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Minnesota Vikings vs. Cleveland Browns - Official Game Thread

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Are you ready for some Cleveland Browns football? I can only hope that this year's opener is better than last year's, a game in which we tanked against the Dallas Cowboys. Nationally, the expectations are much lower for the Browns this season. New head coach Eric Mangini will have his first opportunity to silence his critics and prove he's put together a football team that is tougher and more focused than previous years.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (0-0) WEEK 1 CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-0)
VS.
Date: September 13, 2009 Location: Cleveland, OH
Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
Stadium: Cleveland Browns Stadium
TV: FOX
Favorite: Vikings by 3½
Radio: WTAM, 1100 AM Over/Under: 40
SBN Coverage: Daily Norseman Announcers Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick

Mangini will have his hands full against the running game and run defense of the Minnesota Vikings. Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the NFL, and the Vikings' duo of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams is darn near impossible.

Originally, not many people outside of Cleveland and Minnesota were expected to see this game on television. But then, midway through training camp, Brett Favre made headlines again by coming out of retirement to play for Brad Childress. Ironically enough, Favre's first game comes against the coach, but not the team, he played for last year. Now, will his lack of chemistry allow him to fit in with the Vikings offense right away?

For those who didn't see it, I reciprocated a Q&A session with our Minnesota Vikings blog. My answers to his questions can be found here, acting as another form of a preview to the game.

Let's start off this week's preview with the overall team statistics from the 2008-2009 NFL season...

OFFENSE

Category Vikings Browns
Points Scored 23.7 (12th) 14.5 (30th)
Passing 184.8 (25th) 148.8 (31st)
Rushing 145.8 (5th) 100.3 (26th)
Total Offense (yards) 330.5 (17th) 249.1 (31st)

DEFENSE

Category Vikings Browns
Points Scored 20.8 (13th) 21.9 (16th)
Passing 215.6 (18th) 204.6 (14th)
Rushing 76.9 (1st) 151.9 (28th)
Total Defense (yards) 292.4 (6th) 356.5 (26th)

MINNESOTA VIKINGS Position CLEVELAND BROWNS
Brett Favre has the experience, but how much of a grasp of the offense does he have?
- QB - Brady Quinn, while still unproven, showed regular season mojo twice last season.
Adrian Peterson.

Chester Taylor also remains an impressive backup.
-
RB Jamal Lewis will have a tough time against the best run defense in football. Can the team incorporate the backs in the passing game?
Bernard Berrian, even if he can play, won't be 100%. Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin are unproven, meaning TE Visanthe Shiancoe is their No. 1 threat.
WR -
It's not a huge advantage for the Browns, but Braylon Edwards still creates match up problems. Mike Furrey is more experienced than the Vikings receivers.
Let's point out RT Phil Loadholt, a second round pick who will start. I can't comment on his talent, but it'd if there's a spot to attack, it's there.
-
OL The left side of the line is strong, but the right side is questionable. Nobody else in the league was dying to have Floyd Womack or John St. Clair start for them.
Pat Williams, Kevin William, and Jaren Allen. I've mentioned the trio so much you're probably getting sick of it. Here's a new tidbit: they do have another starting DE. His name is Ray Edwards.
- DL Shaun Rogers should start. It's great to have Robaire Smith back, and Kenyon Coleman is more suited for the 3-4 than Corey Williams was. There hands will be full against Minnesota's offensive line.
E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway make up a good, young linebacker core for the Vikings who have a lot of freedom due to the wall in front of them.
- LB I'd be scared if we had Andra Davis having to bring down Adrian Peterson. Hopefully Eric Barton proves he's an upgrade, along with David Bowens instead of Willie McGinest.
Antoine Winfield is coming off of a great season. Like the Browns, their depth at safety remains a bit questionable.
-
DB - I love what our starting cornerbacks can do, but I want to see who plays the nickel back. If Berrian plays, it should be as big of an issue. Favre likes to take chances deep; will Abram Elam get burned?
Ryan Longwell is solid in field goal kicking, but their return game lacks any real spark.
ST - Could a big day be in store for Joshua Cribbs? If Chris Kluwe keeps outkicking his coverage, then I'd certainly say so.

I don't think it's going to be a pretty first game for Brett Favre. Our defensive backs have a knack for intercepting passes, and based on the receivers I've seen our secondary face in the past, none of the Viking receivers should present a match-up problem. The bread and butter of the Vikings remains their running game though, and Adrian Peterson shouldn't have too many problems setting up Minnesota's offense for a couple of scores.

The gameplan should be the opposite for the Browns. None of our running backs should have an effective game on the ground, but they'll be important in the passing game. I give our passing game a lot more respect than Vikings fans do. Jared Allen is a fantastic pass rusher, but if our new offensive coordinator (Brian Daboll) hasn't designed our gameplan with his abilities in mind, I'll be very discouraged for how the rest of the season will go. The biggest issue for the Vikings could be our X-factor: Joshua Cribbs. If the Browns' defense can hold a few of Peterson's dominant drives to a short field goal, Cribbs is the type of player who can give the Browns a short field to work with on every possession. Even if we have to punt, that benefits the Browns in the field position game until hopefully something right goes our way. Regretfully, since the Vikings are the much better team defensively, I took the Vikings to win 24-17.

FINAL PREDICTION: Minnesota Vikings 24, Cleveland Browns 17. BOOOOOO!!!


This is the official gameday thread for the Cleveland Browns in Week 1 as they do battle with the Minnesota Vikings. All comments regarding the game should be posted in this topic. Enjoy the game, and GO BROWNS!!!