This week, the Cleveland Browns make their season debut at home against the Kansas City Chiefs. Heading into the season, most of us were hoping that the Browns would be shooting for a 2-0 record in Week 2. Instead, we're trying to get back to even. With the Steelers and the Ravens trying to improve to 2-0 this week, it's crucial that Cleveland doesn't get behind in the standings this early in the year.
One big story before the game will be who starts between Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace. If Wallace is the guy, I hope he does well, but I hope fans don't overreact and immediately call for him to become the team's new starting quarterback. The only way I might jump on that bandwagon is if he plays a near-perfect game and shows that the constant usage of the Cyclone can play to our advantage, but that's something we can evaluate after the game.
Here are some notes heading into the game, followed by my positional breakdown and prediction for the game:
- First off, don't forget about Ryan Kelsey's GOT NUMBERS? preview that he posted Saturday if you haven't read it yet.
- Former Browns head coach Romeo Crennel returns to Cleveland as the Chiefs' defensive coordinator. His unit got off to an impressive start against the San Diego Chargers last week, as he really put emphasis on making sure Antonio Gates was covered. You can't do that if you have a Vincent Jackson on your team. I don't see anyone on the Browns that the Chiefs would be inclined to double team, although they might try to load up on Jerome Harrison.
- I'm all for playing Peyton Hillis, but I want Harrison to be the main guy. The distribution I'm hoping for is more like 75% to 25% in favor of Harrison, but based on Mangini and Daboll's comments, that might not be the case.
- Whether Delhomme or Wallace play, Joshua Cribbs need to receive more touches in the Cyclone/Wildcat. We need him to set the Browns up with good field position on his returns -- that was another key factor in the Browns' four-game win streak to close out last season.
- It might not make a huge difference, but I'd rather see David Bowens active than Eric Barton. I just fear a situation in which Barton will be in prime position to stop Jamaal Charles on a run, only to see him blow by him.
- I'd rather not see the rain come into play. I don't care if it has a negative effect on the Chiefs too; our offense has had fumbling woes in the rain.
- If Wallace starts, does Colt McCoy become the No. 2 quarterback? I think we'd have Delhomme active regardless; McCoy isn't ready to move into the starting lineup and I think opposing defenses would come after him immediately.
- Jim Brown won't be at the Ring of Honor ceremony. (Shrugs).
|QB||Last year, Matt Cassel only had one game in which he threw for over 300 yards. Care to guess what team he had that game against? If you guessed the Cleveland Browns, then you would be correct. Cassel had his way with the Browns' defense, and while his numbers weren't out-of-this-world for the Chiefs last year, he basically has two full years of starting experience under his belt and has a solid running game to work with.
All signs are pointing to Seneca Wallace starting against the Chiefs, but something inside me tells me that Delhomme will still start. If Wallace starts it gives the Browns a mobile presence at quarterback, hopefully leading to more of a gameplan to run the football and use the Cyclone formation.
|RB||Jerome Harrison and Jamaal Charles. Charles might have the edge on Harrison right now, but I consider both backs to be very similar. On top of that, both teams feature backup running backs who they are very comfortable in utilizing -- veteran Thomas Jones (Chiefs) and Peyton Hillis. Based on how well the running backs did last year in this matchup, it's hard to argue that one team has the edge over the other. Hopefully Cleveland's offensive gameplan includes the run this week.
Dwayne Bowe only had one catch last week, but Cassel only had about 60+ yards passing for the game. That won't happen every week -- Bowe is by far the best receiver the Cheifs have on their roster, although it'll be interesting to see how Dexter McCluster is utilized.
Although the Browns threw the ball a lot last week, it'd be better to see the tight ends get involved a little earlier this week. Wallace hooked up on a rollout play in the preseason with Brian Robiskie and also liked to target Joshua Cribbs on the 15-20 yard passes near the end zone.
|OL||If Wallace plays, I worry whether our offensive line is going to be used to having a mobile quarterback -- will they protect as if he's in the pocket, accidentally turning a defender loose on a scampering Wallace? Delhomme didn't take a sack last week and the protection was good in the first half, but got a little shaky in the second half when the team passed too much. Rookie Shawn Lauvao has been ruled out again.
Cassel takes quite a few sacks, especially if pressure gets in his face. I think the Browns can generate a similar bull rush that they did against Freeman last week and rack up a couple of sacks on the Chiefs' offensive line. The Chiefs will be without starting right tackle Ryan O'Callaghan.
|DL||I hope we see a little bit more of Shaun Rogers this week in situations where we feel Cassel is going to pass the ball. The Chiefs' defensive line has a pair of former first-round picks Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson, who had pretty good games against the Chargers. However, Jackson won't play this week with an ankle injury, so I'll bump this down to "even."
|LB||I have major concerns about the ability of our linebackers to seal off the edge against Charles. At least we won't have to worry about chasing around a mobile quarterback.
I think the Chiefs have a similar situation that the Browns do at linebacker. They have one good pass rusher (Tamba Hali), but hopefully the reliable Joe Thomas can neutralize him. Derrick Johnson can tackle and had a great start to the season last week, but I'm not so confident he can keep that up after underachieving to this point in his career. The Chiefs have their veteran leader (Mike Vrabel) and the Browns have theirs (Scott Fujita).
|DB||I'm excited to compare the performances of Eric Berry and T.J. Ward in this game. In the end, I think fans of both teams are going to be very happy with their players, but it'll still be fun to watch the pair.
Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr make up a decent cornerback tandem for Kansas City, and the Browns' secondary looked impressive last week in areas the team struggled last year (they broke up passes with tight coverage, made tackles, etc).
|ST||I think Chiefs fans have a right to be excited to be excited about their return game, especially after McCluster's return last week against the Chargers. Cribbs is looking for redemption after last week's unproductive game against Tampa Bay, and he could get it against the team he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns against last year.
I was definitely disappointed by the outcome of the game against Tampa Bay last week, but I remain optimistic for several reasons: our defense played extremely well, for some reason we had a gameplan that neglected the running game, and without the turnovers, we probably would've beaten the Buccaneers by multiple possessions.
In front of their home crowd (something that should never be underestimated), I see the Browns' front seven really trying to go after the running game with safety help from Ward. The Browns will force Cassel to make some plays, and I think our improved secondary is up to the challenge to keep the game close. If the Browns pound it with Harrison, Cleveland wins. Hopefully that's the focal point of the gameplan.
FINAL PREDICTION: Cleveland Browns 21, Kansas City Chiefs 17.
CHRIS' RECORD IN PICKING BROWNS GAMES: 0-1
CHRIS' OVERALL NFL PREDICTIONS RECORD: 9-7