BLUE FRIDAY MATCH UP FOCUS, NFL

The Blue Friday Match up: The Cleveland Browns

A wing and a prayer. Can Touchdown Jesus win on the road?

After listening to the sports media, I’m convinced of two things: 1. They have no idea how good of a defense we have. 2. They are giving the Browns more credit than they deserve strictly on the Holmgren factor.

Not that any of that matters to the players, but as a fan it’s just one of many things that irritate me. I think this is a pretty straightforward game as far as what to expect. Both teams have inconsistent offenses, although I think the Seahawks are trending upward, while the opposite is true for the Browns. Finally, both teams have solid defenses. As I said on twitter a few days ago, this should be a defensive game. Assuming both teams play to their potential (never a given) I’ll take our defense over theirs in a heartbeat.

When the Browns have the ball:

The Browns have put a lot of pressure on Colt McCoy this season. The poor run blocking from the interior lineman have made the inside power running of Peyton Hillis a much smaller factor than last year. That hasn’t stopped the Browns from running inside though. 58% of all runs are going behind the center-guard. This strategy will put our beastly D lineman Alan Branch and Brandon Mebane in a position to be huge factors in this game.

Colt McCoy is currently completing only 55% of his passes, and is targeting the short middle of the field on over 43% of his throws. Additionally, 71% of his passes are targeted inside 10 yards. This is an offense full of short quick passes and swing and dump offs to running backs. KJ Wright, Leroy Hill, and David Hawthorne will be busy.

Sacks will be hard to come by in this game. While the Browns have struggled to create running lanes, they have done a good job of keeping McCoy upright long enough to evade and avoid sacks (Only 4 allowed in 2011).

Bottom line: The Browns are a one-dimensional team that lacks players that scare the Seahawks.

Advantage: The Seahawks

When the Seahawks have the Ball:

This could be a very ugly game offensively. The Seahawks will be without their best offensive lineman and line assignment manager in Center Max Unger.  Charlie Whitehurst will probably get the start, and actually played well in relief against the Giants, but he will need to avoid mistakes in this one. The Seahawks must stay on schedule and establish some tempo with their offense, or the MVP might just be the punter Jon Ryan.

The Good news is, the Browns do not have one defensive lineman that scares me. Rookie DE Jabaal Sheard started out very hot this year registering 12 QB pressures (stats from ProFootballfocus.com), but hasn’t been a factor in two straight games. Is he due? I guess we’ll find out. The Brown’s like to blitz with the MLB and WLB positions, but after some early success in the season, have found it very difficult to get home.

In coverage, the combo of CB’s Sheldon Brown and Joe Haden may have their hands full with our receiving corps. Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, and Mike Williams should be able to create mis-matches in the secondary on every play. But Charlie Whitehurst on the road is a HUGE question mark, and mistakes by him could nullify this advantage.

Advantage: Draw

Special Teams:

Outside of the debacle in San Francisco the Seahawks have been solid in punt, and Kickoff return coverage. Not great, but solid. They will need to be on their game against Josh Cribbs (averaging 25 yds per kick return and a 13.2 yd per punt return). Like Devin Hester of the Bears, he is a huge threat to break off a game changing return at any time. The Seahawks could lose another heartbreaker here if they lose focus just once. The fact that he has yet to have a return for a score, worries me that he may just be due. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

Leon Washington has not made the impact he did in 2010. I’m not sure if it’s the new kick off rules, or substandard return blocking, but he has been mediocre. I would love to say he’s due, but I haven’t seen too many “almost” runs this year.

Advantage: The Browns

Like I said to begin, I feel like both teams have glaring weaknesses on offense, and will need to rely on their defense and special teams to win the game. I feel like our defense is the much better unit, and I expect that we will use that advantage to get a much-needed road win.  3-3 before our home game against the Bengals sounds awesome to me.

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About Will

Football fanatic, former coach, and obsessive blogger. Proud member of the Seahawks 12thManNation. Follow him on twitter @12thManScribe

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