Week 3: Browns-Vikings matchup analysis

Cleveland Browns (0-2) at Minnesota Vikings (0-2)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, at Mall of America Field, Minneapolis - TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots

*Keys to the game: Pro Bowl DE Jared Allen and the Vikings admitted to smiling, while the Cleveland Browns expressed shock, but by Sunday both are taking the field absent Trent Richardson, who was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in a stunner Wednesday. The Browns could redefine conservative offense with backup Brian Hoyer at quarterback behind a line that allowed 11 sacks through two weeks. Hoyer has WR Josh Gordon in the lineup, who along with TE Jordan Cameron is capable of moving the chains if the Browns let it fly. The Vikings are more apt to keep the ball on the ground with RB Adrian Peterson, grinding their way through four quarters instead of putting QB Christian Ponder in the crosshairs. If the Browns can get to Ponder and make plays in the secondary, the upset isn't unthinkable. Checking down to Peterson and TE Kyle Rudolph, his favorite third-down and red-zone target, keeps Ponder out of trouble. It also potentially keeps the Browns in the game.

*Matchup to watch - Vikings FS Harrison Smith vs. Browns QB Brian Hoyer -- Smith, a first-round draft pick a year ago, has four career interceptions, including two that he returned for touchdowns as a rookie. Hoyer has played mostly against backups in four NFL seasons and is surrounded by suspect talent.

*Player spotlight - Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson: The first-rounder returned the opening kickoff 105 yards last week but has logged only 11 snaps on offense, a fact coach Leslie Frazier called "a major oversight, because Cordarrelle is a playmaker."

*Fast facts: Peterson has averaged 160 rushing yards in his past five homes games. ... Hoyer is the 19th starting quarterback for the Browns since the franchise returned to the NFL in 1999.


Cleveland finds tough sledding without Trent Richardson and a No. 3 quarterback under center. The Vikings wear down the Browns with Adrian Peterson and enough from Christian Ponder to avoid a cardiac fourth quarter.

*Our pick: Vikings 25-13