A Preview of Game #6 – Broncos @ Browns
After splitting a pair of games on the road (both closely contested), the Browns finally head back home. Their next opponent is the undefeated Broncos and Peyton Manning, who has never lost to the orange and brown. The visitors boast one of the top defenses in the league – therefore, this contest will be an extremely difficult one. Let’s take a look at this matchup.
Quarterback – I got to admit that I did not see that output from Josh McCown last week; however this game’s performance will likely not be nearly as great as the past three. The quarterback must be efficient against the Broncos; he will (more than likely) not eclipse the 300-yard mark, but playing mistake-free football is the bottom line. Keeping all of his guys involved surely helps as well. I anticipate McCown tossing for around 250 yards but will finally throw an interception.
Running Back – Starting with dump off passes should be the game plan to get both Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson involved. Hopefully those plays can continue to work, which should pave the way for rushing attempts (and some of a longer variety). It will not be an easy task, but I expect John DeFilippo to work his magic once again to make this offense click on all cylinders. Crowell and Johnson should be able to garner a combined 150 yards via the ground and air – but having them finding the end zone can be the difference between a win and a loss.
Wide Receiver – Travis Benjamin has cooled a bit in his production (and was covered well on deeper routes), but he still remains the team’s best wide receiving target. I am pleased at his development and am confident that will continue all season long. Both Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins are making plays as well – neither is producing tremendously but they are making the most when given the opportunity. Brian Hartline might get more looks in this contest as moving the chains on third down will be of utmost importance in this matchup.
Tight End – Some call him “Big Play Gar” – Gary Barnidge is playing out of this world. He is making huge catches, securing incredible touchdowns, and is fortifying the tight end position. I would love to believe that he can play like this every week, but the odds are against it. Jim Dray and Rob Housler finally got involved last contest – perhaps they can be options should Barnidge receive double coverage. That said, my stance on E.J. Bibbs remains unchanged (and he must play).
Offensive Line – The unit upfront is continuing to build upon their improving performances. They are still a ways from being stout, but I can feel the gang getting better. This matchup with be extremely tough, as the defensive front tends to shut down running backs and get to signal callers on pass attempts. This might be a week that Cameron Erving is inserted to the lineup for help with pass protection. I do not see a ton of rushing yardage and a few sacks of Josh McCown, but I am hoping the offensive line outperforms my expectations.
Defensive Line – It’s a struggling running offense going against a porous run defense. I’d like to say the Brown’s front three are starting to turn the corner, but the mistakes are still apparent. Danny Shelton had a decent outing last week but also made a pair of bone-headed penalties. The return of Desmond Bryant paid dividends early; if they can play that way the entire contest, the Browns will have finally shown a glimpse of how many thought they would perform.
Linebacker – I do not really know what has to be done with this underachieving group. Scott Solomon’s latest injury will keep him out for a while – and so far no one has stepped up as a rush outside linebacker. Will Armonty Bryant finally break thru and be a force on the edge? Unlikely, and something must click for these guys otherwise they will be embarrassed on a weekly basis. Nate Orchard finally got some playing time late last game; maybe he is the key. With Craig Robertson hobbled, Chris Kirksey and Tank Carder played alongside Karlos Dansby. I am very worried about this position – I am praying they just start making plays.
Secondary – Joe Haden will likely not be available for this contest. Therefore Pierre Desir, K’Waun Williams, and even Johson Bademosi should expect to face Peyton Manning and his group of receivers. It’s time to finally give Justin Gilbert a shot and let him work out his funk. I anticipate at least one interception by the secondary – hopefully the team can make it count. Jordan Poyer was able to hold his own last contest, (provided Tashaun Gipson is held out again) so I would not be extremely concerned about the reserve athlete getting playing time. That “huge play” continues to be missing from the Browns’ safety group; Sunday would be a good point to see this.
Special Teams: Another solid contest by all parts of the special teams; Travis Coons and Andy Lee have been kicking the ball both far and accurately. There was not much from the return units by either squad – I expect the same to occur against the Broncos. I got a feeling that Travis Benjamin could do something special, however.
Coaching: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, is a common phrase. While I completely agree with that statement – the Browns’ offfense must be careful to not have McCown heaving fifty passes on a weekly basis (especially against a tremendous defense). Defensively, just get it done no matter what. The team needs punts forced, turnovers, and to not give up yards and points.
Prediction (My Record: 1 – 4): I really want to pick the Browns in this contest, especially with the enthusiasm that came with their win last week. However, I do not see it happening and the Broncos win by the score of 24 – 17.