Behind Enemy Lines: Matchups

Our Scout.com insiders break down Sunday's game by looking at the key matchups and offering their analysis of who will win. It all starts with Clay Matthews III returning to Cleveland and battling stud left tackle Joe Thomas.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: PACKERS DEFENSE VS. BROWNS OFFENSE

Packers ROLB Clay Matthews vs. Browns LT Joe Thomas: Matthews returns to Cleveland, the longtime haunt of his famous linebacker father by the same name, on a big-time roll early in his rookie season. After a big strip and touchdown return at the expense of the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson two games ago, Matthews capitalized on his first full-time start in the shutout of the Detroit Lions with two sacks and three stops of running back Kevin Smith behind the line of scrimmage. The Packers' first-round investment in Matthews seems to be paying off. He is a demon rushing off the edge, as veteran Lions left tackle Jeff Backus can attest. This matchup with the hulking Thomas is intriguing. It will be Matthews' speed against the 6-foot-6, 312-pound Thomas' brute strength. Thomas, a first-round pick in 2007 and arguably the best left tackle in the business, will have the incentive of playing against the team from his home state for the first time in the regular season.

Packers defense vs. Josh Cribbs and the Wildcat: The Wildcat offense has been all the rage around the NFL since the Miami Dolphins debuted it early last season against New England. The Packers, however, are one of the few teams who haven't seen a steady diet of it. They'll get that opportunity this week. The Browns haven't been able to run it or throw it this season, but Cribbs gave them a bit of a spark as the Wildcat quarterback against Pittsburgh last week. Asked if he was worried about Cribbs and the Wildcat, Packers corner Charles Woodson simply said, "No." The Packers' run defense has been steadily improving, but the Wildcat will test the discipline of a defense that has had problems staying disciplined over the last year and a half.

PACKERS OFFENSE VS. BROWNS DEFENSE

Packers RB Ryan Grant vs. Browns ILB Kaluka Maiava: The Browns could end up juggling their linebackers by moving David Bowens inside and starting Alex Hall outside to compensate for losing leading tackler D'Qwell Jackson to a season-ending shoulder injury. At some point, Maiava will play inside. Maiava, a teammate at USC of fellow rookie linebacker Clay Matthews III, weighs 229 pounds and has difficulty shedding the blocks of guards 100 pounds heavier. Grant got rolling in the fourth quarter last week against Detroit. Was that a positive sign or just the Packers taking advantage of a worn-down team that knew it had been beaten?

Packers OTs T.J. Lang and Allen Barbre vs. Browns OLBs David Bowens and Kamerion Wimbley: Lang, the Packers' fourth-round pick, makes his NFL starting debut at left tackle against 11-year veteran Bowens. Bowens, who had 3.5 sacks for the Packers way back in 2000, recorded his first sack of the last season last week against Pittsburgh. At 265 pounds, he succeeds on power and veteran guile. Lang won't get an easy snap, but this is certainly a winnable matchup. On the opposite side, Barbre battles the Browns' best pass rusher, Wimbley. Wimbley, with four sacks, has supreme athleticism, though he could be slowed by the flu that kept him out of last week's game and part of practice this week. Barbre, who has allowed a whopping 6.5 sacks, is extremely athletic for a tackle so this could be a good matchup for him.

GREEN BAY WINS IF ...

... it's not looking ahead to next week's game against Minnesota. Other than returning kicks and punting, the Browns have done almost nothing at a decent level of quality this season. The Packers jumped on the Lions last week. They need to do the same this week.

GREEN BAY LOSES IF ...

it plays sloppy. The Browns don't have enough firepower to score enough points to win this game. But if they force a couple turnovers and get some confidence, everything changes.

CLEVELAND WINS IF ...

Derek Anderson returns to his Pro Bowl form of 2007, his receivers actually catch the ball (the Browns lead the league in drops) and Jamal Lewis runs like he did against Buffalo (117 yards, 3.8 average).

CLEVELAND LOSES IF ...

it plays pass defense like it did against Pittsburgh last week. The Browns yielded 159 yards and one touchdown to Hines Ward, 104 yards to Santonio Holmes and 80 yards and a touchdown to tight end Heath Miller. The Packers' Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley are at least on par with that trio.

FINAL PREDICTION

Bill Huber: How on earth do the Packers lose to a team whose starting quarterback has completed 44.4 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and six interceptions? It's not like he has any weapons, what with the Browns having traded Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards and now relying on two rookies (Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie) as primary targets. Bring on the Vikings ... ready or not. Packers 31, Browns 10.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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