Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins
Sunday December 5, 2010 1:00 PM EST
Line: Miami -5
The 4-7 Browns may be out of the playoff race, but this season is certainly not a failure for Cleveland. The team has knocked off the Patriots and Saints this season. They also haven’t lost by more than the given spread on the road since October 17.
The 5-6 Dolphins have looked like a great team at times, but have failed to string together two victories since the first two games of the season. With all of the inconsistencies surrounding the Dolphins, is it wise to chalk them up as the favorites against a Browns team who has been involved in close games since their bye week?
Keys to the Game
Peyton Hillis is an absolute machine. Last week, Hillis ran for 131 yards and three touchdowns, giving him his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the year. As long as Hillis continues to bowl over teams, the Browns will continue to find themselves in close games. Cleveland is solid up front and with a running back like Hillis in the backfield, the Browns are on their way to becoming one of the best running teams in the entire NFL.
Cameron Wake would have a shot at defensive MVP if his team had a better record. With 10.5 sacks, Wake makes life a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. Joe Thomas is as good as they come at left tackle, so it will be interesting to see how he fairs against Wake, who is an elite pass rusher. It is definitely a matchup to keep your eye on throughout the game.
Colt McCoy’s absence hurts the Browns. McCoy has been exactly what the Browns brought him in to be. He is a quarterback with all the intangibles. His team feels confidence in his ability and he is unshakable, regardless of his experience. As it stands, Jake Delhomme looks like he will be given the start in place of injured McCoy.
Delhomme has thrown one touchdown and six interceptions in his time with the Browns. He lacks every positive quality McCoy brings to the table. With Cameron Wake coming off the edge, Delhomme will likely be rattled to a point where he becomes a turnover machine once again.
Brandon Marshall’s absence last game was the best possible thing that could have happened to the Dolphins. Marshall is their best offensive weapon, but in his absence the Dolphins stopped forcing the ball through the air and started focusing on the run game.
While it remains unclear if Marshall will be able to play this week, it is important that the Dolphins use him as a weapon and not try to force the ball into his hands at the expense of the offense.
The Dolphins Run Game vs The Browns Run "D"
The Dolphins led a balanced 186-yard rushing attack in their last outing against the Raiders. They shared carries between Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, marching their way to an easy victory over the Raiders. If they want to win on Sunday, they will need to duplicate their performance. The Browns allow nearly 119.5 yards a game, so racking up serious yardage is an obtainable goal.
The Browns had a lackluster performance last week against the worst team in the NFL. They may have come away with a victory, but for me to feel confident in them, they needed to put together a solid performance after dropping two in a row.
That being said, the Browns still manage to keep games close. They relish in being the underdog and for that reason, I’m taking Cleveland and the points. Miami might have looked good last week, but their performance needs to be evaluated on a week to week basis, as what they do one week never dictates their play in the following week.
Free NFL Pick: Cleveland +5