Seattle Seahawks (2-3) vs. Cleveland Browns (2-3)
When: 10:05 a.m. PT
Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium; Cleveland, OH
TV: FOX Channel 13 (Commentators: Ron Pitts and Jim Mora, Jr.)
Radio: 710 ESPN Seattle; 97.3 KIRO FM (Commentators: Steve Raible and Warren Moon)
The Seahawks head back to the East Coast after the bye week, hoping to get back to .500 against the struggling Cleveland Browns. All signs point to quarterback Charlie Whitehurst getting the start, as Tarvaris Jackson is still nursing a pectoral strain. With the 49ers surging ahead in the NFC West, a win here seems necessary if Seattle wants to keep within striking distance.
The bye week was a welcome sight to the Seahawks, as many players had a chance to recoup from some nagging injuries. But nonetheless, Seattle will still have to deal with injury problems in this contest. Aside from Jackson, tight end Zach Miller is out with a lingering neck injury from a big hit he suffered in the Giants game, and center Max Unger is questionable with an ankle sprain. If Unger is out, little known Lemuel Jeanpierre would get the start is his absence. There is one good bit of injury news though, as offensive guard Robert Gallery is expected back after sitting out the past few weeks with a groin injury.
In the Giants game, Seattle utilized both the passing and running game successfully, and that proved to be one of the deciding factors in the game. With Whitehurst at the helm this week, the Seahawks need to continue this pattern. Cleveland has struggled against the run all season, and this should allow the young Seahawks offensive line to create some holes for Marshawn Lynch to run through.
Seattle also needs to continue its fast paced tempo on offense. Their youth and athleticism on offense needs to be a factor, and by using the no-huddle offense, the Seahawks can wear down the Browns defense.
The Browns will likely be without their top offensive threat, Peyton Hillis, in this game. Hillis has not practiced all week, and in his absence, Montario Hardesty will get the start at running back. With the combination of a stout Seahawks run defense and a backup running back for Cleveland, this will cause the Browns to become a one-dimensional team through the air.
With cornerback Marcus Trufant now out for the year, Walter Thurmond will be inserted into the starting lineup, and he’ll need to play well here. Browns quarterback Colt McCoy has thrown the ball over 100 times in the past two games, so the Seahawks secondary will need to be on alert all game.
Special teams will be a factor for both teams in this game. Two of the best returners in the game, Leon Washington and Joshua Cribbs, will look to give their teams a boost in this game. For the Seahawks, Steven Hauschka and Jon Ryan need to avoid kicking it to Cribbs. If Seattle can contain the return game for Cleveland, then their chances improve immensely.
After all of this however, this game is in the hands of Charlie Whitehurst. He was able to lead the team on a game winning drive against the Giants, and for Seattle to win again this week, he will need to continue his exceptional play. Aside from Zach Miller, Whitehurst will have all of his weapons to throw to on offense, and if he can avoid turning the ball over, Seattle will be able to move the ball against an average Browns defense. The Seahawks have the athleticism and the talent to outscore Cleveland, it will just come down to execution.
Seattle is looking to win two consecutive road games for the first time since 2007. With the Browns struggling, and with Peyton Hillis doubtful for this contest, the Seahawks couldn’t be playing Cleveland at a better time. This is a game Seattle must win to keep pace with San Francisco in the NFC West. In the end, the Seahawks have more offensive firepower than the Browns, and it is hard to see the Cleveland offense putting up enough points to match Seattle.