KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
SERIES: 17th meeting. The Browns lead 10-6. The clubs have played just once since 1993, the Browns winning 13-12 in San Francisco in 2003.
PREDICTION: Browns 23-20
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Browns have ratcheted up their pass rush the second half of the season, but 49ers QB Shaun Hill has shown in his 10 quarters of work that he has a quick release. Look for Hill to take short drops and get the ball out of his hands, with the 49ers using the passing game to complement RB Frank Gore in sustaining drives. ... With only a remote chance of Sunday's game affecting the playoff race, Browns coach Romeo Crennel is more concerned about reestablishing momentum should his team reach the postseason with a Tennessee loss. He said he might limit snaps for a few players, but the Browns want to get QB Derek Anderson back on track after a four-INT effort in the loss to the Bengals.
KEY INJURIES: 49ers: Hill (back spasms/bruised ribs) is trying to recover and would be replaced by Chris Weinke if he can't go; QB Trent Dilfer (concussion) is out; WR Arnaz Battle (ankle) is limited, but will play. Browns: DT Ethan Kelly (knee) was placed on Injured Reserve.
FAST FACTS: Gore is the fifth 49er with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. ... Browns WR Braylon Edwards has set the franchise single-season record with 15 TD catches. Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow are the first Browns tandem with 1,000 receiving yards apiece.
--QB Shaun Hill is questionable for Sunday's game due to back spasms. Hill also has bruised ribs on his right side and a broken and dislocated index finger on his throwing hand. He might be a game-time decision for the 49ers.
--QB Chris Weinke is in position for his first start with the 49ers. He started 19 games during his six seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Weinke has served as the backup to Shaun Hill for the past two weeks. With Hill questionable for Sunday's game against the Browns, Weinke has a chance to play.
--WR Arnaz Battle went through limited practice Thursday and is expected to start and play Sunday against the Buccaneers. Battle has been bothered by a right ankle sprain for the past month. Last week, he did not catch any passes for the first time in two seasons.
--RB Frank Gore went through limited practice Thursday but is expected to start against the Buccaneers. Gore has played well in the second half of the season. Gore is tied for eighth in the NFL with 1,423 total yards from scrimmage. He has 1,008 rushing yards and 415 yards receiving.
--QB Trent Dilfer is out for Sunday's game. He sustained a concussion Dec. 9 against the Vikings. That injury proved to be a season-ender. Dilfer said he intends to play next season, as long as he receives medical clearance.
--DE Orpheus Roye missed practice with a foot injury for the second day Thursday.
--DE Robaire Smith missed a second straight practice with a neck injury.
--LB Antwan Peek missed practice for the second straight day with an ankle injury.
--QB Derek Anderson was named the Browns Player of the Year by the Cleveland chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America.
--K Phil Dawson was named winner of the Dino Lucarelli 'Good Guy Award' by the Cleveland chapter of the PFWA.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill is not going to come out of the starting lineup easily.
Hill took several big hits in the 49ers' victory last week over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is listed as questionable for this week's game against the Cleveland Browns.
Hill did not practice on Wednesday and Thursday due to back spasms he is experiencing after taking a hit from Buccaneers defensive back Brian Kelly on Sunday.
Niners coach Mike Nolan said he will leave the door open for Hill to play in Sunday's game against the Browns. He said he might even wait until pregame warm-ups to determine Hill's availability for the game.
Veteran Chris Weinke would start if Hill is unable to play. The 49ers might also promote Drew Olson from the practice squad for Sunday's game.
Hill, in his sixth NFL season, said he will make every effort to play against the Browns. He has made the past two starts for the 49ers, leading the team to a 2-0 record.
Hill covets every chance to get on the field. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency after this season. Nolan has stated he will have a chance to compete for the 49ers' starting job next season.
"As long as I waited to play, I want to take advantage of every opportunity to play," Hill said. "I feel like we've clicked at times and done some good things. And I'd like for that to continue and keep it rolling."
Hill will not require much practice time this week to be ready to play. He had not practiced for three weeks before he was pressed into action Dec. 9 against the Vikings after Trent Dilfer sustained his season-ending concussion.
Win or lose against the 49ers in a home game Sunday, the Browns will leave the locker room Sunday not knowing whether their season has ended or whether it will extend at least another week. They will have to wait more than seven hours for an answer. For the Browns to make the playoffs, the Colts have to knock out the Tennessee Titans in the Sunday night game in Indianapolis. The game does not start until 8:15 p.m. The Browns' season will be over if the Titans win.
"It will be a little strange not knowing what we're going to do Monday," right tackle Kevin Shaffer said. "I think it's good our game is first. We can put all our focus into this game. Then, once the game's over, after we win, then we get to find out.
"You don't want it to be at the same time because we'd all be looking at the scoreboard. Having it separated is a good thing."
Shaffer said he normally doesn't watch the Sunday night game, but he will make an exception with so much on the line. He said he might hook up with some teammates and watch the game together.
Tight End Kellen Winslow Jr. says he always watches the Sunday night game after wrapping his aching knees in ice. This one will have special interest.
One player who has not decided what he will be doing Sunday night is quarterback Derek Anderson. He plans to spend the evening relaxing on the couch with his wife, but if the television is on it might not be tuned to football. He figures he'll find out the result of the Colts-Titans game soon enough.
"I might just sit on the couch with my wife and enjoy the rest of the night," Anderson said. "There's nothing we can do about that situation. We can handle the things we have ahead of us, and that's San Francisco and let the rest of it fall where it may."
Coach Romeo Crennel won't be locked into the Colts-Titans, either. He said he reserves Sunday after a home game for 'entertaining' his wife, Rosemary. He plans to do the same this Sunday.
"Usually, I try to entertain my wife because she needs entertaining," Crennel said. "She tells me all week that I'm gone. It's a chance for her to spend some time with me. We might go out to dinner or something but she gets that time Sunday after the game."
When practice resumed for the 49ers on Wednesday some players had a 'hangover' from losing 19-14 in Cincinnati, wide receiver Braylon Edwards said. That has finally passed. Crennel says morale is high, even though the Browns no longer control their playoff fortunes.
"The biggest thing that we can do is win this game on Sunday," Crennel said. "That would give us some momentum going into the playoffs and you'd be on an upswing."
The Browns still have things to play for against the 49ers. They are 9-6. Winning would give them their highest victory total since winning 11 games in 1994. Winning would make them 7-1 at home. The Browns have never won seven regular season games at home in their history.