WHERE: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida
SPREAD: Bucs by 7
WHERE THE BROWNS STAND: The Browns are 2-3 and in second place in the AFC North Division.
BROWNS HEAD COACH: Butch Davis
BROWNS OFFENSIVE COORINATOR: Bruce Arians
BROWNS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Foge Fazio
BROWNS SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: Jerry Rosburg
HOW THE BUCS RANK IN THE NFL (2002):
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 23rd RUSHING: 19th PASSING: 13th
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 2nd RUSHING: 3rd PASSING: 5th
HOW THE BROWNS RANK IN THE NFL (2002):
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 10th RUSHING: 23rd (T) PASSING: 5th
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 24th RUSHING: 30th PASSING: 14th
MATCHUP TO WATCH Browns QB Tim Couch vs. Tampa Bay's Secondary: There won't be any quarterback contreversy in Cleveland, or at least not for two weeks. Cleveland starting QB Tim Couch has been somewhat inconsistent this season. He has completed 64.8 percent of his passes and he's thrown four touchdowns, but he's thrown five interceptions. Couch suffered a concussion against Baltimore last Sunday night, which doesn't bode well for the Browns since backup QB Kelly Holcomb, who has played well in place of Couch when he's been injured this season, will be sidelined at least two weeks with a cracked bone in his leg. Cleveland fans cheered when Couch laid on the field injured on Sunday night, which caused Couch to fire back at the fans through the media. Needless to say, Cleveland's quarterback position is in a bit of dissaray.
With Cleveland's rushing attack struggling, they'll likely air the ball out often on Sunday. Tampa Bay's defense has recorded 11 interceptions in five games this season and if they can put pressure on Couch, who has been sacked eight times in three games, they'll likely force some turnovers. The Bucs might be playing without SS John Lynch (knee sprain), who's been a strong force in the team's secondary this season.
DID YOU KNOW…
…the Buccaneers have never beaten (0-5) the Browns in the regular season?
BUCS MUST PREPARE TO FACE BROWNS PASSING ATTACK:
Cleveland offensive coordinator Bruce Arians knows how to spread the ball out. The Browns have completed passes to 11 different receivers and wide receivers Dennis Northcutt and rookie Andre' Davis have each hauled in four touchdowns this season. Cleveland WR Kevin Johnson leads the team in receptions with 28 and WR Quincy Morgan is behind him with 21. That said, Tampa Bay cornerbacks Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly and Dwight Smith will likely see plenty of action as Cleveland features a lot of three-wide receiver sets. Don't be surprised if Bucs CB Corey Ivy occasionally takes the field as the Browns are known to run their offense out of a four-wide receiver set, too. Tampa Bay's linebackers must be active in the team's efforts to stop Cleveland's passing attack since it features tight end Mark Campbell quite often. Campbell has caught 10 passes and one touchdown this season. Cleveland's passing attack has averaged 269 yards per game, but Tampa Bay's passing defense has only allowed an average of 180 yards per game this season. One of these units will probably have to give on Sunday, but which one will it be?
WHICH WAY WILL THEY GO?:
Tampa Bay's rushing attack is not the only one in the league that has struggled thus far. Cleveland is averaging just 82 yards rushing per game this season. Browns rookie RB William Green is averaging just 2.2 yards per carry, but Cleveland has started to feature RB Jamel White more and he's averaged 5.0 yards per carry and rushed for 262 yards this season. White is a great cut-back runner, which means it will be critical for Tampa Bay's linebackers to wrap White up on the first try and anticipate those cutbacks. Look for Browns head coach Butch Davis and Arians to feature White on Sunday. Tampa Bay's defense is only allowing their opponents to rush for an average of 76.8 yards per carry. Although Cleveland has a pass-oriented offense, Tampa Bay's defense will likely concentrate on stopping the run so they can make the Browns one-dimensional. But it might be a difficult task of they're playing without S John Lynch (knee spain) and DT Anthony McFarland (foot sprain), who are both questionable for Sunday's contest.
Cleveland's defense has suffered several injuries since training camp, which is one of the reasons why the team has allowed 356 yards of offense per game this season. The Browns have had a hard time stopping the run. They're allowing teams to average 146 yards rushing per game. Cleveland's secondary is not much better. They've allowed teams to pass for an average of 210 yards per game and the unit as a whole is allowing teams to score an average of 23.4 points per game.
Tampa Bay's running game, which has only averaged 3.2 yards per carry, will have a chance to get going in the right direction on Sunday. Last Sunday night, Baltimore's offensive line opened up huge holes for RB Jamal Lewis to run through and Tampa Bay's offensive line will have to do the same for running backs Michael Pittman and Mike Alstott.
NOT MUCH OF A RUSH:
Defensive end Courtney Brown and defensive tackle Gerrard Warren were supposed to give the Browns a relentless pass rush, but neither former No. 1 draft pick has delivered a consistent one this season. The Browns have recorded just six sacks in five games, which should bode well for the Bucs' offensive line and QB Brad Johnson, who has been sacked nine times in five games.
Cleveland starting cornerback Anthony Henry will play in Raymond James Stadium for the first time since being drafted by the Browns in 2001 out of the University of South Florida in Tampa. Henry intercepted 10 passes as a rookie last season, but he has yet to record his first this season. Henry has, however, forced two fumbles. Henry will have his hands full on Sunday when he attempts to cover WR Keenan McCardell, who has hauled in 23 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns this season.
BUCS SOUND OFF:
Bucs QB Brad Johnson on Cleveland:
"They have been up and down. They have had a chance to win every ballgame they have been in. The biggest thing is that they have had some injuries. They give you some strong looks and a team that can give you that many looks, usually means they are a pretty sound team. We are going to have our hands full. The guys up front like to put pressure on the quarterback and we have to get our running game going and we need to tackle as much as possible. We have done a great job so far, but we need to eliminate mistakes. They are a team that puts a lot of pressure in a lot of different phases on you."
Bucs DT Warren Sapp on stopping Cleveland's offense:
"We are just going to do what we do. We're going to come out and play our defense, we are going to line up our 11 across, and play our 2, play our 1, play our man and rush them and shut down this running game. They have a real nice running back that hasn't been able to get going. We are just playing optimistic football right now. Whenever we get a chance to score points, we've taken advantage of it and it's going to bode well for us later in the year. We've done a good job right now and we want to keep it going."
Tampa Bay LB Derrick Brooks on Cleveland's offense:
It is what we do every week. This is the (10th) ranked offense in the NFL, they put up some numbers. As coach said, they are 3 to 4 plays away from being undefeated, so this is a very good football team we are going against. We realize that from a defensive standpoint, but it's the same preparation we've done all year long, stop the run and force them to throw the football. The plays are the same (no matter what quarterback). They are getting a lot of big plays out of their receiving corps, which we feel is the strength of their football team. Our job is to take them away and if they make a catch hit them. They are going to catch some balls, they are going to get some throws and when they do, make it physical."
Bucs QB Brad Johnson on Cleveland's defense giving up a lot of points:
"I think the biggest thing is the lack of communication at different times. They have some tremendous players over there, some guys that have been lost at different times, in different looks. You have to put that kind of pressure on them, but they have a lot of talent up front, the front four, and the (line)backers really run well, and in the secondary a lot of proven players who have played in the league a long time."
Cleveland may not have a healthy quarterback leading its offense against a very potent Tampa Bay defense on Sunday, which will bode well for the Pewter Pirates.
Tampa Bay's offense should be able to move the chains fluently and decorate the scoreboard with points on Sunday. Cleveland's defense has been plagued by injuries and teams have been exposing their weaknesses at linebacker and in the secondary. The Browns received some very bad news this week when they found out S Robert Griffith will not play Sunday.
The Bucs' running attack has struggled and if they can't get it going against the Browns' run defense, it might not ever happen this season. Don't be surprised if Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's offense comes out running the ball often on Sunday.
Tampa Bay's defensive line should be able to get to Couch. Cleveland's offensive line is average at best in pass protection. That unit has allowed 10 sacks this season and Tampa Bay's defense has recorded 17.
The Browns offense can be one of the best in the league because they're so good at spreading the ball around to different receivers. Cleveland rookie WR Andre' Davis is a guy that can cause some damage in one-on-one coverage, which is the type of matchup he gets when Kevin Johnson, Quincy Morgan and Dennis Northcutt are on the field with him. As long as Tampa Bay wins the turnover battle, establishes a respectable rushing attack and pressures Couch early and often, they should not have a problem putting Cleveland away at Ray-Jay.
FLYNN'S PICK Buccaneers 31 Browns 13
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