Minnesota Vikings Vs Cleveland Browns: The Campaign Begins

Brian DiTullioSenior Writer ISeptember 12, 2009

CLEVELAND - AUGUST 22:  Head Coach Eric Mangini of the Cleveland Browns watches his team against the Detroit Lions during the third quarter of their NFL game on August 22, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

When the Browns take the field on Sunday, get ready for something you haven’t seen on the Cleveland sideline in years—Preparation.

Head coach Eric Mangini has taken a lot of criticism from the media over his handling of the quarterback situation, which I have added my voice to. I thought he overplayed the incident and created an unnecessary distraction.

But it’s over and we’re ready to play football. Not only are the fans ready, but the team will be ready for the beginning of the season as well. What’s gotten lost over the last few weeks—as everyone wrung their hands in frustration over Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson—is that Mangini will be fielding a team actually prepared to play a real, regular season football game.

Gone are the days of Romeo Crennel wandering the sidelines, looking for the nearest buffet line while his team floundered on the field, not sure where the end zone was or if scoring points was a real objective.

Do I think the Browns are going to win?


I’m a big believer in the “Any Given Sunday” theory. Brett Favre might come out with some rust on his arm and throw a few timely interceptions. Of course there’s still Adrian Peterson to think of, but Favre absolutely will be throwing the ball, let’s not kid ourselves.

Match-ups include Favre versus the Browns defense, Quinn versus destiny, and Mangini versus the world.

Favre is healthy and the Brown’s defense is weak, with a secondary so thin it could be described as anorexic.

The defense also has a huge hole in the middle now that Mangini was forced to admit Shaun Rogers has an injured foot, and listed him as questionable on Friday’s injury report. Then again, in the name of confusing the Vikings, Rogers may just have an ingrown toenail and will tear it up on Sunday.

Rogers is the mainstay in this thin defense. Backup Ahtyba Rubin showed progress during the preseason, but Rogers is a beast who could not be contained last year.

It’s hard to see how the Browns will stop Peterson from scoring five touchdowns on 579 yards this Sunday without Rogers, but stranger things have happened.

Expect Quinn to come out slinging. The knock on Quinn is that he stays away from the deep ball, checking down his receivers too quickly and going with the safe pass. Don’t be surprised to see Quinn blow those notions up by 1:15 p.m. (1:18 if the Vikings get the ball first, there’s Peterson’s run to think of).

Since both Kevin and Pat Williams will be playing Sunday, it will be a true test for rookie running back James Davis. If Davis can break through that wall, we’ll know he’s the real thing.

If Jamal Lewis can find his 25-year-old legs somewhere in his 30-year-old body, it would take a lot of pressure off the passing game and allow the Browns to spread the Viking’s defense out.

The problem is, there are too many “ifs.” Add to that the Mangini Mystery Factor, and this game could be a lot more interesting for Browns fans than most of the national sports media believe.

Mangini likes to keep everything close to the vest, so much so that I wonder if the team breakfast before the game will only be described as containing "mystery meat."

What color uniforms will the Browns wear? Well, that's a closely guarded state secret, the answer to which might give Minnesota a clear competitive advantage, so we'll let you know the uniform colors after the game, just in case the game is blacked out in your area.

In closing, I’m not expecting a miracle, but sitting here, before one game is played, is it too much to hope that the Browns can be this year’s Miami Dolphins?


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