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Cleveland Browns vs. St. Louis Rams

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Game: Cleveland Browns (3-3) vs. St. Louis Rams (0-7)
Where: Edward Jones Dome (St. Louis, MO)
When: 1:00 PM EST
Announcers: Don Criqui/Steve Beuerlein (CBS)

If you told the Browns prior to the season that they'd be facing the winless Dolphins, a bye week, and the winless Rams over a three game stretch, they'd probably think you were crazy. Fortunately, that's the way the schedule was made for what appears to be the most competitive Browns team since Butch Davis' lone playoff season back in 2001. Things were somewhat cloudy with the Browns' running back situation, but Jamal Lewis' foot is now good to go after a three-week break. On the other side of the field, the Rams are finally getting Steven Jackson back, as he looks to turn back the clock to last season and perform like one of the best running back in football. An upset loss to the Rams would kill us here, but the Rams are the type of team where nobody expects them to go winless for much longer. Let's hope they don't start clicking until next week...

OFFENSE

Category Browns Rams
Points Scored 27.3 (7th) 11.2 (32nd)
Passing 239.3 (8th) 192.0 (24th)
Rushing 115.2 (14th) 82.6 (28th)
Total Offense (yards) 354.5 (7th) 274.6 (30th)

DEFENSE

Category Browns Rams
Points Scored 30.5 (30th) 27.4 (27th)
Passing 263.5 (29th) 201.1 (10th)
Rushing 149.5 (30th) 129.6 (24th)
Total Defense (yards) 413.0 (32nd) 330.7 (18th)
- Quarterback
After heading into the season with a sizable contract extension, it seems unusual that Marc Bulger has played in the worst offense in the NFL. Bulger missed three games due to injury, and he played poorly in his return game last week against the Seattle Seahawks. Many of his struggles have come from a lingering injury, but most of it has been due to getting knocked down as soon as the ball is snapped to him. Derek Anderson's key will be to lead Cleveland's offense to some scores in the first half, something he failed to do against the Oakland Raiders and the New England Patriots on the road.
- Running Back
It's been confirmed that both teams will see the return of their starting running backs. Steven Jackson has only participated in three games this season, but in those contests, he wasn't the same player as year's past. He only averaged 3.4 yards a pop and was prone to fumbling the ball. With that said, having him back should be an upgrade over rookie Brian Leonard at the very least. On the Browns' side of the line, I question whether or not Lewis was actually limited, or if Romeo Crennel simply used the phrasing of the injury reports to his advantage. Jerome Harrison has earned his stripes: he is active today against the Rams (as is Jason Wright).
- Receiver
Just as they are getting Steven Jackson back, the Rams will also see the return of veteran Isaac Bruce and Dane Looker to compliment veteran standout Torry Holt. Holt and Bruce were an intimidating duo several years ago, and while they still remain a threat, no one talks about them being involved in "the best show on turf" anymore. Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow will be ready to play, but I'm a little concerned about them playing on turf. Injuries seem to haunt the Browns in domes, and I'd really hate to see Winslow's knee get any worse with a rough fall. Joe Jurevicius will start as well, as he will be fully recovered from his injury.
- Offensive Line
The Rams have a joke of an offensive line right now due to injuries or idiotic personal decisions, and it all started with Orlando Pace going down early in the year. The Rams can't pass block at all for the Rams' quarterbacks, but they've done an ok job keeping the running game a threat if the team doesn't fall behind early. The Browns' offensive line has been healthy every week of the regular season, and after having the bye week to relax, I'd expect them to be even stronger than before. Joe Thomas has been solid on the left side of the line, and if there were any minor errors in the first six games, hopefully they were patched up over the past two weeks.
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Defensive Line
The Rams took another hit on the other side of the line with defensive end Leonard Little being officially ruled out this week. Much like the Browns' defensive line, the Rams' defensive line hasn't been anything special. One person I'll have my eye on is first-round draft choice Adam Carriker, who has made a minimal impact this season with the Rams. The Browns do not have Ted Washington active for today's game, and Orpheus Roye should be healthier than he's been all season. That should finally allow Shaun Smith to receive a significant amount of reps inside, and I'd be interested to see if he possibly starts over Ethan Kelley today.

- Linebacker
This is similar to the defensive line in the sense that neither unit has really made a "big" difference for the defensive side of the ball. With how porous the Rams' offensive line has been though, I'm looking forward to one strategy that I don't think Todd Grantham will call: rush Kamerion Wimbley from the edge, and have Antwan Peek lined up at middle linebacker to blitz through the gap while Willie McGinest is anchoring the other side of the line. Wishful thinking perhaps. Will Witherspoon has been a pretty good veteran linebacker over on the Rams line, and overall the sack total has been "ok" for St. Louis.
- Secondary
I haven't been fond of the Browns' safeties this year, and I'll have to see the play of Sean Jones' improve before I actually believe it. Leigh Bodden and Eric Wright have started coming together better, but the Rams' pass defense is ranked 10th in the league this season. Oshiomogho Atogwe and Corey Chavous have more overall experience at the safety position than the Browns do, while Ron Bartell and Fakhir Brown have held their own at the cornerback positions. Maybe I'm only throwing a bone to the Rams here so their logo can at least be shown once.
- Special Teams
At first, I could've considered Dante Hall a threat on the Rams' return team. Guess what though? He is not going to play this week due to injury, after he had been the Rams' best threat of scoring this year. Meanwhile, Jeff Wilkins has only connected on 66% of his kicks this season. I want to see if Dave Zastudil punts the ball like he's capable of without any weather elements involved. If he shanks a few, then we'll know his injury is still playing a factor. The Rams' coverage team gave up a kick return to Nate Burleson last week - look out for some great returns from Joshua Cribbs today.
FINAL PREDICTION: Cleveland Browns 31, St. Louis Rams 21.
Quite a few people are projecting this to be the Rams' first win of the season, but don't expect me to fall into that crowd. I picked the Rams last week to upset the Seahawks, only to see Marc Bulger not have a single productive play in a 33-6 stomping. St. Louis will get Steven Jackson back this week, and even though the Browns' defensive line is rather weak, the Rams' offensive line supercedes that. The Browns' offense hasn't shown any signs of slowing down with Derek Anderson at quarterback, but they've gotten off to slow starts on the road. Getting off to a productive start in the first quarter will guarantee victory (sorry Randy McMichael) for the Browns. Don't forget also - the Browns are trying to build a two-game winning streak for the first time in ages as well.

This is the official gameday topic for the seventh game of the regular season, featuring the Cleveland Browns against the St. Louis Rams. All comments regarding the game should be posted in this topic. Enjoy the game, and GO BROWNS!!!