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NFL Green Bay Packers

5 Key Matchups: Green Bay Packers vs Cleveland Browns Week 7

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Green Bay Packers vs Cleveland Browns Week 7

Packers
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers had a huge road victory this past week against AFC North powerhouse, and defending Super Bowl Champion, Baltimore Ravens. In Week 7, the Packers will be back home against another AFC North team, the Cleveland Browns.

The Packers come into Week 7 with a record of 3-2 and are still fighting for the top spot in the NFC North. The Browns, a team that no one expected to be competitive, are sitting at 3-3 and a game out of first place in their division. They have surprised many of their critics this season and will look to continue that this week.

The Packers will come into the game very beat up on the injury front. They will be without star wide out Randall Cobb who was diagnosed with a fractured fibula last week. Along with Cobb, James Jones is a major question mark with a knee injury as well. On the defensive side of the ball for the Packers, they are still not sure if starting cornerback Casey Hayward will be available and will definitely be without pro-bowl cornerback Clay Matthews. All of this means that the Packers back-ups will have their work cut out for them and must prove they can make plays for this team.

The Browns will look to take advantage of the Packers injuries. They are coming into Green Bay at almost 100 percent. The only question mark for the Browns will be defensive lineman Billy Winn who is battling a quadriceps injury. However, one big piece has been out for two weeks for the Browns and that piece is quarterback Brian Hoyer. Hoyer was at the helm when the Browns started their win streak but suffered an unfortunate ACL injury which will sideline him the entire season.

This game will be big for both teams and can be a statement game as well. Here are the five key matchups you should watch for in the battle of the Northern divisions.

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5. Tim Masthay vs Travis Benjamin

Masthay
Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

One of the main reasons the Browns have been successful on offense is because return man Travis Benjamin has given them great field position. He is a speedster who has the ability to break any kick and take it to the end zone on numerous occasions. This is a matchup that the Packers will have to look at and be careful with. Especially on punts!

Tim Masthay has been one of the leagues best this year and has been a weapon for the Packers throughout the season. He has done a great job making sure he gets tremendous hang time on punts and allows his defenders to get down and make plays. He has also made to angle punts so that the return man is moving and not able to coast to the ball with ease. He has not allowed any punt return touchdowns this year and has also not allowed any kick return touchdowns.

Masthay will have to make sure Benjamin feels uncomfortable and gets him moving horizontally on the football field. If he can do so and keep Benjamin from breaking off a big return, the Packers may just be able to force the Browns to go long distances on offensive drives.

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4. David Bakhtiari vs Paul Kruger

David B
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

In a huge matchup on the offensive side for the Packers, it will be left tackle David Bakhtiari who will have his hands full with outside linebacker Paul Kruger.

Kruger was a key addition the Browns this offseason and was one of the most dominant pass rushers while part of the Ravens. However, this season, he has struggled through six games. He currently has only one sack this season and has not been as dominant as the Browns hoped.

Regardless to how Kruger has struggled, rookie Bakhtiari will still have his hands full. Kruger will certainly want to prove everyone wrong and get after Aaron Rodgers. Bakhtiari has proven that he can protect Rodgers’ blindside and has done a great job making sure he stays upright. Kruger is a strong, physical linebacker who will be licking his chops to get after Rodgers so expect Bakhtiari to be ready and see a whole lot of Kruger on Sunday.

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3. Nick Perry vs Joe Thomas

Perry
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

My No. 3 matchup to watch for is on the Browns offensive side and will be a battle between tackle Joe Thomas and linebacker Nick Perry.

Thomas, the seventh-year man from Wisconsin, has proven he is one of the most dominant tackles in the game and rarely gets beat by pass rushers. He is a six-time Pro Bowl tackle and will look to slow down the Packers pass rush.

As dominant as Thomas is, the Packers can’t shy away. Perry will have to work all game long against Thomas but if he can continue to do what he has so far this season, he can still be successful.

Perry is the Packers best pass rusher (aside from injured Matthews) and has shown signs that he is fully recovered from his knee injury last season. Expect Perry to go after Thomas this week and try to add to the Browns sack totals, which have been high all season long.

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2. Sam Shields vs Josh Gordon

Shields
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

One of the more improved players on the Browns roster this year has been receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon has really broken out this season and has 25 receptions for 429 yards and two touchdowns. He is averaging 17.2 yards per reception and really has been the go-to guy for the Browns.

The go-to cornerback on the Packers who will match-up with Gordon is Sam Shields. Shields has taken over the number one cornerback spot this season and really has done a great job. Shields has 18 tackles, seven pass deflections and an interception. He has prevented big plays from many opposing receivers and has done so by playing physical and using his great speed. Last week, Shields was burnt late in the game by Jacoby Jones so I expect Shields to try and improve this week.

This matchup between Shields and Gordon will definitely be one of the more exciting ones in this game and should have a lot of people’s attention.

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1. Jordy Nelson vs Joe Haden

Nelson
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 1 matchup for this week is really a no brainer for anyone that is familiar with the Packers and the Browns. The Packers are a high-powered offense that likes to air the ball out. The Browns are a stout defensive team that relies on physicality and good cornerback play. So, these two characteristics come out to a matchup between receiver Jordy Nelson and cornerback Joe Haden.

Nelson will have a lot of attention this week and for weeks to come with the absence of Cobb and Jones. He has become the Packers number one wide out before this season but will certainly have his work cut out for him the rest of the season, as teams will try to make sure he doesn’t beat them.

The Browns will be one of those teams that try to take Nelson out of the equation and will put their talented number one cornerback from the University of Florida on him. Haden is known as a shut down corner and has drawn the assignments this year against receivers such as Mike Wallace, AJ Green, Greg Jennings, Stevie Johnson and most recently, Calvin Johnson.

Haden has drawn some comparisons to Darrelle Revis and he has really taken great strides in only four seasons. Expect Nelson to see Haden on every single play this Sunday but don’t expect Nelson to back down one bit.

I expect Rodgers to take shots at Haden and use the patented back shoulder throw that he and Nelson have become so great at this season to keep Haden guessing. It will certainly be a fantastic matchup to watch!