It’s a good thing that many players from the Broncos wanted to play two days after the last loss to Miami to get the sour taste out of their mouths. They get the chance to take the field again on Thursday against the Cleveland Browns (3-5). I am not too comfortable with the fact that Denver has defeated Cleveland in seven straight contests, nor am I satisfied with a 16-5 overall record against the Browns. We know the team is struggling right now with turnovers, defensive collapses, and injuries, so anything is possible. The Browns are also struggling as they just benched Derek Anderson after their last loss to Baltimore and proclaimed Notre Dame star, Brady Quinn, the starter against the Broncos. Despite these teams falling short of spectacular, Thursday night’s contest will be a battle on the NFL’s center stage. The Browns need a win to stay in Wildcard contention. Because the Chargers will most likely beat the Chiefs on Sunday, the Broncos need this to stay atop the AFC West. My Prediction: Broncos 19 Browns 16.
Broncos - It’s official. The offense of old has left the building and the area around Invesco can now be call Dis-graceland. With injuries forcing Michael Pittman and Andre Hall out for the season, and a questionable Selvin Young, more pressure is put on rookie Ryan Torain. I nominate Eddie Royal to handle a few carries. Anyone second that? He’s speedy, holds onto the ball, and he’s the only consistent scoring threat on offense. Because of the dinged up running unit, Jay Cutler will have more opportunities to either score or throw interceptions. It’s his call. The Browns have 9 INTs on the season which ranks right up there with the Steelers defense. They are much better at stopping the pass than stopping the run. Getting Brandon Marshall involved early on is a must. As we saw against Miami, he let things frustrate him and never got his head back in the game. I’m now a big proponent of using Peyton Hillis more for short drop off passes. He can catch, elude defenders, and he’s got the size to plow through them too. The offensive line continues to do a fine job protecting Cutler. The team will need their stability to bye Cutler enough time to thread the needle through the Browns feisty secondary.
Browns- Chants of Brad-y, Brad-y from Browns fans put the QB in the limelight and he will now try to bring the 27th ranked offense back to life. Derek Anderson’s 68.9 QB rating, 7 INTs and 7 fumbles were just not cutting it. Quinn played in 4 preseason games and played in 1 series against the 49ers in a regular season game last year. Jamal Lewis leads the team in rushing with 3 TDs and averaging 3.6 yards per carry. With the Broncos defensive woes this season, this could be just the game for him to break out. Braylon Edwards is always a threat when he’s not dropping the ball. He leads the Browns’ receiving corp. with 26 receptions for 457 yards and 3 TDs. The Broncos’ defense also has their hands full with Kellen Winslow. The offense has all the talent in the world, but they do lack leadership. For this offense, it’s sink or swim, kick or drown, fight or flight. This change at quarterback will no doubt determine which direction this offense is headed.
Broncos - They’re without Champ and Boss Bailey, D.J. Williams, and safety Marlon McCree. The defense performed well last week holding the Dolphins to 16 points through three quarters, but big 3rd down conversions in the fourth quarter allowed to the Dolphins to clinch the game. The Broncos are short on linebackers so look for Kellen Winslow to take advantage of the mid-field game. I say stick to the 4-3 alignment. It’s what they know and it’s what worked against Miami. As far as the secondary goes, the Dre Bly and Karl Paymah have got to do a better job on the receivers. Paymah got torched by Greg Camarillo last week, so they need to play heads up against Braylon Edwards. The run defense is improving, but Jamal Lewis will be a test for them. Brady Quinn is probably thanking his lucky stars for making his debut against a defense that’s ranked 28th in the league. Elvis Dumervil and others will absolutely need to ruffle this youngster’s feathers.
Browns - Ranked 20th in total defense, but as I said before, they have trouble stopping the run. Ryan Torain should be able to gain more than a yard on this defense. Shaun Rogers has 5 sacks on the season and D’Qwell Jackson is one of the top 15 tacklers in the league with 47 solo. Eric Wright and Mike Adams may be Cutler killers in the secondary as they have 3 and 2 INTs, respectively. This season the Browns have allowed the Ravens to score 37 and 28 points, yet they’ve held teams like the Giants and Steelers to 14 and 10 points, respectively. It’s safe to say that like the Broncos defense, the Browns put forth a great effort one game and then forget how to do it again by the next game. This defense can come up with turnovers, so Cutler has got to be extremely careful when throwing the deep ball. All give Cutler 2 picks if no one else has any turnovers, and the Broncos can still win this game. Any more than 2, and we’re doomed.
Broncos - Eddie Royal had a 95- yard kick return last week and he is 2nd in the league in punt returns. I know I’m on the edge of my seat whenever he’s waiting to return a kick. This could be the week that Royal breaks completely free and scores a touchdown. Matt Prater missed his second field goal of the season, but he is still doing a great job. The Broncos kickoff coverage is spotty at best, but they’ve got to be on their toes against the Browns.
Browns- Last week, Josh Cribbs scored a touchdown on a 92 yard kick return. He’s third in kickoff returns, and he’s 13th in punt returns. Dude’s dangerous for sure. Kicker Phil Dawson has hit a 54 yarder this year and he’s 14 for 16 overall. The Browns’ special teams covers kickoffs nicely, but with a guy like Royal, who knows what will happen.
Broncos - Mike Shanahan is 20-20 over the last 40 games. That says a lot about an organization that prides itself on a winning tradition. With the possibility of losing 4 in a row, Shanahan will pull out all the stops to get this win. He’s got to since the next 3 of 4 games are on the road, and the Chargers are breathing down the Broncos’ necks. Shanahan will do everything in his power to pressure Quinn as he knows all to well what bothers a young QB.
Browns - Romeo Crennel is not giving up on the Browns season despite his decision to bench Derek Anderson. He hopes to turn things around starting with the Broncos game. He says that the Browns are going to beat the Broncos. That’s what a new QB and a home game will do to you. Add to the fact that you’re playing a 4-4 team that’s lost the last three games, and you have enough confidence to predict the win.
Topics: Andre Hall, Boss Bailey, Brady Quinn, Brandon Marshall, Braylon Edwards, Champ Bailey, Cleveland Browns, D'qwell Jackson, D.j. Williams, Denver Broncos, Derek Anderson, Dre' Bly, Eddie Royal, Elvis Dumervil, Eric Wright, Greg Camarillo, Jamal Lewis, Jay Cutler, Josh Cribbs, Karl Ppaymah, Kellen Winslow, Marlon Mccree, Matt Prater, Michael Pittman, Mike Adams, Mike Shanahan, Peyton Hillis, Phil Dawson, Romeo Crennel, Ryan Torain, Selvin Young, Shaun Rogers