccaneers will be able to get some pressure on Anderson, but not nearly as much as Baltimore did.
- Linebacker
Leon Williams could threaten for a starting role next season if he finishes strong in his final two games. Rattay has been gameplanned by the Browns for this game, and I can actually see the Browns being able to get some decent pressure from Kamerion Wimbley today. The Buccaneers are solid with their group, but they haven't been able to give themselves that "intimidating" type of presence this year. Derrick Brooks is always someone you have to look out for, but the linebackers don't really bring a whole lot of pressure.
- Secondary
The Browns were able to hold their own for awhile with their backup cornerbacks, but the "glue" of the secondary in Brian Russell is sorely missed. The Browns have been much more vulnerable to the deep ball lately, and that could be trouble against Galloway. Anderson better make sure his passes don't sail this week, because Ronde Barber is still one heck of a cornerback. I expect Anderson to challenge whoever covers Joe Jurevicius, who has been his security blanket.
- Special Teams
The Browns haven't had a big return by Cribbs lately because of the short kicks that teams are implementing against him. Northcutt hasn't had a return for a long time either. Still, you can't doubt that teams are strategically making their kicks shorter to prevent the big play, and that helps our field position.
FINAL PREDICTION: Cleveland Browns 35, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9.
Last year, the Browns blew out the Miami Dolphins. We're due for a blowout this season, and it could be the start to our first two-game winning streak in years. On paper, both teams are evenly matched. However, besides the Buccaneers outburst last week, they've been a bad football team overall this season. So have the Browns, but Cleveland has actually shown up against teams they are "supposed" to be close to in terms of talent.

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!