When looking at the seasons the Browns and Panthers are having, any person would see a clear difference. They would see a competitive Browns team that has knocked-off both the Patriots and Saints, while they would see the Panthers have no offense and recently no defense. Lastly, they see would see the records and say, “Whaaaat?”
It is hard for many to believe the Panthers are only a couple games back of the Browns, and the reasons the browns are 3-7 may be what leads Carolina to 2-9.
First, what are the Browns strengths? Peyton Hillis, the offensive line and a solid defense. Hillis is a freak of nature and scares Chuck Norris into checking under his bed. His arms are so big they do not fit under his pads and he is a load to bring down. The good news for the Panthers is that Hillis is fumble prone and there is no good back-up waiting in the wings. He will be a prime target for James Anderson and Jon Beason to strip the ball from.
The offensive line is anchored by center Alex Mack and tackle Joe Thomas. The left side in general is just plain good, but the right side is another question. The tackle position is riddled with injuries and the right side with Floyd Wolmack is not exactly Pro Bowl material. Attacking the right side will be key, and wouldn’t you know it the Panthers best pass rusher, Charles Johnson, will face the side without Thomas on it. Also, it will be key for Landri and Johnson to hold their own in the interior.
As for the Browns defense, it is scary. Rob Ryan shares more than just a big gut with his brother Rex, defensive schemes run through his blood. He is going to bring pressure and rattle Clausen, if that is our quarterback Sunday, so he can’t gain a rhythm. Luckily, there is something the Panthers can do about it. Lately, they have discovered how to run the ball and Goodson is multi-talented, maybe Jeff Davidson will use that to his advantage. Also, I would be looking to attack Eric Wright. The guy can’t cover and lining up Steve Smith or David Gettis against him will mean big plays for the offense.
The key to the Panthers winning this game is focusing on the Browns weaknesses.
Colt McCoy is very questionable and it will most likely be Jake Delhomme playing. As all Panther fans know, he stares-down his receivers and he is very inaccurate. Not to mention that his recent ankle injury will make him less mobile, this may not be a bad time for Ron Meeks to unleash the beast that is Beason.
Not only is Delhomme not very accurate, but his receiver group is perhaps the worst in the league. The two most reliable targets are tight ends Ben Watson and Evan Moore. It is time for Chris Gamble, Richard Marshall and Charles Godfrey to be the offense and take some back for six. If they can’t do that, they need to at least return it into field goal range.
Finally, the Browns defense is good, but that is because of the front seven as the secondary is actually pretty bad. T.J. Ward can hit but he cannot cover. Eric Wright is getting worse by the week and is beaten deep every game. It’s now or never for the receivers and quarterback Jimmy Clausen as this is the weakest secondary they will face the rest of the season.
If the Panthers are to win even only one more game this season, it needs to be this one. The Panthers need a win and to defeat Mike Holmgren, Eric Mangini and Rob Ryan would be a great feat. Not only do they need a win, but I currently go to school by Cleveland and there would be no better feeling to have four years of bragging rights. I have been a Panthers fan since I learned what football was, and I am constantly questioned why I chose them over the Browns. A win this Sunday would be a great way to everyone why I am black and blue, through and through.