The Cleveland Browns have been competitive so far this year playing Peyton Hillis and Joshua Cribbs, and they'll need both versus the Atlanta Falcons this weekend.
The Falcons are turning into one of the better teams in the league, with their Achilles heel so far being their special teams unit. While overall play hasn't been bad, mistakes like missed assignments and penalties have put the Falcons behind the Eight Ball twice already this year.
Joshua Cribbs is a special teams monster, and he started breaking through the coverages last week versus Cincinnati. If the Falcons can't correct their special teams mistakes, Cribbs just might get his first runback for a touchdown this year.
On offense, the Falcons defense ranks 11th against the rush, but Hillis just finished breaking apart the Ravens and the Bengals defenses, and the Bengals now are ranked 15th versus the rush.
The Ravens only are ranked 21st now, but that stat now includes the punishment Hillis inflicted.
Hillis has proven he can tear apart defenses, wearing the defenders down until those guys decide they've pulled a hamstring when they see him coming out of the backfield.
Moving to the air, the Browns have to be better with their passing game, no matter who is behind center on Sunday. There's nothing wrong with making Ben Watson the primary target because if he's catching the ball and getting yards, don't fix what isn't broke.
With that idea in mind, though, the Falcons defense can key in on the "favorite" receiver pretty quickly and the quarterback has to do a better job of spreading the ball around so his favorite target has a fighting chance.
The Browns wide receivers won't be mistaken for Jerry Rice anytime soon, but some of that fault lies with the quarterback, mainly Seneca Wallace, for not reading the entire field before making a throw.
On the defensive side, the Browns have to stop running back Michael Turner, and try and contain Matt Ryan in the pocket.
Neither of those tasks will be easy, but the defensive gameplanning doesn't get any more difficult than that. Turner can run the ball all day while Ryan is quick and makes the throws he has to.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan needs to keep blitzing and keep pressure on Matt Ryan, but the Browns coaches have to keep their weak secondary in mind when they do it.
We've already seen a failed blitz result in six points for the opposition a few times this year, and head coach Eric Mangini has to be mindful of this before giving Ryan carte blanche to blitz away.
Keys to Game: Give Cribbs and Hillis the ball and good things will happen.
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