Browns-Saints: Don's Game Preview

Three in a row over defending Super Bowl Champs? It could happen...

The New Orleans Saints are the defending Super Bowl champions.

Even fringe pro football fans are aware the Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 last February in Super Bowl XLIV. That is no great revelation, but the sentence bears repeating.

The New Orleans Saints are the defending Super Bowl champions.

If a team can do get to the top who not that long ago was referred to as the ‘Aints, well, there is hope in northeast Ohio. Perhaps that's why the Saints postseason run was such an endearing story. Anyone who has been to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina is aware of what the community is still going through, but they're also aware of the great people who still call that city home. To have their beloved football team win in their first Super Bowl appearance was as good as feel-good stories get.

Someday, Cleveland. Someday. Does the path to "someday" begin Sunday in the Superdome? After Colt McCoy's performance last Sunday in Pittsburgh, some will lead you to believe it has already begun.

McCoy's NFL debut surpassed everyone's expectations. He finished 23-for-33 passing for 281 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. In fairness, McCoy was 3-for-6 passing for 30 yards with two consecutive three-and-out possessions after the Steelers made it 14-3 late in the third quarter and he was 10-for-13 passing for 140 yards with a touchdown and interception after the Steelers made it 21-3 in the fourth quarter.

Still, positive signs were seen from the rookie out of Texas. He'll need to continue to progress Sunday in New Orleans. The Saints have not been exactly the same team in first six weeks this season, but they still sit atop the NFC West tied with Atlanta at 4-2.

McCoy's success will depend on the weapons around him. He did not have wide receivers Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi for half of the game last Sunday because both suffered a concussion. McCoy leaned heavily on tight ends Evan Moore and Ben Watson. Watson leads the Browns with 29 receptions for 318 yards and two touchdowns. Regardless of the health of Cribbs and Massaquoi, the tight end could bode well for Cleveland.

In consecutive games Sept. 20 and Sept. 26, San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis had 78 yards receiving on four catches and Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez finished with 110 yards and a touchdown on eight catches.

Entering Sunday, the Saints secondary is banged up. Cornerback Jabari Greer (shoulder) is listed as questionable and coach Sean Payton has not said much regarding safety Darren Sharper (knee), who just came off the PUP lust. Meanwhile, cornerback Tracy Porter (knee) is expected to be out Sunday.

Unfortunately, the Browns will have to play defense. While they have improved the run defense — 120.2 yards per game is down from 144.6 last season — it is the pass defense that has been torched. Last Sunday was no different, and this Sunday the Browns face All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees. In six games, Brees is 163-for-231 for 1,673 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Yet, for all the talent that remains on the Saints' roster, New Orleans only beat Carolina by two points 16-14 on Oct. 3 and lost to Arizona 30-20 on Oct. 10.

The Saints may be the defending Super Bowl champions, but those losses can give the Browns and their fans hope. This is the third consecutive time the Browns have played the defending Super Bowl champions in the regular season. The last two seasons the Browns beat the New York Giants 35-14 in 2008 and they downed the Steelers 13-6 last December.

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