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Preview: Browns at Patriots

This is your old fashioned trap game. With a big MNF win over Cincinnati last week and a titanic showdown looming next Sunday at Dallas, the Patriots (4-0) still have some business to take care of this week against the surprising Browns (2-2).

With a tough early season schedule – Pittsburgh, Cinci, Oakland and Baltimore – most figured the undermanned Browns with no proven quarterback would be lucky to escape those weeks with a single win. After a shootout win over Cinci in Week 2 where defense was optional, the Browns dominated the Ravens last week with a 27-13 win.

The Browns have been led by QB Derek Anderson (964 yards, 9 TDs), who beat out Charlie Frye and now figures to be keeping the seat warm for rookie Brady Quinn.

The Patriots come in with an incredible run of form. Last week they became the first team since 1950 to win their first four games by at least 20 points. Tom Brady and Randy Moss have been the most potent and dangerous combination in the NFL this year so far and Sammy Morris (117 yards last week) has been a great compliment to starter Laurence Maroney.

One of the major plot lines will be the return of safety Rodney Harrison, who missed the first four games due to suspension. He has been activated to the roster yet it’s unclear how much he’ll play today. James Sanders has been a very capable fill-in but Harrison’s intensity and leadership can not be matched.

3 Keys to the Game:

  1. SCORE EARLY AND OFTEN: The Browns have been able to win because both the Bengals and Ravens kept the Browns in the game early. Whether it be the defensive struggles of Cincinnati or the inept Baltimore offense, the Browns have nothing to lose and the Pats must score early to take any thoughts of an upset out of the equation.
  2. GET HARRISON INVOLVED: No one is expecting Rodney to play 50 snaps today, but with the Cowboys looming next week, Rodney need to make his mistakes this week so when it’s all on the line against Dallas, the defensive backs will be at full strength.
  3. KEEP GETTING MOSS THE BALL: Randy Moss has been outstanding to say the least. No one expected him to be this productive this quick (505 yards, 7 TDs), especially after missing most of training camp with a hamstring injury. Brady must keep throwing the ball his way and the Patriots will be successful.

Prediction: The Browns are a good early season story but the Patriots are just too powerful. Playing in front of the Gillette crowd coming off four dominating wins, everything is falling into the Pats favor. Any sort of win will do for the Patriots, though with the Dallas game next week it would be troubling if the Pats could only squeak by the Browns. The Patriots may not be 41 point favorites, but a Cleveland win would nearly match Stanford’s shock win against USC last night.

Patriots 32, Browns 17

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