Cleveland Browns vs. PhiladelphiaEagles: PHI -6.5
The”dream team” enjoyed some grade “A” humble pie last week (correctly predicted by Joe Freda) and you can be sure this squad still has a bitter taste in its mouth. Yesit was the preseason, but it was
also on national TV. Reid has come outand said the starters will play into the 3rd quarter (and maybe 3 fullquarters) on Thursday night. Look for the starting crew to right the shipand build some chemistry heading into the season. The O-line is still riddledwith questions on Vick’s blindside, but Cleveland’s pass rush is less thanstellar. As it stands now, King Dunlap is handling the right tackle dutieswhile Ryan Harris and Winston Justice are out with injuries. The Eagles willprovide him with help because once Dunlap gives up half a step, he’s beat. Detroit exposed Cleveland’s backups last weekand that lack of quality depth is going to hurt them in the 4thquarter.
Having said that, the Browns do have some positives to bring into this game andit starts with Colt McCoy. The kid has been lights out this preseasondespite facing significant pressure and being without starting tailback PeytonHillis. He spent much of the offseason getting up to speed on the WCO andbuilding his strength. So far it’s paidoff. The run defense looks improved, butPhilly is a pass-happy team. The Eagles will stretch the field and forcethem to cover every inch of the field.
On theflip side, Cleveland has a lot of things to worry about on Thursday. First up, they could be without 8 significant players and that list includes thelikes of Massaquoi, Hillis, Moore, and Cribbs. These pieces are a seriousdetriment to all areas of the game plan. Massaquoi is the closest thing thisteam has to a number one receiver. Greg Little has talent, but he’s working onraw ability alone at this point. IfHillis could go he would give McCoy some much needed blitz pickup skills.Pittsburgh also showed the league what a power running game can do to thisdefense. The Eagles rely heavily ongetting the lead and forcing teams to throw the ball to come back. This allows guys like Babin and Cole to teeoff from the edges in the same way that Mathis and Freeney do in Indianapolis. Guys like Asomugha and Samuel are in primepositions to ball-hawk passes at that point. Moore and Cribbs have done an excellent job creating mismatches in theshort-passing game and exploiting zones over the middle this preseason. Without these two in the lineup, McCoy isgoing to find life difficult under pressure.
Makingmatters worse, this is an offense that is predicated largely on rhythm andtiming. When you have the kind of pass rush that the Eagles have, McCoycould sputter. Cleveland have enough trouble overcoming their ownmistakes (dropped passes, penalties, missed tackles, fumbles), so this gamewill likely be chalked up to a “learning experience”. SenecaWallace, once thought to be a major asset because he was familiar with the WCO,has suddenly become a liability as the backup. He’s been off-target formuch of the preseason and doesn’t bring anything more to the table than VinceYoung. Mike Kafka is probably the bestbackup of the bunch based on what we’ve seen thus far. Yet, this game is going to come down tomotivation and talent. In this respect,the Eagles have the edge. The Browns are simply too outmatched and undermannedto keep this within a touchdown. The latest odds have the Eagles -6.5 at -110.
Prediction: Bank PHI -6.5.