A couple months ago, the Packers beat the living daylights out of the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau in the preseason. The defense was devastating, the offense looked sharp, and it was clear the Browns were simply overmatched.
Through five games, the Packers aren’t who we thought they were, but this Browns team may actually be worse than we thought they were. No, it won’t be a test for Green Bay heading into Judgment Week, but it should be the perfect tune-up.
The quarterback situation in Cleveland is the worst in the NFL. By far.
Derek Anderson is a shell of the quarterback who threw for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2007. He was benched last season in favor of Brady Quinn, who won the job outright this season.
The hometown favorite from Notre Dame was so pathetic in Anderson’s stead that they went back to Anderson who responded by throwing six interceptions to just two touchdowns for a marvelous QB rating of 41.7.
Turnovers should be plentiful from a Packers defense that is as good as it gets when it comes forcing take-aways from opposing quarterbacks.
Much like last week, the receivers should be no problem. Josh Cribbs is an explosive return man, but a marginal receiver at best. Mohamed Massaquoi is a physical, talented rookie out of Georgia who had a big day against Cinci three weeks ago, but has yet to score a touchdown and has only had two multiple catch games.
Playing defensive back has a lot to do with swagger. Guys like Charles Woodson and Al Harris don’t need much help in that department, but a Sunday of man-handling a group of receivers should do wonders for a team when they go up against a quarterback in Brett Favre, who torched them in the first meeting.
The biggest concern, in some ways, is the offense’s rhythm heading into the November match up with Minny.
No one gives up more yards than the Browns do at a staggering 407.3 yard per game clip. They are 30th in the league in rush defense giving up 165 yards per game and even though newly signed Ahman Green probably won’t play in this game, getting the offensive line some confidence in the run game will be vital for success against the Vikings (Remember, Ahman Green had some big days against the Vikings).
If you’re Aaron Rodgers though, your biggest concert has to be this offensive line gaining some cohesion and confidence in pass protection. Jared Allen ate the Packer’s lunch in that Monday Night game, and things didn’t get much better against the lowly Lions when they gave up five more sacks.
Jared Allen is playing like the defensive player of the year, so if the Packers hope to slow him down, they have to make some adjustments and get the offensive line squared away. Mark Tauscher won’t be ready by then, and even if he were ready, Allen would be matched up on the opposite edge more often than not.
The Browns do not boast a devastating edge rusher, but neither did the Lions. In fact, the Lions were missing half their defense and still managed to get in the grill of Aaron Rodgers. Getting the Browns means getting a team who has struggled to get consistent pressure and who lacks true playmakers along the front seven in terms of rushing the passer. The O-line should be able to handle this group, and feel good about themselves heading into the following week.
The big picture here is clear: get things corrected this week against a terrible team, so you can have your heads on straight to play the biggest game of your season.
That means this cannot be a trap game, it means too much. The Packers offensive line has to play well this week, or face a ferocious pass-rush next week who will sense the blood in the water. Aaron Rodgers and company have to come away with six in the redzone instead of three, because Minnesota will. And the defense has to rush the passer, and force take-aways because Favre has shown he can still fire rockets if he has time.
I hate to keep looking forward to that game, but if the Packers don’t win November 1st , the division is gone. The only way that game even matters though, is if the Packers win this week. They don’t have to win by 100, they just have to cut down the mistakes and play solid football. If they do that they’ll win, and be on a roll headed for the monster matchup of the season.