Philadelphia Eagles vs. Cleveland Browns Week 1 Preview

The Cleveland Browns will open up their regular season this Sunday at 1:00 PM ET, 10:00 PT, when they play host to the Philadelphia Eagles. The two teams come in on opposite ends of the NFL spectrum, the Eagles are a favorite of many to win the tough NFC East, and make a deep playoff run to the Super Bowl. Similarly the Browns are also a favorite of many NFL experts but not for the right reasons, the Browns have been picked by many to finish with the worst record in the NFL, and wind up with the No. 1 pick in the 2013-2014 NFL draft.

Nevertheless you still have to play the games and last season the Cincinnati Bengals with a rookie QB, and a very young team,were picked to have a horrid season, well they ended up going 9-7 and making it to the playoffs where they ended up losing to the Houston Texans. Now I’m not picking the Browns to have the same sort of season but I’m simply saying that anything is possible, especially in the NFL. A great example would be to look at the 2011-2012 Philadelphia Eagles. Before the 2011-2012 season began former Eagles backup QB Vince Young deemed the Eagles the “dream team”.

The Eagles got off to slow start, looked sluggish throughout the season, came on late, but still wound up missing the playoffs at 8-8. Again, anything is possible in the NFL. So getting to this week’s game, who will win? Well there have been two meetings between these teams in the past 10 years, Oct 24, 2004 the Eagles won 34-31 in Cleveland, and most recently on Dec 15, 2008 when the Eagles won in a rout 30-10. These two teams did play in a preseason game on Aug. 24 with the Eagles winning 27-10.

In the all-time series the Browns are ahead, by a wide margin actually, 31 wins to the Eagles 15, and one tie. Looking at past games, though really has no effect on the outcome Sunday, which could wind up being an absolute blowout, although I don’t expect it to be. For the Eagles to win it’s pretty simple what they have to do.

1. The Eagles must give Michael Vick time to throw- Although Vick might actually be more of a threat while he is on the run, he is also more prone to injury. The last thing the Eagles need to start this season is Vick injured, especially with what happened in the preseason.

2. Give LeSean McCoy some running lanes- McCoy was one of the best running backs in the NFL last season, and there is no reason to think he won’ have a similar season this year. At age 24 McCoy is just entering his prime and is primed for an even bigger year than the one he had last season. With that being said McCoy really won’t need to much space in the trenches to find some running lanes, as he is so good at hitting holes, and finding space to run. But the Eagles offensive line, which is missing Jason Peters due to a torn Achilles Tendon, cannot allow the Browns defensive line, which could be a strength of the team in 2012-2013, to get constant pressure in the backfield. Any running back, no matter how good, needs some sort of leeway in the backfield to get going, if McCoy gets just decent protection from the offensive line, he will have a big game.

3. Don’t make mistakes- When all is said and done it should really be this easy for the Eagles. There is no question that they are a more talented team than the Browns. But talent doesn’t always win games, the Eagles should know that. The Eagles must avoid dumb mistakes, if they do, this game should be over by the 3rd quarter.

For the Browns to win this game it’s a little more complicated.

1. Brandon Weeden must be good- In the NFL it all comes down to the QB. The league has transformed into a pass happy one, and those teams that are not willing to adapt will ultimately be left in the dust. Now while it is still a smart idea to keep a balanced running attack, having an aerial assault on top of it will create a lot of good for your team. Weeden, the 28 year oldrookie out of Oklahoma State, seems mature enough to handle the transition into the NFL, but that may not wind up being the problem. Weeden does not exactly have a plethora of weapons to throw to. Greg Little enters the season as the Browns featured WR, after that nobody really knows who is going to lineup where, and that could be a big problem. If Weeden can find a way to stay on his feet, that Eagles defensive line is scary, and be effective, the Browns will have a shot in this game.

2. Trent Richardson must play, and must be effective- Earlier this week Browns head coach Pat Shurmur said that Richardson would play this week. After having arthroscopic surgery in early August to remove a hanging piece of loose cartilage in his left knee, Richardson will be in the backfield Sunday. How effective he’ll be is a whole other question. But if the Browns want to have a chance in this game they must get Ricardson carries, and a lot of them. Although Richardson has missed practice time one of the key traits about his game heading into April’s draft was that he would be able to handle a huge workload in the NFL. If that is true why not let him do it in his first NFL game, after all the Browns are already expected to get pummeled in this game, so you really have nothing to lose. Of course you don’t want to run Richardson into the ground and possibly injure him, but why not let him carry the ball 20 times? After all it’s probably your best chance to win.

3. Avoid mistakes, get lucky- The third and last key for the Browns is half in their control. The Browns, especially on offense, need to avoid major mistakes that will give the Eagles explosive offense a short field to work with. The second part of the third key for the Browns is not in their control, they need to get lucky, really lucky. Maybe they’ll need to pull off a fake punt, similar to the Saints game in 2010, but most of all they will need to hope that the Vick and the Eagles have an off day. When the Browns upset the Saints in 2010 QB Drew Brees had an uncharacteristic day by throwing 4 INTs, for the Browns to win on Sunday they may need the same kind of day from Vick.

Prediction- Browns 24 Eagles 31

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