Cleveland may be cure for Pack

The one thing the Packers and Browns have in common is the one thing that can help Green Bay ditch their offensive doldrums: a banged up defense.<p>

Both the Packers and Browns have lost big names on defense. Like the Pack, Cleveland boasted a solid ‘D' when this season began. Then their list of stars shifted from the depth chart to the injury report. With Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren on ice, the Browns face the same shortcomings the Packers face without Antuan Edwards, LeRoy Butler, John Thierry and Nate Wayne. (Thierry and Wayne are both listed as questionable for Sunday.)

But Green Bay has an anecdote to the defensive dilemma: an offense that – potentially - can post big numbers. Last week, our preview predicted a quiet afternoon for Green Bay running back Ahman Green. This week, we see a reversal of fortune. Against the Browns' banged-up defense, look for Green to get back on track and then some.

Green Bay wants to re-establish ball control after surrendering a 2:1 time-of-possession ratio to the Titans in last week's upset. That means they can't abandon the run, and won't have to vs. Cleveland. The Browns rank 21st in in the league vs. the run, allowing more than 120 yards per game.

The Browns look a little better vs. the pass. They have tallied 29 interceptions in 13 games in '01 after totaling just 20 interceptions (NFL-low 8 in '99, 12 in '00) in their previous 32 contests from 1999-00. Linebacker Jamir Miller provides a pass rushing threat, tallying 13 sacks this season. Cleveland ranks 16th vs. the pass, allowing about 195 yards per game through the air.

Meanwhile, the Packers' injury-depleted defense will have better matchups with Cleveland than they found vs. Air McNair in Tennessee. The Browns have been limited to fewer than 100 yards rushing in 11 straight games. Their average of 79 yards per game is near the bottom of the league, while their passing attack doesn't fare much better, ranked 27th and averaging 167 yards per game. Leading receiver Kevin Johnson is on pace for a 1,000-yard season, but has yet to score a touchdown.


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