Game Scout: Browns at Patriots

Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Cleveland Browns (4-8) at New England Patriots (9-3)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass. - TV: CBS
*TV announcers: Bill Macatee, Steve Tasker
*Keys to the game: Two players with a total of 10 days on the roster took starter reps at quarterback for the Browns on Wednesday. If Jason Campbell or Brandon Weeden aren't ready to return from concussions, it could get gruesome from the opening gun for the Browns if Caleb Hanie or Alex Tanney get the call. Browns WR Josh Gordon, who last week became the first player with back-to-back 200-yard receiving games, needs 40 receiving yards to break the Browns' single-season record of 1,289 yards set by Braylon Edwards in 2007. The Patriots will smother him and take their chances against Cleveland's other pass catchers. Cleveland ranks 28th in the NFL in rushing and the Patriots might use a six- or seven-man box to stop the run. The Browns' best effort to win a ball-control, field-position battle could be blown out of the water early by QB Tom Brady. He's completing more than 70 percent of his passes and averaging 9.5 yards per attempt the past four games.
*Matchup to watch - Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski vs. Browns S T.J. Ward: Ward is 5-10. Gronkowski is 6-6. This is a matchup tilted decidedly toward the Patriots. Ward will need help, especially when Gronkowski runs crossing routes. He has a 20-plus-yard reception in every game this season.
*Player spotlight - Patriots WR Julian Edelman: The Browns lack depth behind LCB Joe Haden, and Edelman, dubbed Minitron by Brady, is a headache -- he can line up anywhere in the formation and find open grass. Edelman has 18 receptions for 211 yards and two touchdowns the past two games.
*Fast facts: The Browns need one victory to match their 2012 win total. ... The Patriots are 16-1 in their last 17 December games.
New England's offense is humming into December while the Browns are frosting over with no such timing or precision after four changes at quarterback and a fifth possible this week.
*Our pick: Patriots 35-16

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