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Cleveland Browns vs. New England Patriots

Game: Cleveland Browns (2-2) vs. New England Patriots (4-0)
Where: Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, MA)
When: 1:00 PM EST
Announcers: Greg Gumbel/Dan Dierdorf

It's impossible, right? Bill Belichick is the mastermind of football, and any significant advantage that Romeo Crennel may have had in terms of knowing New England's system has been erased with his two years of separation from the team. Keeping that in mind, there are some players in the Patriots system, like the returning Rodney Harrison, that Crennel may be able to offer some insight to. Likewise, a veteran linebacker like Willie McGinest may be able to clue the rest of the defense in on some of the tendencies of the Patriots' offensive line and where it is appropiate to attack them. Football comes down to how you play on gameday. The Patriots have been lights out on both sides of the ball, but the Browns' offense is showing that they can compete with the top defenses in the league. Could the "hot" Cleveland Browns be the team to stun the Patriots? Let's get to the breakdown of this week's game...


Category Browns Patriots
Points Scored 27.25 (6th) 37.0 (2nd)
Passing 232.8 (10th) 274.8 (5th)
Rushing 114.8 (15th) 157.0 (4th)
Total Offense (yards) 347.5 (11th) 431.8 (2nd)


Category Browns Patriots
Points Scored 29.5 (28th) 12.0 (4th)
Passing 267.5 (30th) 156.3 (4th)
Rushing 160.0 (30th) 69.8 (3rd)
Total Defense (yards) 427.5 (31st) 226.0 (1st)
- Quarterback
Tom Brady. I could stop right there, as there's really no need to explain the Patriots' advantage here. This season, Brady has thrown 13 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions, and he has completed an unheard of eighty percent of his passes. We've seen Brady work magic without big-name receivers before, but now that he has Randy Moss and Wes Welker -- two players that are perfect matches for his skills -- Brady has reached a new level. Derek Anderson has been very aggressive and calm in the pocket, which is why the Browns are suddenly averaging 27 points per game. His decision-making is still flawed at points in a game though, leading to picks that Brady wouldn't have,
- Running Back
The Patriots have been able to throw Laurence Maroney or Sammy Morris in the game and receive the same production from either guy -- a near 5.0 average and a couple of touchdowns. Maroney may not play against the Browns due to injury, meaning the red-hot Morris could get the start again. The Browns are only ranked 15th in the league in comparison, but against a great defense in the Ravens last week, the team proved just how important Jamal Lewis is to the offense. Lewis has been able to drive the ball forward on all of his carries, and has alleviated some of the pressure teams bring on playaction passes.
- Receiver
It's a first this season in which I'm completely ranking the opposition over Cleveland's receivers. As good as Joe Jurevicius, Braylon Edwards, and Kellen Winslow have been, they are no match for the best group of receivers in football this year in Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Donte Stallworth. Through four games, Moss already has over 500 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. While Winslow is a better all-around threat as a tight end than the Patriots have, New England isn't forgetting about Benjamin Watson. Despite only having eight catches, Watson already has three touchdowns, showing how often his number has been called near the goal line.
- Offensive Line
The Browns' offensive line has turned heads this year, especially after Derek Anderson was kept clean against a defense like the Baltimore Ravens last week. It was the first time in ages that a Ravens defense failed to record a single sack. The Patriots' offensive line provides a better pocket of protection for Brady overall. While Anderson knows how to get rid of the ball quickly, Brady has the luxury of being able to sit back there for five seconds on a consistent basis. The Patriots block better in the running game as well, in about the same comparative level as the two team's pass blocking ability.
- Defensive Line
Just as the Ravens' defensive line was able to do a fine job against the Browns last week at defending the run, the Patriots are even better across the board. Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, and Jarvis Green have combined for the third best run defense in the NFL so far. Green has already piled up three sacks on the right side of the line and will be a chore for Kevin Shaffer to defend, especially with the linebacking help on the same side of the line. The Browns seemed to rotate the defensive line effectively last week in comparison to the first three games, but were still gashed on the ground by Willis McGahee and failed to pressure Steve McNair until the final drive.
- Linebacker
You mean Junior Seau still hasn't retired? The veteran is now a backup, because the Patriots have a ridiculous amount of depth at the position. The Patriots were able to make a big addition in the offseason by signing linebacker Adalius Thomas, a player that many Browns fans hoped Phil Savage would be able to steal. Thomas leads the Patriots in tackles and can play any defensive position on the field. Mike Vrabel may be getting older, but he leads the team in sacks with three and a half. The Browns welcomed Willie McGinest back last week, but the Browns' blitzes failed to work when they were brought.
- Secondary
How different could the Patriots' secondary have been if Asante Samual had actually gone through with his holdout? The Patriots' pass defense is ranked fourth in the league defensively, and to say that Derek Anderson will be able to have his way with the secondary is illogical. The Patriots are also welcoming safety Rodney Harrison back for the first time this season after he served a four-game suspension. One key for the Browns secondary will be to tell Brodney Pool to run around and constantly help on double-teaming Randy Moss. With Brady at quarterback, there's no way even Leigh Bodden can hold Moss in check in single coverage.
- Special Teams
It wasn't a pleasant sight to see Phil Dawson miss one of his attempts last week, but thankfully it didn't count due to a Ravens' penalty. The Browns feature Joshua Cribbs at kick returner, who has been at least returning one kick to beyond the 40-yard line per game. Getting the ball first to start the game has been a difference for Cleveland, because Cribbs provides an electric start to the game. The Patriots aren't particularly weak on special teams -- in fact, Ellis Hobbs had a 108-yard kick return earlier this season. Overall, the Browns are more complete though.
FINAL PREDICTION: New England Patriots 37, Cleveland Browns 20.
Nobody wants to miss it when the New England Patriots do battle with the Dallas Cowboys next week, in a game where both teams could be undefeated. Before the Patriots get there though, they'll have to keep their attention focused on the Browns. Romeo Crennel is getting his first crack at defeating the team he previously coached with, even if it was a few years ago. The Patriots are looking forward to the return of safety Rodney Harrison after he served his four-game suspension. With New England's top-ranked defense in the league though, do they really need him?

Maybe so, because the Browns have put together an offensive football team. Believe it or not, this will be the best offensive team the Patriots will have seen this season, considering how poorly the Chargers have played and the fact that the Bengals were too one-dimensional last week without Rudi Johnson at running back. The difference for Cleveland hasn't been just one player -- it's been the entire offensive line, Jamal Lewis running the ball, and Derek Anderson getting rid of the football (he's only been sacked twice in four weeks of play). Cleveland's problem will be that no matter how well they could potentially do on offense, the Patriots' offense will shred a Browns' defense that is ranked near the bottom of the league.

This is the official gameday topic for the fifth game of the regular season, featuring the Cleveland Browns against the New England Patriots. All comments regarding the game should be posted in this topic. Enjoy the game, and GO BROWNS!!!