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Packers Browns preview

by Mark Daniels

Thought you'd enjoy the old Pixie logo of the Cleveland Browns as the Packers play host to the AFC North Division team on throwback Sunday at Lambeau Field.  The Packers will be donning the good 'ol blue and yellow jerseys with brown pants from the Curly Lambeau days, circa 1929.   Probably a good thing because it'll be harder to recognize all of the new players who are being forced into action following a horrendous couple of medical weeks for the team.  Head Coach Mike McCarthy was asked Friday if league rules require him to dress 46 players on game day....and he couldn't come up with an answer.   It'd be funny if it wasn't possibly the case.   The injuries have piled up so fast and furious the past week, consider these starting players for the Pack against Cleveland.  6th round draft pick Nate Palmer and undrafted rookie free agent Andy Mulumba at outside linebacker.   Myles White has gone from practice squad member to the active roster to the starting slot receiver as an undrafted rookie free agent in a span of five days.  Friday's final injury report offered little hope for the likes of James Jones (knee) and Mike Neal (shoulder).  Both are listed as questionable and neither has practiced all week.   McCarthy said if the game was Friday, they'd sit it out but they have until Sunday to make the final call.   The other two questionable players are Jarrett Bush (hamstring) who has missed a couple of weeks and Casey Hayward (hamstring) who has missed a couple of months.  They practiced on a limited basis and Hayward might be ready to make his 2013 debut.   A pretty good collection of players have been ruled out, Clay Matthews (thumb), James Starks (knee), Brad Jones (hamstring), Nick Perry (foot) and Ryan Taylor (knee).   Don't forget Randall Cobb (broken fibula) who was moved to injured reserve, designated to return, but not for another two months.

So how will the 3-2 Packers circle the wagons and grab a third straight victory against the 3-3 Browns?   On offense, start with feeding Eddie Lacy.  The rookie is piling up yards and carries over the past two weeks (219 on the ground).  The more he runs, the less Aaron Rodgers will throw to the likes of White, Jarrett Boykin and the two healthy veterans in Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley.  The Browns defense isn't bad. 7th best against the run, 8th against the pass and 7th overall, giving up 312 yards a game.  The transitioned to a 3-4 system this year and they love to blitz.  13 different players already have at least one sack.,   Cool the rush by running the ball.

Defensively, I think the Pack will be OK, even with two healthy outside linebackers.  Don't be surprised if Jamari Lattimore, who has played well inside in place of Jones, steps out on the edge on occasion.  The Browns offense ranks in the lower third in both yards and points per game and their quarterback, now 30 year old second year player Brandon Weeded, appears to be regressing. That back handed flip that got picked against Detroit has a permanent place on the all-time Cleveland blooper reel.  Willis McGahee is on his last legs at running back.  If the Packers play the run as well has they have of late (3rd best in the league), Weeden will be asked make all of the big plays and he won't.

How are the players feeling about the matchup?   Let's take a trip inside the locker room:

Audio:  Packers on the matchup with Cleveland.

The Packers have reeled off nine straight wins at home, 22 out of their last 23.  Even shorthanded, I think they'll have enough to get it done but it won't be pretty.   It may look like a pre-season game with so many of Green Bay's two's and three's taking on the number one's of the Browns.   I can't imagine the Packers will approach 30 points with the limited weaponry but hitting the 20's is all they'll need.   I like the Pack to win 21-13.    A complete recap of the game, analysis and post-game quotes will be posted here Sunday night.