Two franchises wrapped in rich tradition collide Sunday at Lambeau Field in Green Bay where the Cleveland Browns look to bounce back after seeing their 3-game win streak come to an end in a disappointing loss to the Detroit Lions.
Hitting the road might not be a bad idea for embattled quarterback Brandon Weeden with fans still reeling from his inexplicable backhanded flip for an interception in the 4th quarter last week that helped drop the Browns back to .500.
The Browns have led at halftime in all 6 of their games this season, but they have been outscored 55-3 in the second half of their 3 losses.
The Packers return home boasting the second best offense in the NFL, averaging 450 yards per game, and are 3-2 after beating the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens. Green bay has rolled up at least 385 yards of offense in 8 straight regular-season games, tied with Denver for the longest current streak in league.
However, they’re without Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb. Receiver James Jones, who has surpassed 100 yards receiving in each of the last 3 games, is questionable with a knee injury and even if he plays, he may not be 100 percent. Mike Neal, who was replacing Matthews, did not practice this week thanks to a bruised shoulder, leaving rookies Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer as potential starters at linebacker.
Oddly enough, the Packers won the last meeting in Cleveland (2009), but the Browns won the last meeting at Lambeau Field (2005). The Packers, who are allowing just 14.9 points over their last 10 at home, have won 9 straight regular season games and 22 of their last 23 overall on the not yet frozen tundra.
Last Week – Browns lost to Lions 31-17; Packers beat Ravens 19-17
What To Watch For – Brandon Weeden is just 5-13 as an NFL starter and is running out of time to show that he can be one. Indecisiveness, poor decisions as well as inability to handle pressure have not helped. His completion percentage is down from his rookie season and he’s thrown 18 TDs against 22 interceptions in 19 games played.
Tight end Jordan Cameron, who is sixth in the league with 38 receptions for 460 yards and 5 touchdowns this season, has caught 8 passes and been targeted just 11 times in the last 2 games combined. Finding Cameron in the red zone, where the Packers are ranked 31st in allowing touchdowns (75 percent), will be key.
While most of the positive attention is given to cornerback Joe Haden, Buster Skrine is quietly developing into a quality counterpart. Torched last season for big plays and costly penalties, Skrine is now tied for second league-wide in passes defended with 10.
The Browns defense has to get off the field Sunday. They are ranked 29th in the league in third-down defense, allowing a 44 percent conversion rate.
Aaron Rodgers is having his typical MVP caliber season completing 64.1 percent of his passes for 1,646 yards, 10 TDs and 4 interceptions.
Receiver Jordy Nelson has stepped up with Cobb out for the year. Over the last 3 weeks, Nelson is averaging 19.8 yards per catch. He has 27 catches for 484 yards and 4 touchdowns this season.
The Packers have had rushers tally 100 yards in three of the last four weeks — Eddie Lacy, James Starks, and Johnathan Franklin — after not having one for nearly 3 seasons. The 3 have combined for 558 yards and scored a touchdown each this season.
Conversely Green Bay’s defense has held their opponents to less than 85 yards on the ground in each of the last 3 games. The Packers have also racked up 14 sacks over that same span.
Rankings – CBS Power Ranking: Browns No. 24, Packers No. 9; AP Pro32: Browns No. 21, Packers No. 8
Browns Offense: Overall (24), Rush (22), Pass (17)
Browns Defense: Overall (7), Rush (7T), Pass (8)
Packers Offense: Overall (2), Rush (5), Pass (4)
Packers Defense: Overall (18), Rush (3), Pass (28)
The Last Time – Oct. 25, 2009: Packers beat Browns 31-3.
Game Status – OUT: DE Billy Winn (quad), S Josh Aubry (ankle knee); QUESTIONABLE: LB Brandon Magee (oblique); PROBABLE: RB Willis McGahee (knees), RB Bobby Rainey (groin), CB Chris Owens (finger), OLB Jabaal Sheard (knee)
Projected Starters – OFFENSE: WR Josh Gordon, WR: Greg Little, LT: Joe Thomas, LG: John Greco, C: Alex Mack, RG: Shawn Lauvao, RT: Mitchell Schwartz, TE: Jordan Cameron, QB: Brandon Weeden, RB Willis McGahee, FB: Chris Ogbonnaya
DEFENSE: RE: Desmond Bryant, NT: Phil Taylor, LE Ahtyba Rubin, ROLB: Jabaal Sheard, RILB: Craig Robertson, LILB: D’Qwell Jackson, ROLB: Paul Kruger, RCB: Chris Owens, LCB: Joe Haden, FS: Tashaun Gipson, SS: T.J. Ward
Broadcast – Sports Radio 92.3 The Fan WKRK-FM, Cleveland’s Classic Rock 98.5 WNCX-FM, 850 WKNR-AM and the PNC Bank Cleveland Browns Radio Network; WOIO TV-19 (CBS)
Kickoff – 4:25 p.m., Labmbeau Field – Green Bay, WI
Prediction – Packers 34, Browns 20
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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