The Packers are a good team. They can score in bunches, they're proving they can run the ball, and they have a solid defense for the first time in a few years. True, they are a bit banged up, but the cupboard is by no means bare.
The Browns, on the other hand, are a much better team than they used to be. They've been improving in almost every way, and the organization seems to be trending upward for the first time in recent memory. It's not a bad time to be a Browns fan.
Now, that said, they shouldn't beat the Packers. Or rather, the Packers should be able to handle the Browns. Whether or not they do it remains to be seen, but on their journey from good to great, the Packers must prove they can take care of the teams they're supposed to beat.
5 - Receiving touchdowns by rookie phenom tight end Jordan Cameron, who's been described as the second coming of Antonio Gates melded with Jimmy Graham. Or something to that effect. Either way, his 38 catches, 460 yards, and five touchdowns would rank first, second, and first on the Packers. He can play.
4 - Games in which the Browns have faced legitimate "big play" receivers. In those four games, Mike Wallace (1 catch, 15 yards, no touchdowns), Torrey Smith (7 catches, 85 yards, no touchdowns), A.J. Green (7 catches, 51 yards, no touchdowns), and Calvin Johnson (3 catches, 25 yards, no touchdowns) have all been more or less held in check, thanks in large part to Browns' cornerback Joe Haden. Just 24 years old, Haden ranks below the likes of Darrelle Revis, Richard Sherman, and Patrick Peterson when it comes to the NFL's best corners, but not by much. He'll be a tough matchup for Jordy Nelson this week.
3 - Starts by Brandon Weeden, the Browns' on-again, off-again, former first round pick starting quarterback. Weeden's been bitten by the injury bug this year, but he may have more problems than that. Brian Hoyer has long been the apple of GM Michael Lombardi's eye, and given that Weeden is already 30 (yep, he's older than Aaron Rodgers) and only in his second year in the league, you'd have to think Weeden could be on a short leash. Fortunately (for him, at least) Hoyer will spend the rest of the year on injured reserve with a torn ACL, putting off the epic Weeden/Hoyer clash for at least a year.
2 - Healthy outside linebackers on the Packers' roster heading into Friday's practice. Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer win the dubious honor of being the last men standing at a position group beset by injuries. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry will be out multiple weeks with their respective ills, and Mike Neal will have to make major progress in today's practice to have a chance to play this week. The Packers once again find themselves in need of big contributions from rookie defenders.
1 - Active Packers receivers with more than six career receptions. Jordy Nelson is suddenly the grizzled veteran of the receiving corps (though James Jones might still play), lining up next to newbies Jarrett Boykin and Myles White. We know White is fast and we know Boykin can at least fill out a jersey, but beyond that, the Packers' wide receivers are virtual unknown. Hooray for learning new things!
Last Time - Packers: 31 Browns: 3 - October 25, 2009
The Packers cruised to an easy victory behind efficient passing from Aaron Rodgers (15/25, 246 yads, 3 TD), rugged running from Ryan Grant (27 carries, 148 yards, 1 TD), and suffocating defense (led by Cullen Jenkins' 1.5 sacks).
Meet a Brown - Joe Haden - 5'11", 190 lbs - CB - 4th NFL season
The aforementioned Haden might be the one individual player who could most hurt the Packers. By taking Jordy Nelson, the Packers best, most established wide receiver right now, he could put something of a cramp in the Packers' offensive gameplan.
Just going on the highlights, it's hard to see what makes Haden effective. He hasn't put up enormous interception numbers in his time in the league, but I'm of the mindset that interceptions don't always mean you're a terrific corner. That said, you can see Haden's good hands and great recovery speed in the video below, and his duel with Jordy Nelson on Sunday will be worth keeping an eye on.
The Browns will win if...
...they can force three turnovers. Cleveland is much improved, but they still lack the firepower to keep up with even a depleted Packers team. They'll need turnovers, and large amounts of them, to keep up.
The Packers will win if...
...they Keep Calm and Carry On, just like Mike McCarthy said. Yes, the injury situation is bad, but taking a step back, the Packers are still pretty solid throughout their roster. Their opening day offensive line is intact and getting better. The run game is strong. They're five deep with quality cornerbacks. They still have Aaron Rodgers. It's bad...but it's not that bad. They should still be able to take care of business this week.
The Pick - Packers: 28 Browns: 20
It might be tougher than you'd like, but the Packers will put the Browns away on Sunday.
The Rest (home team in ALL CAPS)
Seahawks over CARDINALS FALCONS over Buccaneers REDSKINS over Bears Cowboys over EAGLES Patriots over JETS DOLPHINS over Bills Chargers over JAGUARS PANTHERS over Rams LIONS over Bengals 49ers over TITANS CHIEFS over Texans Ravens over STEELERS Broncos over COLTS GIANTS over Vikings
Last week: 10-5 Season total: 48-34
Tweet of the Week
Josh Sitton is amazed by urine.