Most years, a matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns would be a bottom-of-the-barrel game, hardly worthy of anyone’s eyes, save for sadistic Browns fans and Packers fans who simply enjoy their team’s pummeling of a lesser opponent.
In 2013, though, this presents a potentially intriguing game between the young, upstart Browns and a Packers team reeling from injuries but still trying to maintain its stature as an elite team in the NFL.
This might have really been a marquee game had Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer not torn his ACL earlier this season. With Brandon Weeden under center, there’s no telling what kind of performance the offense will have; it could run as a well-oiled machine or implode in some spectacular fashion.
The Packers give up 371.8 yards per game, so they can be picked apart. The question is whether or not Weeden will be able to do so. He has weapons at his disposal, most notably wide receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron, but he’s far too inconsistent to truly trust each and every week.
The Packers’ defense only has two interceptions on the season, but gives up just 78.2 rushing yards per game, good for third in the NFL. It does, however, surrender 293.6 passing yards per game, putting plenty of pressure on Weeden’s shoulders.
The Browns can’t abandon the running game, which got them into trouble last week against the Detroit Lions. It’ll be enticing to throw all the time, but Willis McGahee has been effective for Cleveland and the team should lean on the veteran in a tough road game.
The Browns could actually pull off the upset by utilizing its formidable defense, which ranks seventh in the NFL, giving up only 312.5 yards per game (and only 98.2 rushing yards per game).
Even with a strong run defense, Eddie Lacy is finding his rookie groove, which means Cleveland really has to respect Green Bay’s rushing attack. At the same time, it’s vital for the Browns to disrupt quarterback Aaron Rodgers with plenty of looks (a signature component of Ray Horton’s defense) and pressure (something the Browns have done with effectiveness this season, as they have 19 sacks, good for sixth in the NFL).
The Packers will also possibly have to adjust to losing two wide receivers, James Jones (potentially out with a knee injury) and Randall Cobb (out multiple weeks with a knee injury of his own). Jordy Nelson is a force on the field, and he and Rodgers have a great connection going this season, but he’ll have his hands full with Browns cornerback Joe Haden.
Even with their own issues, this is a game the Packers should win. Despite being 3-3, the Browns are a young team now navigating its season with a much-maligned backup quarterback.
Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Packers won’t take the Browns lightly, though, especially as a win puts them at 4-2. Barring a perfect game on both sides of the ball from the Browns, it’s hard to see the Packers falling at home with a lot on the line.
The Packers are double-digit favorites at home (-10).
The Packers are dealing with injuries on both sides of the ball (linebacker Clay Matthews is still out after undergoing thumb surgery), but Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers and can pick apart any defense, which means Green Bay will no doubt put up points. It’s hard to see Brandon Weeden leading the Browns in a potential shootout at Lambeau Field, giving the Packers a strong edge.
This one goes to Green Bay, 24-13.