Browns-Seahawks Preview

An average but beatable Seattle squad comes to town, as the Browns need a win in the worst way.

I'm beginning to think a week between games is too long.

With so much time to waste, the hours are filled talking about Peyton Hillis' strep throat, whether or not he is in the dog house, injured or on the trading block, Josh Cribbs' quips about his role on offense, and what exactly did team president Mike Holmgren mean in his interview with a Seattle radio station when he said, "I'd like to see improvement here and lay the foundation here so that they can feel good about the team again before I make any changes."

Ugh. There is only so much discussion to be had on those topics before it quickly turns into Wild Speculation City. Not coincidentally, Wild Speculation City is the birthplace of all conspiracy theories.

It has become exhausting and, frankly, I'm becoming numb to the noise surrounding the Cleveland Browns football team.

I just want to talk — and watch — football.

On Sunday, the Browns play host to the Seattle Seahawks. Time to talk football. So, what do we know about the Seahawks?

For one, the Seahawks aren't 100 percent sure who will play quarterback Sunday. Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst? Neither name sounds imposing, but, then again, neither did Kyle Boller, and the Browns still lost that game. Jackson has a strained pectoral muscle he suffered Oct. 9 against the New York Giants and was listed as doubtful in Friday's injury report. Whitehurst relieved Jackson in the third quarter of that Giants game and led the Seahawks to a 36-25 victory.

"We feel our basic plan will be the same regardless of who is playing quarterback," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "They've both found a way to be efficient in their style and within their system and they've both actually executed very well since they've gone to some of that no huddle. It won't be a considerable difference."

"Tarvaris Jackson is obviously more of a threat as a runner, but I think Whitehurst does a good job of if it's not there being able to push up in the pocket and get yards. We're going to need to really attack their scheme, defend their scheme and I wouldn't say it's so much of a huge difference."

Seattle is coming off its bye week. In the Seahawks' last three games, they have put forth strong efforts, winning two of three. In weeks one and two, Seattle was outscored 57-17 in losses to San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers, but the Seahawks and their offense have since rallied to beat the Arizona Cardinals 13-10 and the New York Giants 36-25 with a 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons sandwiched in between.

Offensively, Seattle's offense is ranked 30th overall in total yards per game (288.0), 29th in rushing yards per game (83.0) and 26th in pass yards per game (205.0). Numbers aside, Seattle has found offensive success with the no huddle and Jackson, if and when healthy, has put up solid numbers. In five games, he is 99-for-157 passing (63.1 percent complete) for 1,012 yards with six touchdowns, but five interceptions. In all, Seattle has nine turnovers (five interceptions, four fumbles).

Forcing turnovers goes a long way to winning games and the Browns forced two apiece in wins over Miami and Indianapolis. In their three losses, the Browns have forced two turnovers total.

Last Sunday, the Browns defense did their part, holding the Raiders to 10 points, but the only problem was special teams allowed 14 in the 24-17 loss. The Browns rank seventh overall in the NFL in defensive yards allowed per game (321.8), fourth overall in passing yards allowed (192.0), but are 27th in rushing yards allowed (129.8). Last week, the Browns kept the NFL's leading rusher, Darren McFadden, to less than 100 yards. Seattle's Marshawn Lynch is coming off his best performance after he rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries against the Giants. Before then, Lynch's games have been underwhelming and included rushing totals of 33 yards, 11, 73 and 24.

"They're a talented team and the last six quarters of football that they've played in their no huddle offense, has been really, really been productive," Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said. "(Marshawn Lynch) has been obviously a part of that."

Aside from a few breakdowns against Tennessee, the Browns defense has been productive. It's the offense that has been concerning.

Hillis did not practice all week because of a bad hamstring and his chances of playing Sunday are "doubtful" according to the injury report. What is crystal clear is the lack of progression by Colt McCoy. McCoy is completing 55.8 percent of his passes and each completion is an average of 9.9 yards. As a result, the passing game is struggling. So, too, is the Browns' running game, which is ranked 30th in the NFL averaging 81.6 yards per game. Hillis may be out, but the Browns new backfield tandem of Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya needs to be established. In four of Seattle's five games, the Seahawks allowed more than 85 yards rushing four times and opponents scored at least 24 points four times. The Seahawks defense is nowhere near the NFL's best. This is an opportunity for the Browns struggling offense to find some confidence.

"I think our focus is just on our team, starting a little faster, just figuring some things out and just executing what's called," McCoy said. "It's frustrating at times, but we've got to collectively come together and figure it all out. I think this week it's kind of all of us."


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