Green Bay Packers (3-2) at Cleveland Browns (1-5)
Kickoff: noon Sunday.
TV: Fox (Ron Pitts, John Lynch)
Series: 17th regular-season meeting. Packers lead 9-7. This will be the first time the Packers have played in Cleveland Browns Stadium. The two former powers in the days before the AFL and NFL merged in 1970 have met twice in Green Bay in the expansion era, with each team winning once.
Keys to the game
Browns QB Derek Anderson is completing just 44.4 percent of his passes, but his strong arm forces opponents to respect the deep pass and he gets rid of the ball quicker than Brady Quinn (four fewer sacks in 34 more pass attempts). The ground game remains a concern at just 3.9 yards per carry as Cleveland must win time of possession. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has a 104.5 passer rating but has also taken 25 sacks as he tends to hold the ball too long behind a struggling line. RB Ryan Grant (3.8 yards per carry) also isn't doing enough to create shorter passing downs.
RB Ahman Green, signed by the Packers on Wednesday, needs 46 yards to pass Jim Taylor (8,207) as the franchise's all-time leading rusher. ... Browns NT Shaun Rogers leads the NFL with nine blocked field goals since 2004. ... The Packers rank 14th on offense (22nd rushing, T-12th passing) and 18th on defense (20th rushing, 17th passing). The Browns rank 31st on offense (18th rushing, 31st passing) and 32 on defense (30th rushing, 23rd passing).
Packers: Out — FB Korey Hall (calf); WR Jordy Nelson (knee); T Mark Tauscher (knee); DE Jarius Wynn (hamstring). Doubtful — T Chad Clifton (ankle); C/G Jason Spitz (back). Questionable — LB Brandon Chillar (neck). Probable — WR Greg Jennings (hip); FB Quinn Johnson (ankle); DL B.J. Raji (ankle); QB Aaron Rodgers (foot).
Browns: Out — None. Doubtful — K Phil Dawson (calf); TE Steve Heiden (knee). Questionable — DL Kenyon Coleman (groin); WR Joshua Cribbs (knee); OL Rex Hadnot (knee); TE Robert Royal (illness, hamstring, finger); DL Corey Williams (illness); DB Eric Wright (shoulder). Probable — QB Derek Anderson (ankle); LB Eric Barton (shoulder); LB David Bowens (knee); OL Alex Mack (illness); CB Anthony Madison (illness); DB Brandon McDonald (shoulder); S Brodney Pool (illness); NT Shaun Rogers (illness, foot); DL Robaire Smith (calf); WR Chansi Stuckey (illness); LB Jason Trusnik (illness); FB Lawrence Vickers (illness); LB Kamerion Wimbley (illness); OL Floyd Womack (ankle); P Dave Zastudil (knee).
All signs point to Green Bay not only picking up a road win but in runaway fashion in its tuneup for the huge rematch against Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings the following Sunday at Lambeau Field.
The Packers are getting the Cleveland Browns in dire straits — a 1-5 record, hit with key injuries and, this week, decimated further by a flu epidemic. Most of those players should play, but whether they will be at full strength is anyone's guess.
Although Mike McCarthy is antsy to get the running game on track once and for all this season — hence, veteran Ahman Green was brought back as a reinforcement — it would be tough to take a pass on giving Aaron Rodgers the green light to throw at will, as he did with much success against a similarly porous Detroit Lions pass defense in the last game. The Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger just torched the Browns for 417 yards through the air. The Cleveland defense is a mess, allowing 24 plays of at least 20 yards. As long as the offensive line can finally give Rodgers some protection after he's been dropped a league-high 25 times and early-season penalty issues are cleaned up, there's no reason the Packers can't dictate how many points they want to score.
They won't need much, since the Browns are averaging a measly 11.5 points and have gotten next to nothing out of first Brady Quinn and then Anderson at quarterback — they have a league-worst passer rating of 47.5. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers changed his tune from the first few games and went heavy on the blitz against the Lions. Since versatile receiver Joshua Cribbs is the only offensive weapon and will have to be accounted for as both a runner and a passer when he lines up in the Wildcat formation, Capers can crowd the box and unleash his array of zone blitzes.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.