Browns-Cardinals Preview

It's off to Arizona as the Browns face the Cardinals. A game against a foe other than one from the AFC North division is a welcomed sight. In addition, Seneca Wallace gets the start at quarterback in place of an injured Colt McCoy.

Wow, 10 days sure is a long time between games, eh? As we await for Sunday's 4 p.m. game at the Arizona Cardinals, the Cleveland Browns have been in the national news for its handling of Colt McCoy's concussion and, locally, the natives were getting restless with team president Mike Holmgren, head coach Pat Shurmur and the guarantee of another losing professional football season in Cleveland.

‘Tis the season of Brownstown in December - the most upsetting, frustrating, mind-boggling time of the year!

Mercifully, three games remain on the Browns' 2011 schedule and Sunday's game is the last one against an opponent outside the AFC North.

A win Sunday would give Cleveland a .500 record against non-AFC North opponents. The Browns have fared well outside their own division dating back to 2001. From 2001-09, the Browns non-conference record was 38-52 (42 percent were wins) while their conference record during that span was 16-38 (29 percent were wins).

There is a similar theme this season. The Browns are 0-4 against the AFC North while they are 4-5 in non-conference games.

Hey, NFL, any chance for a realignment in the near future? NFC West looks good. Hello…?

Anyway, Sunday's opponent, Arizona, has pulled it together in recent weeks. After starting 1-6, the Cardinals have won five of six and three consecutive including back-to-back wins over Dallas (19-13 on Dec. 4) and San Francisco (21-19 on Dec. 11).

In addition, Arizona has done it with two quarterbacks. The Cardinals traded for Kevin Kolb in the shortened offseason, but the marriage did not have instant chemistry. Then, Kolb began suffering injuries and in came John Skelton.

This season, Kolb is 3-6 as a starter with 1,955 yards passing with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. Skelton is 3-1 with 1,032 yards passing with seven touchdowns and nine interceptions.

"I think the quarterback's style wise are different, but I think they can be equally effective," Shurmur said at Thursday's press conference. "I know Kevin (Kolb) very well. Kevin was trained in our system, going through his progressions and getting the ball out on time and all that. I see the same thing from (John) Skelton, but I do see a taller guy that kind of pushes up in the pocket. He may disagree with me, but it looks like his eyes look for Larry Fitzgerald, which is a good strategy."

The Cardinals' quarterback rotation may have lessened wide receiver Fitzgerald's catches this season, but his output has remained high. He has 62 catches for 1,092 yards with seven touchdowns and currently enjoys a career-best 17.6 yards per catch average.

Last week, Steelers wide receivers Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace torched the Browns' secondary and, most notably, cornerbacks Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown. Fitzgerald is a rare combination of size and speed and he will be a must-stop for the Browns' defense, regardless of who is throwing him balls.

Throwing passes for the Browns will be, most likely, Seneca Wallace. Colt McCoy has been dealing with post-concussions symptoms all week.

"My peers know that I am capable of leading a team and doing the things well to be a starter," Wallace said on Thursday.

Wallace spent 2005-09 in Seattle under Holmgren's offensive system. In 2010, Wallace came to Cleveland where he started four games and played in eight total. He finished last season completing 63.4 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and two interceptions.

In 2011 under the direction of McCoy, the Browns' offense has been stagnant most of the season, as they currently rank 30th in the NFL in points scored (13.7 per game).

Cleveland is currently tied with Carolina, Miami, Tampa Bay and Washington for the third-worst record in the NFL at 4-9 ahead of Indianapolis at 0-13 and St. Louis and Minnesota at 2-11.

The Browns' final two games are against Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The Browns will be underdogs in the final three weeks including this week in Glendale, Ariz., but maybe a change at the quarterback position is just the spark the offense needs?

Then again, there are always the "lose for draft position" supporters that pop up around this time of the year.

Yup, once again, ‘tis the season here in Brownstown.


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