Week 8: San Diego Chargers At Cleveland Browns
- QuarterbackThere’s little doubt that Philip Rivers is one of the more talented quarterbacks in the NFL. He has the instincts and knowledge to read the defense and put his passes on the money. However, he seems to feel the pressure when the Chargers faceadversity. After building a huge halftime lead in Week Six against Denver, the Chargers let that lead slip away. Some of that has to fall on Rivers’shoulders.The Browns knew they were going to struggle with a rookie quarterback this season and a rather pedestrian cast of characters on the offensive side of the ball. However, Brandon Weeden has gotten better each week and the Browns have shown they are not about to give up. When he gets time, Weeden has a strong deep arm and throws the ball fairly accurately.
- OffenseThe Chargers are loaded with big-play talent at the receiver position. Malcolm Floyd and Robert Meachem can go downfield and make plays as well as make the tough catches on third down. Tight end Antonio Gates is still an important weapon. Jackie Battle and Ryan Matthews are not star runners but they are both averaging better than 4.6 yards per carry.The Browns have one offensive player with big-time talent in rookie running back Trent Richardson. However, Richardson tarried to play against the Colts with a rib injury and was not able to contribute in the second half. Backup Montario Hardesty pales in comparison. Wide receiver Josh Gordon dropped potential game-winning TD pass in the fourth quarter against Indianapolis.
- DefenseThe Chargers know they can’t collapse the way they did against Denver in Week Six if they are going to make run at the AFC West crown. Shaun Phillips has 4.5sacks and is the team’s best pass rusher, while defensive back Quentin Jammer is a difference maker who has two interceptions this year, including one he returned 80 yards for a touchdown.The Browns are quite competitive on the defensive end and can be quite hard-hitting. They limited rookie sensation Andrew Luck to 186 passing yards and put quite a bit of pressure on him throughout the game. Nasty cornerback Sheldon Brown had 10 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble against the Colts and sets the tone. Fellow cornerback Buster Skrine added seven tackles.
- Special TeamsThe Chargers are in decent shape at the placekicker position despite the right groin injury of Nate Kaeding. He could be back for this game against the Browns, but if he is not Nick Novak is competent. Novak has made 5-of-6 FG attempts in Kaeding’s absence. The Chargers’ return game has been unimpressive to this point in the season.The Browns are hoping to keep this game close into the late going of the fourthquarter and then unleash return specialist Josh Cribbs to punish the Chargers. He remains a dangerous threat. Phil Dawson is a solid kicker, but the Browns could not convert an extra point attempt against the Colts when holder Reggie Hodges fumbled the snap.
The Browns really don’t compare with the Chargers – or too many other teams – in terms of talent at the skill positions. However, the Browns are playing hard each week and they will sense an opportunity to exploit the Chargers. San Diego is coming off back-to-back defeats and Norv Turner has problems getting histeam out of a funk when it hits. This is a legitimate upset possibility.