Browns-Falcons: It's Gameday!

The Browns and Falcons face off in Atlanta this afternoon, and the Browns brace for three hours of Michael Vick running around on field turf. The teams have put in together their plans of attack and are getting set. The time is nigh... Here's all the info to get you ready...

Cleveland Browns (2-6) at Atlanta Falcons (5-3)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET

GAMEDATE: 11/12/06

SURFACE: FieldTurf

TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon

GAME BLOG: Click Here

CHAT ROOM: Click here

GAME THREAD: Click here

SERIES: 12th meeting. The Browns lead the series 9-2. The Browns and Falcons have met only one time since 1993 in a game won by the Browns 24-16 in 2002.

2006 rankings: Browns: offense 29th (31st rush, 25th pass); defense 17th (29th rush, 6th pass). Falcons: offense 9th (1st rush, 30th pass); defense 22nd (12th rush, 31st pass)

PREDICTION: Falcons 27-23

KEYS TO THE GAME: It's no secret that the Falcons will attempt to pound away at the Browns, who are allowing 142.9 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. Cleveland was torched for 190 yards by the league's No. 2 rushing attack in San Diego last weekend and must do a better job of plugging the gaps against the Falcons' top-ranked running game averaging 205.1 yards per game. SS Sean Jones will have to help in run support, meaning FS Brian Russell will often be the last line of defense when QB Michael Vick attempts to burn the Browns over-playing the run. Offensively, the Browns are still seeking improved line play to help keep QB Charlie Frye upright. The Falcons have had coverage issues, but Frye can't exploit them unless given time, and he has to get rid of the ball before taking unnecessary sacks that kill drives.

FAST FACTS: Browns: Rookie LB Kamerion Wimbley leads the team with 4.5 sacks. ... Have won seven of the past eight meetings. Falcons: Are 8-2 against the AFC under coach Jim Mora. ... Rookie RB Jerious Norwood leads the NFL with 268 fourth-quarter rushing yards.

PERSONNEL NEWS

Browns:

--TE Kellen Winslow continues to be listed as questionable on the weekly injury report, but come game time Winslow shows up. He has 51 catches, the highest total in the league for a tight end.

--OT Ryan Tucker returned from a two-week absence caused by an undisclosed illness and immediately returned to the starting lineup. Tucker's presence should help the pass protection a bit, provided he's physically ready to play after missing two games.

--QB Charlie Frye may have the right opponent if he wants to rebound from a bad game in San Diego. Atlanta is ranked 31st in the league in pass defense.

--CB Leigh Bodden will not play against Atlanta due to a high ankle sprain. Bodden's absence will be felt, but the Browns have covered up absences in the secondary fairly well all season.

--CB Daven Holly should return after missing a game with an illness. Holly has filled in capably all season after being signed late in training camp.

Falcons:

--CB Jimmy Williams, who will start in place of Jason Webster (groin), tweaked his ankle during special teams drills and did not practice Thursday. Though listed as questionable, he is expected to play Sunday.

--CB DeAngelo Hall did not practice because of a sore hamstring. He is listed as questionable, and Hall said his hamstring is really bothering him. Though it seems likely that Hall will play, the injury will be worth monitoring Friday and Saturday.

--MLB Ed Hartwell's return seems unlikely Sunday. He has not practiced this week as he continues to rehabilitate his arthroscopically repaired knees, which became irritated after he tried to play in consecutive games after missing the season's first five games.

--LG Matt Lehr, suspended for four games for violating the NFL's steroid policy, will return to practice Monday. His starting left guard spot is not assured, as P.J. Alexander, signed as a "street" free agent, has played well. Lehr could be used as the swing guard who is able to backup both guard spots.

--TB Jerious Norwood (strained right knee) did not practice Thursday. This could result in starter Warrick Dunn carrying a heavy load. It also would affect Atlanta's special teams, since Norwood is one of the top kickoff coverage players and the second deep kickoff return man. Of the Falcons listed as questionable -- excluding MLB Ed Hartwell -- Norwood seems the most unlikely to play against Cleveland.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

Browns:

Charlie Frye has the second-highest interception total in the league. Only Ben Roethlisberger, with 14 interceptions, has thrown more to the other team than Frye, who has been picked off 12 times.

But the Browns are not giving up on Frye, perhaps because they know that half of Frye's interceptions were not all his fault.

Four bounced off the hands of Browns receivers and into the hands of the other team, and one was tipped at the line and into the air.

Another occurred because Frye was hit as he threw.

The Browns are not giving up on Frye as the team's quarterback.

"I'm still confident in Charlie and his abilities," coach Romeo Crennel said. "I think he will be a good quarterback for us and make us a winning team. I'm confident in that."

Intangibles remain the main reason for Crennel's feeling.

"He has good leadership ability, which you need," Crennel said. "He's got toughness and his teammates rally around him. You need that, too. He is adequate with his skills as a quarterback.

"All of those things can make him a winner."

Falcons:

For the second time in less than a week, the Falcons were stung by a major injury.

Starting right cornerback Jason Webster suffered a torn groin at practice Wednesday and is expected to miss at least a month. It was not disclosed whether surgery was recommended.

Rookie Jimmy Williams will start in Webster's place Sunday against Cleveland and for the foreseeable future.

Webster is the second of Atlanta's top five defensive backs to suffer a major injury this week, and the unit's lack of depth is suddenly a significant issue. Safety/nickel back Kevin Mathis fractured his neck in Sunday's 30-14 loss to Detroit and was placed on injured reserve.

Williams was to replace Mathis as the nickel back but now he has been thrust into the role he was being groomed to assume, although ideally not yet. Williams has seen very little action at cornerback, except in packages where offenses utilized two-end sets.

Allen Rossum, who returns punts and kickoffs, will be used at nickel back. The Falcons would rather not use Rossum in nickel packages because it could wear him down for special teams, but they have been forced into making this move, which could last through the regular season.

Recently signed safety Lance Schulters was expected to be slowly eased into the system, but he might be pressed now in case there is another injury to the secondary.


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