His production has tapered off a bit since lighting-up the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals for 246 yards and two touchdowns in Weeks 3 and 4. A nagging quad injury was a huge factor contributing to his struggles.
He was on the Browns official injury report for Weeks 5, 6 and 7. There was no question that he was hurt, but he went out there and gave it his all anyway.
Cleveland is coming off a bye this week, Hillis has had an opportunity to rest, and he's no longer on the injury report. The New England Patriots should be very worried about trying to contain a healthy Hillis.
Browns' coach Eric Mangini would be wise to lean on his halfback in both the passing and running game this week. This team's offense has been most effective when Hillis gets at least 20 carries on the ground, and seven or eight looks from his quarterback through the air.
Colt McCoy is set to start once again and the Patriots are weak against the pass. Even though New England is 31st in that department, giving up 282.4 yards per game, the Browns will still be cautious in how they use McCoy.
I expect a lot of underneath routes, which is where Hillis is probably the team's premier receiver. He's second on the team in receptions and fourth in receiving yards. New England's linebackers are going to have a very hard time keeping him covered as he comes out of the backfield.
The night before the Browns played the Saints, my friends and I were at Old Chicago watching Brock Lesnar get his rear handed to him by Cain Velasquez. I told them during UFC 121 that the Saints were going down. Well, I'm calling a second huge upset in as many games for the Browns.
They are going to hand the AFC East leaders their second loss of the season. Of course, the defense has to be stellar again, but Hillis will be a huge factor as well.
The Cleveland Browns are a lot better than their record suggests. They led in the fourth quarter in each of their first three losses. They dropped those contests by margins of three, two and seven points. Had they won even one of those games, they could have an outside shot at the playoffs this year. Had they won two or three, they'd be in contention.
I don't see them making the playoffs this year, but I think a .500 record is a very realistic goal for the Browns. This team may be 2-5, but fans should be encouraged about the future.
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