The Philadelphia Eagles will travel west to Ohio this weekend to open up the 2012 NFL regular season against the Cleveland Browns.
The two teams met last month in the preseason, but neither team wanted to give any of its game plan away knowing they would square off in a matchup that actually matters on September 9.
Cleveland is simply looking to get off to a hot start, considering it has lost seven consecutive regular season openers dating back to 2005, while Philadelphia has aspirations of winning the NFC East in 2012.
Those two goals will clash this weekend when both teams kickoff their fall campaigns.
Here is everything you need to know for Sunday's Week 1 showdown between the Eagles and Browns from Cleveland.
Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, OH
When: Sunday, September 9 at 1 p.m. ET
Listen: 94 WIP (Philadelphia), WTAM 1100 AM (Cleveland)
Live Streaming: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Line: Eagles (-9), according to Covers.com.
What's At Stake?
A hot start and a 1-0 record is at stake on Sunday in Cleveland.
The preseason is over and now the games actually count toward something. For both the Eagles and Browns on Sunday, anything less than a win will sting as they both have difficult Week 2 matchups to follow.
Obviously, much more is expected of Philadelphia this season and it would have to be considered an upset if the Eagles lost this game. Cleveland will have home-field advantage, however, giving them a slightly better shot to open up with a win.
Eagles Injury Report
*According to CBSSports
DL Mike Patterson (Head), might miss season
WR Ronald Johnson (Ankle), might miss season
WR Riley Cooper (Shoulder), doubtful for Sunday
DL Maurice Fountain (Knee), doubtful for Sunday
Browns Injury Report
*According to CBSSports
RB Trent Richardson (Knee), questionable for Sunday
Fantasy Start 'Em, Sit 'Em and Sleeper
Start 'Em: Brent Celek, TE
Eagles tight end Brent Celek is always open it seems when Michael Vick drops back into the pocket. Vick has trust in the 6'4" target and loves to get him the ball. Celek averaged a career high 13.1 yards per catch in 2011 and caught a touchdown in each of the last three weeks of the regular season.
Sit 'Em: Greg Little, WR
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Greg Little struggled with drops last season and will have an inexperienced rookie signal-caller throwing him the ball on Sunday. Philly's pass defense ranked in the Top 10 in 2011, and Little surpassed 100 yards receiving in a game only once all year.
He finished the season with just two touchdown receptions.
Sleeper: Phil Dawson, K
Browns kicker Phil Dawson could turn out to be Cleveland's top fantasy scorer this weekend. The Browns are sure to struggle against Philly's defense, and especially if and when they get into the red zone.
Dawson nailed eight field goals of 50 or more yards in 2011, and missed only 5-of-29 all season.
What They're Saying
Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy has acknowledged heading into the regular season that he feels more pressure to perform as a bona fide NFL superstar (via Philly.com's Jeff McLane):
There's more attention. There was a difference even in the preseason games. I can tell they're worried about me. I can tell before we played them they were like, 'McCoy, McCoy.' But I can't let that get to me, because at the end of the day it's still a team game.
Despite all the attention the Browns will pay to McCoy this weekend, I still expect the 24-year-old back to rush for more than 100 yards in Cleveland.
Alabama-based television sports director Ronnie Duncan, who used to cover Trent Richardson in college, discussed the Browns RB's current health situation heading into Week 1 (via The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Branson Wright):
He's always been able to play under pain, and he always plays with passion, so you never know he's hurt. Sunday's game is a big moment for him. In high school, he always heard about Emmitt Smith, and Richardson performed. He came to Alabama and continued to put in work.
Richardson's status heading into Week 1 is certainly cloudy based on his August 9 knee surgery, but he has proven in the past that he will be a major factor regardless of whether he is 100 percent come game time.
Eagles Player to Watch
Running back LeSean McCoy will be the player to watch for the Eagles on Sunday. McCoy had a spectacular season running the ball in 2011—he carried the ball 273 times for 1,309 yards and 17 touchdowns to go along with 315 receiving yards and three additional scores.
The former Pittsburgh Panther has improved in each of his previous three seasons in Philly, and he looks poised to easily surpass 1,000 yards rushing again in 2012. McCoy's athleticism, shiftiness and speed make him a lethal receiving option out of the backfield as well.
Browns Player to Watch
First-round draft pick Brandon Weeden is not your typical NFL rookie. At age 28, Weeden is five or six years older than the average rookie NFL quarterback. Nonetheless Weeden will have to bring his A game on Sunday against the Eagles.
He'll make his first career NFL regular season start at home against Philadelphia on Sunday, looking for his first NFL touchdown pass. Weeden played in Cleveland's first three preseason games, but struggled to find any big plays. He finished the exhibition season with zero touchdowns and one interception.
The most important matchup to watch for in Sunday's game will be the Eagles' running attack versus the Browns' ground defense. Philadelphia ranked fifth in the NFL last season in rushing offense, while Cleveland was the third-worst team in the league at stopping the run.
Philly's LeSean McCoy rushed for over 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns a season ago, and will likely have a huge advantage running the ball against a porous Browns' defensive line. Although Cleveland addressed its defensive line needs in last April's draft, they didn't pick up a DT until the fourth round.
On the Hot Seat
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will be on the hot seat this weekend in Cleveland. Vick's poor play early in the season last year put Philadelphia in a hole that they would never recover from. Vick threw 14 interceptions and fumbled 10 times last season, playing in only 13 games because of nagging injuries.
The 32-year-old veteran will need to get the Birds off to an effective start against Cleveland on Sunday in order to build the team's confidence heading into a challenging matchup with the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2.
Philadelphia beat Cleveland in the teams' third preseason matchup, 27-10, back in August at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Although it didn't count for anything, it was a telling result that gives me tremendous confidence in picking the Eagles on the road this Sunday.
Eagles 30, Browns 13
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