The Denver Broncos are 4-4, best in the AFC West by one game over San Diego. Meanwhile the Cleveland Browns are 3-5, third in the AFC North, trailing Pittsburgh Steelers at 6-2 by three games and the Baltimore Ravens at 5-3 by two games. Denver is 19-5 all-time vs. Cleveland and has won the last seven in a row.
Denver has the third best offense in the NFL, behind New Orleans and Arizona. The Broncos are averaging 374 yards per game. While the Broncos initially were off on a blistering pace they have since cooled down significantly. The Broncos poor showing has brought the average points per game down to just under 24 per game.
Part of the reason Cleveland has switched quarterbacks is because the Browns are the fifth-worst offense, only averaging about 267 yards per game. The Browns are only averaging 18 points per game.
The Broncos' Jay Cutler is fourth best in the league in passing yards, behind Drew Brees, the resurrected Kurt Warner, and Donovan McNabb. The Browns are starting former Notre Dame starter Brady Quinn in his first game, replacing Derek Anderson.
The Browns have Jamal Lewis as the 14th best running back in the league. Lewis is averaging 3.6 yards per carry and has rushed for 533 yards thus far. The Broncos will be without the services of two of their top running backs in their trio thus far for the rest of the season.
Michael Pittman and Andre Hall were placed on injured reserve after Sunday's game, meaning they are both out for the rest of the season. The Broncos' other running back, Selvin Young, hasn't played since Oct. 5 due to a groin injury. This leaves the Broncos with rookies Peyton Hillis (FB), who had a big game against the Dolphins, and Ryan Torain, who was a darling of training camp prior to a dislocation of his elbow in training camp.
On the defensive side of the ball, both of these teams are struggling severely. Cleveland has the eighth-worst defense, while Denver resided four spots lower with the fourth-worst defense overall. Cleveland is giving up an average of 348 yards and 20 points per game.
Denver has been noticeably worse in giving up 388 yards and nearly 28 points per game. The Broncos will be without defensive captains D.J. Williams and Champ Bailey, who are both expected to be out for another month. Williams was the leading tackler in the NFL with 57 on the season. Cleveland linebacker D’Qwell Jackson has 47 tackles this year. Browns DB Eric Wright has three interceptions on the season.
This is an incredibly important game for both teams, one they both have to have to stay competitive in their divisions and in the playoff race. Denver’s defense has been unpredictable but does have a great deal of talent on board. The Broncos' defense will be tested with two backups filling the shoes of Champ Bailey and D.J. Williams, who were having Pro Bowl seasons.
The Broncos' offense is looking to redeem itself, and there are rumors they want to get back to dominating opponents offensively. Jay Cutler’s play has been poor the last month, and star receiver Brandon Marshall had his worst game against the Dolphins on Sunday.
The Browns are seeking a new direction—that is why they have made the switch at quarterback. As bad as Denver has been on offense, don’t look for the Browns to go dog wild.
The Browns are a Las Vegas favorite at -3, down from -3.5. Look for the Broncos to have another breakout game similar to their game against Oakland in the opener. Look for Denver to mix up coverage’s to confuse Brady Quinn and shut down Jamal Lewis while the Broncos' offense gets back on track.
Prediction for the game
Denver Broncos 35
Cleveland Browns 23