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Cleveland Browns at Minnesota Vikings: Preview and Pick
Cleveland Browns at Minnesota Vikings: Preview and Pick
The NFL schedule has not been kind to the Cleveland Browns in 2013. They started off with a loss at home to the Miami Dolphins and then lost a road contest to the Baltimore Ravens. They may be hard pressed to get their first win of the season when they travel to take on Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings.
Cleveland Browns at Minnesota Vikings Odds
The NFL betting line for this game opened up with the Vikings listed as (-3.5) point favorites. The Vikings played well enough against the Chicago Bears to get the win on the road, so should get some looks from the betting public. Although they collapsed late to blow the game they looked much better than the Browns and this is why the Vikings are attracting 80 percent of the early betting action. This line has already begun to move and can be found at (-4.5) at several of the top rated sportsbooks. This line move can also be attributed to the injury news out of the Browns headquarters.
The Cleveland Browns may have to go with backup quarterback Jason Campbell next week against the Vikings, following a hand injury to starter Brandon Weeden. According to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, Weeden has a sprained thumb on his right hand and left M & T Stadium on Sunday with a brace to secure the injury.
Despite the loss against the Bears, the Vikings looked impressive. In Sunday's game against the Bears, the Vikings did something never before seen in franchise history. For the first time, the Vikings had a kick return TD and a fumble return TD in the same game. Adrian Peterson was his usual reliable self posting over 100 yards although he never got in the end zone. Peterson will be the target of a very tough Browns defensive front. This front has looked good against opposing running backs, but unfortunately other parts of the team are not working as well.
The latest NFL betting trends favor the Vikings in this series. The Browns have been awful on the NFL highway as they have lost 15 of the last 16 games away from Cleveland. In the last seven games the Browns are 2-5 against the spread (ATS) and 0-5 ATS in the last five games overall. The Vikings are 5-1-1 ATS in the last seven games at home and 7-1 straight up in the last eight games in Minnesota.
Cleveland Browns at Minnesota Vikings Pick
With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.
Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden underwent an MRI on his sprained right thumb today, and his status for Sunday's game in Minnesota in uncertain. Browns spokesman Zak Gilbert denied a report by Cleveland station WTAM's Mike Trivisonno that Weeden's thumb is "really screwed up'' and that he could be out a "long, long, long time, possibly the season.'' Trivisonno attributed it to a very good source.
But Gilbert checked it out with coach Rob Chudzinski and said the report is untrue. He said that Weeden hasn't even been ruled out for this week's game let alone possibly missing the season. Chudzinski said today that he'll wait until Wednesday to see if Weeden can practice, and won't know for a few days if he can play. "We’ll see how it responds in the next couple of days,'' he said. "It’s the next morning. You don’t always get an indication on how quickly guys start feeling better.”
Chudzinski also revealed that in the event Weeden can't play, he's deciding whether to start No. 2 Jason Campbell or No. 3 Brian Hoyer. “I’m going to keep all of our options open right now,'' Chudzinski said. "Obviously we have two options in Jason and Brian both.”
Chudzinski was asked why he's not committing to Campbell for the start considering that he's been the No. 2 since the beginning of camp and has more starting experience. “I want to keep [the options] open,'' said Chudzinski. "We’re really waiting on Brandon to see where he’s at and make the determination in the next few days and we’ll go from there.”
He indicated he'd feel comfortable starting either backup. "I’m confident in all the guys that we have,'' said Chudzinski. "I think I mentioned that a few weeks back. We’ll put the guy out there that I feel like is going to give us the best chance on Sunday if it’s not Brandon.”
Of course, Chudzinski could just be trying to keep the 0-2 Vikings guessing, but Campbell and Hoyer have shared second-team reps since camp, and Hoyer has been a longtime favorite of Browns general manager Mike Lombardi.
Whatever the case, Campbell took the news in stride that he's not necessarily the next man up. "We're all on the same team,'' said Campbell. "Whatever the situation is, you have to be a pro and that’s how I approach it. I'll just continue to keep pushing forward and striving to help guys around me to become better, and at the same time just worry about trying to do my job.''
He stressed that he won't worry about things he can't control. "In these situations, you be supportive as much as possible,'' he said. "We don’t know what’s the status of Weeden yet. Also I don’t know the status of my own position just yet. So the only thing I can do is just keep preparing and just try to stay focused as best as possible and not worry about those things.''
A ninth-year pro, has gone 31-40 in his 71 starts with a career rating of 82.5. In his last two seasons as a full-time starter in Oakland before the Browns broke his collarbone, he went 11-7. "I've been in this for a long time, so you’ve just got to try to lean on your experience in these situations,'' he said.
Campbell replaced Weeden with 3:34 left in Sunday's 14-6 loss to the Ravens with the Browns trailing by that margin and Campbell backed up to his 1-yard line. His drive fizzled at the 28, where his fourth-down flip to Jordan Cameron came up short. He completed one of four attempts for 6 yards and a 39.6 rating."
Hoyer, signed as a free agent in May, said didn't know that he was in the running for the start until informed Monday by reporters in the locker room.
"I haven't even talked to Chud yet,'' he said. "You guys come in here and tell me that, but nothing's been told to me. I prepare every week the same way. In this league, you never what could happen and that's just kind of what you've got to prepare for and go from there.''
Hoyer, who backed up Tom Brady for three seasons in New England, has started one career game, a loss to San Francisco last season shortly after he joined the Cardinals.
But he feels 100% ready if called upon to face the Vikings.
"Yeah, I shouldn't be here if I didn't feel that way,'' Hoyer said. "I've had experience of being a guy who you never know when you're name's going to get called and you can get thrown in there at a moment's notice. It's taught me to prepare like you're the one that's going to be playing the whole game. Same thing in that preseason week (his start against Chicago). I didn't know if Brandon was going to play or if Jason was going to play. Mentally, I prepared myself to play every game like I do every time, and I think that paid off.''
Regardless of who starts, they'll receive the benefit of having deep threat Josh Gordon back on the field after his two-game suspension for a failed drug test. In Gordon's absence, the Browns have scored a total of 16 points -- and one touchdown -- in their two losses.
"Oh, he's a huge difference,'' said Campbell. "He’s a big target, he’s a big guy, and he’s a big part of what we do offensively. Not having him out there, definitely hurts a little bit, he definitely adds another dimension of helping us stretch the field. But at the same time, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Everyone just has to go to work, go to practice and focus on doing your job.''
Neither Campbell nor Hoyer gets many reps with the first-team offense, but Hoyer doesn't view it as a problem.
"It's football,'' he said. "You take a few extra snaps with (center) Alex (Mack) because you haven't taken as many. You make sure you get that down and we always throw one-on-ones and it's a constant rotation. There's not a guy over there that I haven't thrown to. I'm used to not getting a ton of reps and being expected to be ready to play.''
Hoyer looked sharp at times during his preseason start in Chicago, an 18-16 Browns victory. Playing with and against backups, he completed 24 of 35 attempts for 307 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions for an 81.5 rating.
"We go through the same drills as Brandon in individual and things like that,'' he said. "You're still throwing routes, and when you get your scout team reps, I always try to translate it to a play that we have. That doesn't always happen. Some teams, they throw up a card and I'm like, 'I've never seen this player ever.' But you try to relate it to something you can do and you still get your reps that way. And as far as when our offense is up, I'm sitting back there and I always try to get right behind the quarterback and try to go through the read on my own.''
Despite the Browns giving up 11 sacks in two games, Hoyer still has total faith in the offensive line.
"I think they're great,'' he said. "That defensive front we just played the other day is pretty darn good and they're getting paid too and that's the point of the game. That's what's great about this league. Everyone's competing against each other and sometimes you're going to win some, sometimes you're going to lose, but you have to be able to move on and I think we have a resilient team that's able to bounce back and you've seen it. We fight until the end and like I said, I'm just sitting over there in street clothes, but you can see it even there. There's no give-up in any of these guys and that's something that can be built upon. You've just got to keep going at it, and eventually things are going to break.''
The Vikings finally get to play a home game in their farewell season at the Metrodome and the stakes could not be much higher when the Cleveland Browns visit Sunday.
Minnesota already is 0-2 and scheduled to travel to London the following week to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL's annual international series at Wembley Stadium. Another loss and the season could be lost before the calendar flips to October.
"It's our home opener, and we know the importance of winning games at home," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Wednesday. "There is a game or two separating everybody in our (division) right now. So this is a great opportunity for us at home to get on a winning track. You've got to take care of business at home."
The Vikings were 7-1 last season at the Metrodome, where the team is 164-89 (.648) since 1982.
By opting into the London series, the Vikings sacrificed a home game at the Metrodome. Following their Oct. 6 bye, they play host to the Carolina Panthers.
The Browns also are winless -- and struggling to generate offense. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars have scored fewer points than Cleveland (16), which has yielded 11 sacks.
Starting quarterback Brandon Weeden is out with a sprained thumb. Instead of tapping veteran backup Jason Campbell, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said Wednesday he would start third-stringer Brian Hoyer, a former Patriots prospect who started one game last year for the Arizona Cardinals.
"We just felt where we're at, currently, offensively, and what we need to do from a game-plan standpoint, Brian's the best the fit and gives us the best chance to win," Chudzinski said. "He's a smart guy, an efficient guy, and finds a way to make plays."
Though the Browns' offense has struggled, they have the best run defense in the NFL, yielding an average of just two yards per carry.
"Their defense is outstanding," Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder said. "Cleveland is 0-2, but they're not an 0-2 team. They're going to be coming in here, play us tough. We expect it to be a four-quarter ball game until the very last second. But we are, again, excited we're back at home."
The Miami Dolphins are the only other NFL team to open the season with two road games. They are 2-0 after outscoring Cleveland and Indianapolis 47-30.
There was a chance for Christian Ponder to start redefining himself as the Vikings’ quarterback near the end of Sunday’s game in Chicago. It took a stubborn effort from Bill Musgrave, Ponder’s offensive coordinator, to make certain that this wasn’t going to happen.
The Vikings arrived in Soldier Field having lost 11 of 12 on the road to the Bears. Touchdowns on Cordarrelle Patterson’s return of a kickoff and Brian Robison’s return of a fumble allowed the Vikings to be in a 14-14 tie late in the first half.
Then, Ponder threw a short out to his right, the Bears’ Tim Jennings jumped in front and went 44 yards for a touchdown.
Back in Minnesota, that was going to be the lasting memory of another road loss to the Bears, until Ponder and the Vikings rallied.
The visitors were leading 27-24 in the middle of the fourth quarter when tackle Letroy Guion made a play that could be shown on Vikings highlights for years to come. The big man ripped the football from running back Matt Forte and secured it in his arms as both went to the ground.
The forced fumble and recovery gave the Vikings possession at Chicago’s 47. Ponder found Jerome Simpson for 12 yards and John Carlson for 7. On third-and-3, he dropped a pass between two defenders and Greg Jennings held on magnificently, and the Vikings had a first down at the 6.
Ponder was running around like an athlete in control of the world. The offensive huddle and the Vikings sideline were ready to celebrate.
And when it reached third down at the Bears 4, Musgrave ordered Adrian Peterson up the gut, and the run was stonewalled, and the Vikings kicked a field goal, and they lost 31-30.
On Wednesday, Ponder conducted the starting quarterback’s weekly media session at Winter Park and was asked: Did you have the option to check to a pass (on third down)?
“No, I did not,” he said.
Ponder’s teammates appeared to be at the height of confidence in him. Clearly, it was an attitude that Musgrave didn’t share. He ordered a Peterson run — with no option for Ponder to use a QB’s better judgment.
It was mentioned to Ponder that selected media members and disgruntled fans were puzzled not to see him roll right with the option to run or throw.
“We have the best running back in the league,” Ponder said. “… We wanted points on the board. We didn’t want anything crazy to happen. We wanted to keep the clock running and force them to take the timeout.”
There you have it. The Vikings’ brain trust wanted some points, and nothing crazy, and the Bears using a second timeout. What the coaches should have wanted — and the heck with the rest of it — was a touchdown.
This question (complete with editorial comment) was asked of Ponder: “Is a roll-out-right play actually in your playbook? We don’t see it much. We do see you roll out left, which we can’t figure out.”
Ponder said: “We call roll rights. It all depends on what hash we’re on and when the play comes in … but we do go right.”
How much different would the crowd for this Sunday’s home opener feel about Ponder as the quarterback, if the Vikings were 1-1, not 0-2, and if the Vikings had gotten there with Ponder driving them to a game-clinching TD drive at Soldier Field?
This was the chance for the first road win vs. the Bears since 2007, and only the second of this century.
And after that third-down throw to Jennings, another third-down conversion for Ponder at the goal line — using his speed or his arm — could have caused legions of Vikings fans to say:
“Maybe we were wrong about this guy. Maybe he can turn into a reason that this team wins games in tough circumstances.”
Musgrave didn’t believe, and now Ponder must wait for that moment. He could go 20-for-22 with three touchdowns Sunday and it won’t matter, because it would be a victory over the Browns with Brian Hoyer starting at quarterback.
Bad decision, Purple brainiacs — not giving your quarterback the chance to lock up a road win in Chicago and gain big points back home
After a stunning trade which sent last year’s No. 3 overall pick Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a 2014 first-round pick, the Cleveland Browns went out and signed veteran running back Willis McGahee.
With just a few days to learn the new offense and prepare for the team’s Week 3 match up, the Browns are still expecting McGahee to receive some playing time and take the field when they face off against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon.
It seems like the team could be rushing him on to the field, but McGahee is not expected to have a huge learning curve thanks to similarities between the Browns offense and one of his former teams.
From ESPN’s Adam Schefter:
Browns RB Willis McGahee will play Sunday vs. Minnesota; system similar to one he played under in Baltimore.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 20, 2013
Whether or not McGahee will run on to the field with the first-team offense for his Browns debut is not yet known, but it is believed that running back Bobby Rainey could take the Browns first snaps of the game.
The Minnesota Vikings, playing their final game without Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton, will also be missing his top replacement on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
Tight end Rhett Ellison, who has also blocked for Adrian Peterson from the fullback position, will miss Sunday's game with a hyperextended knee, coach Leslie Frazier said on Friday. That means the Vikings are down to a pair of options at the spot: undrafted rookie Zach Line, who is getting his first experience as a blocking back this season, and tight end John Carlson, who has done some work in the backfield since training camp started.
Carlson signed with the Vikings last year primarily as a receiving threat, but caught just eight passes for 43 yards and struggled to get on the field as an in-line tight end with Kyle Rudolph emerging as a Pro Bowl player. He's got just one catch this year, but he's been able to find some more consistent work as a run blocker, too.
Asked about the biggest adjustment to the role, Carlson said, "The lead-type runs, the downhill runs. No. 28, he's not going to slow down at all, so just get on your horse, full speed, low pad level. Fullbacks are typically much shorter than tight ends, so it's focusing on pad level and just going."
If the Vikings sustained another injury at the spot, they might not be able to use a fullback as often as they normally would. Peterson hasn't been anywhere near as effective in two-back sets this year as he was last year -- he's been in a two-back set on 24 of his 44 carries, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and is averaging just 2.0 yards per carry in those situations -- but the running back still has more yards through his first two games in 2012.
Still, another injury to the Vikings' complement of blocking backs might lead them to open up their offense a little more, particularly in the wake of Frazier's call to get Cordarrelle Patterson more involved.
Here is the rest of the Vikings' injury report: •Center John Sullivan and defensive tackle Kevin Williams were both limited by knee injuries on Sunday, but are probable for Week 3.
•Defensive tackle Fred Evans (shoulder), linebacker Erin Henderson (heel) and safety Harrison Smith (shoulder) returned to full participation on Friday after being limited during the first two practices of the week.
•Tackle Phil Loadholt (knee), guard Brandon Fusco (shoulder) and safety Mistral Raymond (shoulder) are all probable for Sunday, despite being listed on the injury report.
•Wide receiver Greg Jennings did not practice on Friday, but Frazier said Jennings was dealing with a personal matter and will play Sunday. Ellison is the only player who has been ruled out.
•The Browns initiated the trade that sent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts. According to The Akron Beacon Journal, the deal came together when Browns CEO Joe Banner began talking to Colts general manager Ryan Grigson about Richardson on Tuesday. “[Richardson was] mentioned, and we went right to work on it and did our due diligence on the Colts’ end and really liked the player,” Grigson said during a news conference. “I’ve always liked the player, and when it became a possibility, we had to at least investigate it.”
•Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson told The Plain Dealer that the Browns haven't given up on the season even though the team traded its best offensive player. "(N)ot for one minute does anyone in this locker room think that we're not trying to win now," Jackson said. "We're good on the defensive side of the ball, we've got some areas where we all can improve on and we've just got to get the first one to create some winning around here."
•The Plain Dealer's Bud Shaw believes the Browns are contradicting themselves to the fans. "In explaining how Brian Hoyer vaulted Jason Campbell -- going from inactive to starter -- Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner said Hoyer gives the team its best chance to win," Shaw wrote. "Likewise, can we conclude Willis McGahee or Chris Ogbonnaya or Bobby Rainey gives the Browns a better chance of winning than Trent Richardson? Not even the Browns can go there with a straight face."
•Defensive coordinator Ray Horton said nose guard Phil Taylor told him that Baltimore Ravens halfback Ray Rice did spit in his face Sunday. Taylor, who would not confirm the incident to reporters after the game, drew a 15-yard penalty for slapping Rice in the helmet after the players were face to face. “All I know is what my player said to me, and I trust my players and we just moved on,” Horton said, via The Plain Dealer.
The Browns have had a very tough week after trading Trent Richardson and announcing they would be starting Hoyer at QB. Because of this news this line went up and went it up too high and now the value is actually on the Browns. The Browns defense is actually better than people think and can bottle up AP.