The Seattle Seahawks head east this Sunday to Cleveland Browns Stadium to take on the Browns in a scheduled 1:00 PM game. The Browns are the early football betting lines favorites by -3 points.
Seattle (2-3) had their bye week this past weekend, and are coming off of a huge 36-25 win two weeks ago over the New York Giants. Three players who were quite a bit "under the radar" were the stars of the Giant victory, QB Charlie Whitehurst, rookie WR Doug Baldwin and CB Brandon Browner. Whitehurst took over for starter Tavaris Jackson in the 3rd quarter, was 11 for 19 for 149 yards and a touchdown in his first extended game time with Seattle. Baldwin, an undrafted free agent from Stanford, has shocked everyone by becoming the Seahawk's top receiver with 20 catches, including 8 receptions for 136 yards against the Giants, including the clinching score, a 27-yard TD pass from Whitehurst with 2:37 remaining. Browner, technically an NFL rookie after spending four seasons in the Canadian Football League, drove the final nail in New York's coffin with a 94-yard interception return for a TD, having picked off Giants QB Eli Manning's last-ditch desperation heave into the end zone. RB Marshawn Lynch is also a key Seahawk, although he continues to struggle, as he has his entire NFL career, with consistency.
The Seattle defense is definitely a work in progress, with head coach Pete Carroll tinkering from week-to-week to find the best combination. The Seahawks are very young, and inexperience has cost the team dearly during the early part of the schedule. Carroll and the rest of the coaching staff hope that as the season progresses, the young players will start to understand what's needed from them and will become closer each week to becoming a formidable squad of defenders. S Kam Chancellor is a big, physical youngster who the staff has high hopes for, as is MLB David Hawthorne. Another respected weapon for Seattle is kick-returner Leon Washington, who is a threat to take it to the house with every touch.
Cleveland (2-3) visited Oakland this past Sunday, and perhaps it was their misfortune to face the Raiders in their first home game since the death of their founder and owner Al Davis nearly 2 weeks ago. Despite the loss of Oakland's QB Jason Campbell to a probable broken collarbone suffered late in the first half, Oakland prevailed 24-17.
QB Colt McCoy was continually harassed by the Raider defense, completing just 21 of 45 passes for 215 yards and 2 TDs. McCoy got very little offensive support, especially from the ground game, which was once again missing RB Peyton Hillis, with the rumors still persisting that he is upset about the team's refusal to restructure his contract. In Hillis' absence, rookie Montario Hardesty led the Browns with just 35 yards on 11 carries. Rookie WR Greg Little led the receiving corps with 6 catches for 72 yards.
The Browns defense knew going in that Oakland, the NFL's top-rushing team, would no doubt pound away at Cleveland's youthful run defense. That is exactly what happened, as Darren McFadden continued to prove he belongs among the league's elite runners, gaining 91 yards on 20 carries as the Raiders ran for 151 yards for the game. The Browns were also victimized by big plays versus Oakland, giving up a TD on a fake field goal, and failing to control Jacoby Ford on a 101-yard kickoff return. It goes without saying that the Cleveland coaching staff will have quite a bit to work on this week.
Seattle hopes the week off doesn't stymie the momentum they gained with the Giants victory. If Whitehurst is the QB, expect a renewed emphasis on the running game, which means Marshawn Lynch will need to bring his "A" game. For the Browns, other than the already-mentioned special teams issues, the Peyton Hillis situation needs some resolution, and the offensive line needs to find a way to give Colt McCoy at least a minimum of time to find his receivers and make his throws effectively.
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