When and Where: Sunday December 5th, 2010 – 1:00 PM – Sun Life Stadium – Miami, FL
Overview: The Browns won the game last week despite all the negative feelings we have attached to that performance. I have to admit that it was much easier to talk about the game this week considering the ball bounced the Browns’ way. Eric Mangini was able to be a bit more lighthearted about the struggles and need for improvement. It is pretty hilarious that we would seriously entertain coaching “hotseat” conversations if that ball had bounced right instead of bouncing left off that upright. Because an opposing kicker misses a field goal the conversation is saved for another week. No matter, the Browns know they got away with one last week, and should be intent on responding this week.
The Dolphins are 6-5 so far this season in a pretty uneven year. The Dolphins have beaten all kinds of teams they should have beaten like Buffalo, Minnesota, and Cincinnati. Their most impressive win came in week six over Green Bay 23-20 in overtime. Other than that win, they have lost to all the decent teams on their schedule including the Jets, Pats, Steelers and Ravens. Most recently they took care of Oakland 33-17. You have to think they like their chances this week as five point favorites against the Browns.
Airing it Out: Former Michigan Wolverine Chad Henne will be under center for the Dolphins this week. He has had an uneven season too. He was working through a knee injury over the last couple weeks, but he was pretty impressive against Oakland a week ago. He threw for over 300 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He has a plethora of weapons to throw to this year.
The talented headcase Brandon Marshall appears to be ready to go this week after sitting out against Oakland. Even without him though the Dolphins were prolific in the pass game. Davone Bess caught six balls for 111 yards and Brian Hartline added four catches for 75 yards. On top of all those guys, Anthony Fasano is capable of some big games at tight end given opportunities.
The Browns were victimized in the thin secondary a week ago. They lost Larry Asante this week to Tampa, and then signed Tampa’s safety Sabby Piscitelli, whom the Bucs cut. I am always afraid to say this with the Browns, but here’s hoping Piscitelli can fill in in the nickel for guys like Ventrone. Chad Henne can be coaxed into some bad decisions and lots of interceptions. The Browns will want to encourage that this week too.
Running it Down: The Dolphins’ running attack is scary. I am not going to spend a lot of time on this. Last week Ricky Williams ran 20 times for 95 yards and Ronnie Brown ran 24 times for 85 yards. They can run traditionally and they can run out of the wildcat, which the Dolphins basically started in the NFL a couple years ago. The Browns will not only need to play their lanes, but they will have to tackle a lot better than they have the previous two weeks.
In the Trenches: The Browns’ offensive line hasn’t excelled in warm climates so far this year. This week could be another tough one. Joe Thomas will be matched up against Cameron Wake. The former Penn Stater has 10.5 sacks in his second season. Knowing how prone to interceptions and fumbles (and high ankle sprains) Jake Delhomme is, Thomas will have to keep him from getting blind-sided this week.
On the other side of the ball, Chad Henne needs to get hit. Last week against Oakland he was hit nine times and sacked three times. Henne can be rattled. Two of those sacks came by way of Raiders’ safeties. One was a gang tackle by the defensive tackles. Rob Ryan may look to ride his safety stunts and blitzes, but if he gets too crazy the Dolphins’ offensive line could make their running game impressive.
Special Teams: Josh Cribbs watch is on again this week. After pulling himself out of the previous game he was practicing a bit this week. He should be another week healthier, but it is hard to imagine at this stage of the season Cribbs is ever truly going to break out. The Dolphins have given up two kickoff return touchdowns this season, so there is a chance.
Prediction: I am now 6-5 picking the Browns games after being right in predicting a Browns victory over the Panthers. I said the Browns would win 23-17 and they ended up winning 24-23. The Browns are currently five point dogs to the Dolphins.
I think the Browns will definitely bounce back a bit this week. I think they will tackle and play defense a lot better. I think they will torture Chad Henne in the first half and the Dolphins will resort heavily on the running game in the second half. I think the Dolphins defense will keep Jake Delhomme bottled up for the most part. I think Delhomme will definitely throw another interception this week and all my friends on Twitter are going to be SCREAMING for Seneca Wallace.
In the end, the Browns will be unable to get much going on the ground today either against the Dolphins’ formidable linebacking corps. The Browns will score a late touchdown and be unable to get the onside kick. They will beat the spread and lose by four points, 24-20. As always, when I predict a Browns loss, I hope beyond all hope to be wrong.