By Gregory Hunt
For the second week in a row, the New England Patriots will meet a team with serious quarterback issues when they face the Cleveland Browns Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. Three different players have started at quarterback for the Browns this season, while the Patriots have started only two different players at quarterback dating back to the beginning of the 2002 season.
The Browns enter Week 14 of the 2013 NFL season with a 4-8 record, which puts them in fourth place in the AFC North. The Browns have not experienced a winning season since 2007, when they finished 10-6, and the last time they qualified for the playoffs was 2002. Cleveland holds a 13-9 all-time record against New England, including a 20-13 win in their only playoff meeting on January 1, 1995 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Cleveland also won the most recent meeting, a 34-14 upset on November 7, 2010 at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was head coach of the Browns from 1991-1995. As the Browns head coach, Belichick was 4-1 against the Patriots including that playoff victory.
Browns on Offense
It is currently unknown who will start at quarterback against the Patriots on Sunday. Former Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer is on injured reserve with a knee injury, while both Jason Campbell and Week One starter Brandon Weeden are listed as questionable with concussions. Hoyer is the one that has experienced the most success, winning his first two starts before tearing an ACL in Week Five against the Buffalo Bills. Weeden started last week in a 32-28 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars but did not experience any concussion symptoms until after the game.
Whoever gets the nod at quarterback will have the responsibility of getting the ball to wide receiver Josh Gordon, who is having an impressive year with 1,249 yards receiving on 64 catches. Tight end Jordan Cameron has 63 catches, but only for 704 yards.
On the ground, the Browns are averaging a mere 82.3 yards per game, which puts them 28th in the league in rushing. Cleveland’s leading running back Willis McGahee is averaging only 2.8 yards per carry.
Browns on Defense
What success the Browns have experienced this season is due to their defense, which is currently ranked fourth in the NFL in total defense. But while this unit doesn’t give up very many yards, they also don’t force very many turnovers – only five fumbles and nine interceptions. The team’s turnover ratio is -9, tied for 27th in the league with the Minnesota Vikings.
Cornerback Joe Haden is responsible for four of the team’s nine interceptions, and after last week’s loss to the Jaguars the emotional young star voiced his frustration to the media, saying, “I go out there and put my … heart out there every time. Every time and we end up coming up short.” The Browns don’t have a dominant pass rusher, as no player on the defense has more than the four sacks achieved by linebacker Barkevious Mingo.
There doesn’t appear to be any way the Browns can beat the Patriots on Sunday, but it also looked that way in 2010, when a Browns team that would finish 5-11 somehow got a 20-point victory in Cleveland over a Patriots team that would finish 14-2. The main difference is that Sunday’s game will be at Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots are extremely difficult to beat in Foxboro. New England is currently undefeated at home this season, so expect the Patriots to win this one easily.
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Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He’s also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women’s college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.