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Dallas Cowboys vs. Cleveland Browns - Official Game Thread

Date: September 7, 2008 Location: Cleveland, OH
Time: 4:15 p.m. ET
Stadium: Browns Stadium
Favorite: Cowboys by 5½
Radio: WMMS, 100.7 FM Over/Under: 49
SBN Coverage: Blogging the Boys Announcers Buck/Aikman

On opening day last season, the Cleveland Browns were blown out of their own stadium by the Pittsburgh Steelers. That blowout was somewhat of a blessing in disguise, because it accelerated the process of the Browns becoming the team that they are today: a powerhouse offense led by Derek Anderson. With a power offense established, Phil Savage went out and tried to improve the team's defensive line by acquiring Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams during the offseason. The offense is bound to succeed at home, where they were 6-0 under Anderson last season. However, the defense will have their hands full against the 2nd-highest scoring offense in all of football last season -- the Dallas Cowboys. Can Terrell Owens be stopped by our young secondary? Will Romo be sitting in the pocket all day long?

Let's get right to it in this Super Bowl preview (har har) between the Browns and the Cowboys...


For Week 1 only, the statistics below are for the 2007-2008 football season.


Category Cowboys Browns
Points Scored 28.4 (2nd) 25.1 (8th)
Passing 256.6 (4th) 232.9 (12th)
Rushing 109.1 (17th) 118.4 (10th)
Total Offense (yards) 365.7 (3rd) 351.3 (8th)


Category Cowboys Browns
Points Scored 20.3 (13th) 23.9 (21st)
Passing 213.1 (13th) 230.1 (25th)
Rushing 94.6 (6th) 129.5 (27th)
Total Defense (yards) 307.6 (9th) 359.6 (30th)



I don't believe Derek Anderson will suffer from not playing in the final two preseason games. He participated in all of training camp, one good preseason game, and in practice this week, which is plenty of time to get prepared for the season opener. After throwing 29 touchdowns last season, now it's time for Anderson to prove he is not a one-year wonder. The Browns could've taken the easy way out and traded him in the offseason for a high draft pick, but Romeo Crennel and company are rightfully giving him another year at the position. For the Cowboys, Tony Romo returns after also having a great season last year. The regular season has not been a problem for him -- it's the postseason where he needs to start excelling. Romo has more experience on comparable scales, but at this point he and Anderson deserve an even ranking.


Running Back

Having to split carries with Julius Jones the past two seasons, Marion Barber is finally the featured tailback in Dallas. He has really excelled in rather limited action the past two years, averaging 4.8 yards a carry and 14 touchdowns per season. Although he's a good receiver out of the backfield too, that role may shift a little more to rookie running back Felix Jones, who showed a lot of burst in the preseason. Things are somewhat unclear for the Browns: Jamal Lewis had a tremendous season last year, but he enters this season with a hamstring injury and a "game-time decision" label next to his name. If Lewis can't start, the Cowboys will receive the favorable matchup here with Jerome Harrison getting his first career start. Right now, I'm banking on Lewis starting the game and seeing how things go from there.



It's funny that the attention seems to be away from receiver Terrell Owens these days. Why not, when you have Chad Johnson on the Cincinnati Bengals saying the oddest crap in the world and going so far as to officially change his last name to a joke. Imagine Travis Hafner saying, "I'm now Travis Pronk". As elite as Owens is for the Cowboys, Braylon Edwards proved to be just as elite for the Browns last year. Owens has better open field abilities, but Edwards had the edge when it comes to going up and grabbing a ball out of the air. The Browns are also evenly matched at the tight end position -- there is no doubt that Jason Witten and Kellen Winslow are at the top of the tight end list in their respective conferences. With each team having those two weapons and a lack of depth after their No. 2 wide receivers, you have to wonder if a key to the game will be stopping either Patrick Crayton or Donte Stallworth. I'm hoping Stallworth shows a respectable amount of chemistry with Anderson.


Offensive Line

The Cowboys are stacked at offensive line, featuring LT Flozell Adams, C Andre Gurode, RG Leonard Davis, and RT Marc Colombo. Having LG Kyle Kosier in the mix too would complete the group, but he is out with an injury and will be replaced by backup Cory Procter. Let's hope that Shaun Rogers has some encounters with him. The Browns have an equally good offensive line, but they'll have their hands full against the Cowboys' pass rush. Anderson was the least sacked quarterback in football last year, but if Lawrence Vickers, Jamal Lewis, Jason Wright, and Steve Heiden don't get their "chips" on the DeMarcus Ware's, Anderson will at the very least be on his back several times as he's throwing the football.


Defensive Line
We were so depleted at the defensive line last season, that in Week 17, there was a possibility that the starting line would've featured Melila Purcell, Bobby Hamilton, and Louis Leonard. Purcell is on the practice squad this year, Hamilton is probably on the free agent wire, and Leonard is a backup. That was a result of the Browns acquiring Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams, two men who are expected to generate both a pass rush and a clog at the line on running plays. The Cowboys get the edge here due to them having proven chemistry on the defensive line, including being ranked 6th overall at stopping the run last season. DE Chris Canty played very well last season and hopes are high for DE Marcus Spears. With the rotation of Jay Ratliff and Tank Johnson at nose tackle, the Cowboys are slightly deeper than us at the position too.



I've been calling on Andra Davis to have a big year throughout the offseason, but I need to clarify that statement a little: he needs to have a big game against the serious contenders. That starts today against the Cowboys, where he could be relied on fill in the gap left by Kosier on the Cowboys' offensive line. The Cowboys earn the edge without question at linebacker for having two of the better edge-rushing outside linebackers in the NFC: DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis. Both men had double figure sacks last season, not to mention all of the hits they lay on opposing quarterbacks. Ware can line up on the inside too, meaning that just because Joe Thomas stops him, that doesn't mean he won't get to Anderson.



It's looking more and more like Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman will miss the game altogether, leaving former Brown Anthony Henry and Adam Jones as the team's starters. There is an underrated aspect about Jones, especially if he's matched up with Braylon Edwards. Jones did not play all of last season, and with a position as tough to play as cornerback, facing one of the best player's in the league is not exactly the ideal way to get your feet wet again. It'd be unfair to turn around and assume that Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright, along with our safeties (likely minus Brodney Pool), will be to prevent Terrell Owens from reaching the end zone or Jason Witten from having success. All we can hope to do it contain them enough to allow our offense to succeed just a little bit more.


Special Teams

Kick returner Joshua Cribbs is listed as a "game-time decision". I hope that he's healthily able to give it a go, but if not, the Browns still have solid blocking in the return game and should allow Syndric Steptoe to have some favorable returns. I'd also give the slight edge to Phil Dawson over Nick Folk, but overall, there isn't a lot of separation between the two. There's a potential it may rain this afternoon, and temperatures will be only in the mid-70s for the game. Hopefully those tough-weather conditions benefit Dawson over Folk (see the Snow Bowl last season).

Cleveland Browns 27, Dallas Cowboys 24.
I can't say I'm overly confident with this prediction, but I am confident that we're going to see one heck of a football game. The real difference in the game will come in the fourth quarter of the game. In the past, if our defensive line had held up against an opposing team's running back, they would collapse in the second half. Shaun Rogers' endurance is still in question, but I'm projecting him to deliver in his debut game. With the Cowboys unable to run the ball and put us away, the Browns will have the ball last and throw the ball down the field to set up a game-winning field goal by Phil Dawson.

This is the official gameday topic for the Cleveland Browns in Week 1 as they square off against the Dallas Cowboys. All comments regarding the game should be posted in this topic. Enjoy the game, and GO BROWNS!!!