Time: Sunday, November 4, 4:15 PM.
Location: Cleveland Browns Stadium
Network, Announcers: Fox- Sam Rosen and Tim Ryan will be on the call as Cleveland makes its 2007 Fox debut.
Line: Cleveland by 3
Team W/L Records: Cleveland is 4-3; Seattle is 4-3
Coaches: Romeo Crennel is 14-25 in his third season with the Browns. Mike Holmgren is 76-59 with the Seahawks, 151-96 overall. He now has one more win with the Seahawks than he had at Green Bay, although his overall winning percentage is lower in Seattle.
Last Week for the Browns: Came back from a 14-0 deficit to beat the Rams 27-20. It was Cleveland's first road win of the season, and the first time since October of 2003 that the Browns had won two games in a row.
Last Week for the Seahawks: On the bye.
All-Time Series: Seattle leads 11-4, including a 2-0 record against the expansion-era Browns.
Last Meeting: November 30, 2003- The division title-bound Seahawks methodically and relentlessly took apart Butch Davis's ramshackle troops, 34-7, in front of a delighted throng at Qwest Field. Cleveland scored its only touchdown on a blocked punt return by Andre King.
Out or Questionable for Seattle: TE Marcus Pollard (knee) and T Ray Willis (knee) are out; WR Deion Branch (foot) is questionable
Out or Questionable for Cleveland: LB D'Qwell Jackson (ankle) is out; LB Kris Griffin (Achilles) is doubtful
What to watch for the Seahawks: Seattle became an NFC power under Mike Holmgren on the strength of an offensive line that graded the road for a dominant running game. Shaun Alexander averged 1,500 yards per season from 2001-05, and in '05 had one of history's beastliest running-back years: 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns, as Seattle reached its first Super Bowl.
The last two seasons have not been so kind. The defection to Minnesota of Steve Hutchinson and injuries to Alexander have taken their toll on the once-mighty Seattle ground attack. In 2005 the ‘Hawks were third in the NFL in rushing yards, second in yards per attempt, and first in rushing touchdowns. In '06 they dropped to fourteenth, seventeenth, and twenty-seventh, respectively, and they've been even worse in '07- twenty-fourth in rushing yards, twenty-seventh in YPA, and twenty-ninth in rushing touchdowns with a sickly two- a far cry from the bounty of seasons past.
It's hard to imagine Seattle winning on Sunday with a continued feeble output from the running game. Then again, the Browns have shown the ability to give up big chunks on the ground and win anyway.
What to watch for the Browns: The tests continue for this young team. First, it had to prove it could win within the AFC North. That test has been passed. Then, it had to sweep the back-to-back games over winless opponents to prove it was indubitably better than last year. That test has been passed. Now the latest test arrives.
A victory on Sunday would put the Browns over .500 at the midway point for the first time since 1994. It would also guarantee them a shot at a tie for the division lead at the least next week at Pittsburgh, no matter how it goes between the Yinzers and the Rats on Monday. Losing would drop them back to .500 with those roadies at Pittsburgh and Baltimore on the immediate horizon, and a season on the brink. For this team, this year, the line between 5-3 and 4-4 is not a thin one. The latter brings the sour whiff of mediocrity. The former brings the fresh air of real, honest-to-goodness contention.
More and more, the ultimate fate of this team rests on the shoulders of Derek Anderson (something I never thought I'd utter in deadly earnest), who took his game to a new level against the Dolphins and Rams. Yes, they're the Dolphins and Rams, but a legit quarterback is supposed to dominate those teams, and DA did exactly that. He kept his mistakes to a minimum, he showed no anxiety when the Browns fell behind 14-0 in St. Louis, he was nails on third downs, and as for the touchdown to K2, well, I'm not going to name any other quarterback, but there aren't many out there who could make a throw like that.
Right now, this team- barring injury- has no ceiling offensively, and the former Oregon State Beaver is the catalyst. If the DA of the last two weeks is what we're going to be seeing consistently down the stretch, I daresay this team has a chance to win double-figure games and make the playoffs. And at this point, Derek Anderson is a top-five MVP candidate in this league- with a bullet.
What a season it's been so far.
Good Past Win over the Seahawks: Christmas Eve Saturday, 1994- The Browns ran their final record to 11-5 and clinched a home-field playoff game with a 35-9 rout of the Seahawks in front of a modest-but-festive crowd of 54,180 at the Stadium. Ex-Buccaneer teammates Vinny Testaverde and Mark Carrier were the "men of the match" for the Orange & Brown- Vinny went 16-of-22 for 228 yards and two touchdowns, while Carrier scored a receiving and rushing touchdown to go with his 112 yards from scrimmage. Bill Belichick's defense forced three Seahawks turnovers; unfortunately, a late Stan Gelbaugh-to-James McKnight scoring pass thwarted its bid to give up fewer than 200 points for the season (the Browns ended 1994 with a league-best 204 points scored against.)
Bad Past Loss to the Seahawks: September 3, 1984- Seattle lost Curt Warner for the season with a knee injury early in the game, but held the Browns to 120 total yards, forced five turnovers, and rolled to a 33-0 shutout in the Kingdome. The blanking was the first for Cleveland since the 1977 season, and it would prove only the portent of a very long season by the Lake.
Next Week for Both Teams: Cleveland is at Pittsburgh; Seattle hosts San Francisco
Trivia: This one's for Derek Anderson's alma mater: Cleveland's last NFL Championship and Oregon State's last Rose Bowl appearance took place five days apart, on December 27, 1964, and January 1, 1965, respectively. The Beavers lost to Michigan, 34-7.