Sunday, November 04, 2007

Browns v. Seahawks

This is a pretty big game for the Cleveland Browns. They are playing a team that has made the playoffs following each of the past four seasons, and that's two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance. A victory against the Seattle Seahawks would show the nation that the Cleveland Browns are legitimately in the playoff hunt -- that is, if anybody outside of Cleveland and Seattle were actually paying any attention to the game. Today belongs to the Colts and Patriots, and everything else is just a sideshow.

Actually, I may have even overstated the interest in Browns game when I said people in Seattle were going to be paying attention to it. While most fans won't be able to watch the Colts and Patriots here in Cleveland, the isn't going to be blacked out in the Seattle market, so I'm guessing it will prove to be pretty stiff competition for fan attention there as well.

The Browns are slight favorites in this game, but I'm not sure that they should be. Seattle is coming off a bye week, but throttled the St. Louis Rams 33-6 in the last game the Seahawks played. The Seahawks have struggled with the running game this season, and currently rank 22nd in the league in rushing. They apparently spent a lot of time over the bye week experimenting with various fixes intended to help the running game, but haven't made any personnel changes.

It's nice that Seattle has had a hard time moving the ball on the ground, but the Browns' defense is so atrocious against the run that it's hard to draw much comfort from Seattle's problems. The Seahawks have been more effective through the air, which is even worse news for the Browns, because while they rank a lofty 29th in the league against the run, they rank dead last in the AFC and 31st overall against the pass.

The bottom line is that, as has been the case all season, the Browns go into this game knowing that their opponent is going to score a lot of points this afternoon, and if they want to win, they're going to have to match them. So, that brings us to the Seahawks' defense, which has been solid, if not spectacular. The team's led by OLB Julian Peterson, who has more sacks than any other linebacker in the NFC (7.0) and is tied for the league lead in forced fumbles with four. His teammate, MLB Lofa Tatupu, is right behind him with three forced fumbles.

While Seattle's linebacking corps is intimidating, the good news for the Browns is that Seattle's cornerbacks are undersized, and Edwards, Winslow and Jurevicius present them with some significant matchup problems. If media reports are to be believed, Seattle may opt to put Peterson on Winslow in passing situations. It would be terrific if the Browns could force the Seahawks' best pass rusher out of the equation like that, but let's just say I'll believe it when I see it.

A lot of attention has been paid to the return of former Browns Charlie Frye and Brian Russell, particularly in light of the feud that's supposedly simmering between Russell and Braylon Edwards over Edwards' comments last season about Russell's hit on Cincinnati's Chad Johnson. I think that Rob Chudzinski's assessment of Frye's impact on the game (not much) is about right, and I think the biggest impact that Russell will have on this game lies in the fact that he's not wearing a Browns uniform, not his feud with Braylon. The Browns flat out miss the guy. As The Orange and Brown Report points out, without Russell in the lineup, the team's surrendered 18 touchdown passes this season, only two fewer than they did all of last year.

When I put all of these disjointed ramblings together, I have a hard time predicting a Browns victory today. I just think that Seattle's a little bit better than the Browns, and that it will show up in the final score.

Seattle 34, Browns 30.

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