What to Look For…

The New England Patriots seem to be on their way up.  They now boast the best record in the entire NFL.  Even with the over-hyped loss of Randy Moss, the offense has taken somewhat of a new look but has had the same effectiveness.  The Cleveland Browns on the other hand are a struggling 2-5 on the season.  They are starting a rookie quarterback due to injuries to their two other signal callers.  But, they are coming off of a big win in New Orleans, and hope to use that emotion to spring them towards a few more victories.

-I keep harping on this point, but the deep passing attack, or lack thereof, in New England has me concerned.  I understand that posting three straight wins against the likes of Baltimore, San Diego, and Minnesota is an impressive feat.  But, how long can you be effective of an offense without being able to get one receiver behind a defense?  The Browns are ranked 26th in the league against the pass, allowing just over 244 yards per game.  If the deep passing attack doesn’t show up against Cleveland, than I have all but abandoned hope that it will become prevalent at any other time this season.  What to look for: How the deep passing attack performs against one of the worst pass defenses in the league.

-The Browns most dangerous offensive weapon may very well be the former fullback Peyton Hillis (sad, isn’t it).  As a team, the Browns are averaging just over 100 yards per game on the ground.  Hillis is putting together a pretty good year, so far compiling 460 yards (4.4 ypc) and 4 touchdowns through seven games.  The Browns will undoubtedly use their power running attack to try and relieve some of the pressure that the Pats will look to put on Colt McCoy.  The Patriots defense played very well last week against Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota rushing game, but they will be tested again this week in Cleveland.  What to look for: How the Patriots run defense performs against a decent rushing attack in Cleveland, especially looking to build on the success that they had against Adrian Peterson.

-Coach Belichick is notorious for confusing rookie and/or inexperienced quarterbacks.  But, the one truly inexperienced quarterback that the Pats have played this season, Ryan Fitzpatrick, threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns on them.  New England still won the game, which in my opinion is all that matters, but Fitzpatrick didn’t seemed as lost and confused as quarterbacks in his situation normally do.  Belichick makes a point every week to take away the best option on the opposition’s offense, so I expect the focus to be squarely on Hillis.  That means different looks, blitzes, and coverages for McCoy to deal with.  What to look for: How coach Belichick confuses Colt McCoy with his defensive scheme.

-I remember just a few short years ago when the Belichick-Mangini matchup, when Mangini was in New York, was the story of the week leading up to that game.  The rivalry has diminished a bit over the years nationally, but I still believe that the coals burn hot in coach Belichick whenever the name Mangini is uttered in his presence.  I get the sense that Belichick hates this guy, which kind of makes me hate him too.  Mangini likes to downplay the volatility of their relationship, but you know that Belichick wants nothing more than to destroy Mangini and the Browns.  What to look for: How the past relationship between Belichick and Mangini plays into the Patriots’ play on the field and the coaching staff’s decision making.

-The Browns are giving up over 111 yards per game on the ground.  I mentioned in last week’s “Mattyoshow Review” that I am intrigued to see what happens with the role of BenJarvus Green-Ellis after having a career day against Minnesota.  On Sunday, I look for the Patriots to try and pound the ball with Green-Ellis relentlessly, but as we all know, coach Belichick is notorious for not sticking with one running back.  I think that BenJarvus has the ability to be a 20-25 carry guy in this league, but he has to be in the game to get the ball.  This matchup favors Green-Ellis and I’ll be looking to see how big of a role he has.  What to look for: How much playing time and how effective BenJarvus Green-Ellis is against a subpar run defense.

-THIS WEEK’S PREDICTION – Patriots 27 – Browns 13