Time: Sunday, October 20, 4:15 PM
Location: FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland
Network, Announcers: CBS- Ian Eagle and Solomon Wilcots
Line: Redskins by 7
Team W/L Records: Cleveland is 2-3; the Redskins are 4-2
Coaches: Romeo Crennel is 22-31 in his fourth season with the Browns; Jim Zorn is 4-2 in his first season with the Redskins.
Last Week for the Browns: Became only the fourth team since 1963 to go an entire game without a turnover, sack, or punt in a 35-14 Monday Night whipping of the previously undefeated Giants.
Last Week for the Redskins: Followed up back-to-back road wins over the Cowboys and Eagles with a home stinkeroo, losing 19-17 to the previously winless Rams.
All-Time Series: Browns lead 33-9-1
Last Meeting: October 3, 2004- Cleveland defeated the Redskins 17-13 at CBS.
Out or Questionable for Washington: RB Ladell Betts (knee) is out; CB Shawn Springs (calf) is doubtful; DE Jason Taylor (calf), S Chris Horton (ankle), RB Clinton Portis (hip), and CB Fred Smoot (groin) are questionable.
Out or Questionable for Cleveland: DT Shaun Smith (hand) is out; S Mike Adams (hamstring), T Ryan Tucker (knee), and TE Kellen Winslow (illness) are questionable.
What to watch for the Redskins: Washington is third in the NFL in rushing yards per game, tied for fifth in yards per carry, and boasts the league's leading rusher in Clinton Portis. Conversely, the Redskins are 17th in the league in both passing yards per game and yards per attempt. Last Monday the Giants gashed Cleveland's defense for 181 rushing yards, but never committed fully to the ground game, perhaps out of misplaced confidence in Eli Manning's ability to torch the Browns secondary as he had in the preseason. The conventional wisdom is that Jim Zorn will learn from New York's mistake and bludgeon the Browns early and often with Portis and the running attack. After all, the Redskins are third in the league in rushing attempts per game.
Problem is, Washington's run game isn't healthy. Clinton Portis's status for Sunday's game is questionable, and Ladell Betts, his reliable backup, is on the shelf with a knee injury. The Redskins had to sign Shaun Alexander off the scrap heap just to ensure they'd have enough healthy running backs for Sunday. And despite its mediocre ranking, Washington's passing game has been one of the most efficient in the league. The Redskins have completed 64.6% of their passing attempts, eighth in the NFL, and they're the only team in the league to have not thrown an interception. They're also 19th in pass attempts per game. To this point, Jason Campbell hasn't been asked to carry the Washington offense; just to provide a mistake-free counterpoint to Portis and the run game, which he has done with considerable success.
That happy arrangement will or won't be maintained depending on Portis's health for Sunday. If Clinton is ready to go, he'll be the bellwether. If not, Jason Campbell will be called upon to carry the load.
What to watch for the Browns: Washington's punting game has been downright horrendous so far this season. The Skins' 39.6 average and 32.1 net averages are both the worst in the NFL, and they've already given up two punt returns for touchdowns, second-most in the league behind Minnesota. Early this week, Washington released its regular punter Durant Brooks, a rookie sixth-rounder drafted to replace our old friend Derrick Frost, and signed journeyman Ryan Plackemeier. Safe to say the woes of the Washington punting game would be a source of anguish for the late George Allen, longtime Redskins boss and the first NFL head coach to employ a full-time special-teams coordinator.
At the same time, Josh Cribbs, coming off one of the greatest-ever seasons by a return man, has struggled. Hampered by injuries and a sharpened focus by opponents on shutting him down, Cribbs has averaged 8.1 yards per punt return, with a long of just twelve yards. You've got to figure he'll eventually break loose, and this looks like the game to do it. A decent performance by Cleveland's defense could lead to big dividends in field position- and a breakout game for Cribbs.
Good Past Win over the Redskins: November 27, 1988- Earnest Byner took a handoff on a trap play and barreled 27 yards right up the middle for the winning touchdown with 1:49 left in to give the Browns a dramatic, come-from-behind 17-13 victory over the defending Super Bowl champions at RFK Stadium. The Browns out-gained Washington 324-227 and amassed 25 first downs to the Redskins' eleven, but were hurt by sacks and untimely penalties throughout the game, played in a cold, driving rain.
Bad Past Loss to the Redskins: October 13, 1991- The outmanned, injury-riddled Browns gave a game effort against the mighty Redskins, in the midst of a 14-win, Super Bowl-championship season, but were ultimately overpowered in a 42-17 Washington victory. Cleveland scored its touchdowns on a pass from punter Brian Hansen to Webster Slaughter off a fake field goal and a Vince Newsome return of a Gerald Riggs fumble and trailed just 21-17 late in the third quarter. But Washington, hammering away with its ground attack, put the game away with three unanswered touchdowns, the last a 65-yard sprint by rookie tailback Ricky Ervins.
Next Week for Both Teams: Washington goes to Detroit; the Browns go to Jacksonville.
Trivia: The Washington Redskins were the last team in either professional football or major-league baseball to integrate. Bobby Mitchell, acquired in 1962 from the Browns, was the first black player in the history of the franchise.