The teams: The Green Bay Packers (3-2) vs. the Cleveland Browns (3-3).
The time: 3:25 p.m. CDT Sunday.
The place: Lambeau Field, Green Bay.
The TV coverage: CBS – WDJT (Ch. 58 in Milwaukee), WISC (Ch. 3 in Madison) and WFRV (Ch. 5 in Green Bay).
The announcers: Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots.
The coaches: Green Bay's Mike McCarthy is 83-44 (including 6-4 in the postseason) in his eighth season as the Packers' coach and as an NFL head coach. Cleveland’s Rob Chudzinski is 3-3 in his first year as coach of the Browns and as an NFL head coach.
The series: The Packers lead the all-time regular-season series, 10-7, including the last meeting, a 31-3 victory at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Oct. 25, 2009. The Browns won the last meeting in Green Bay, 26-24, on Sept. 18, 2005.
The rankings: The Packers’ second-ranked offense is No. 5 in rushing and No. 4 in passing. Their 18th-ranked defense is No. 3 against the run and No. 28 against the pass. The Browns’ 24th-ranked offense is No. 22 in rushing and No. 17 in passing. Their seventh-ranked defense is tied for No. 7 against the run and is No. 8 against the pass.
The line: The Packers are favored by 10 points.
The injury report: Packers–Out: OLB Clay Matthews (thumb), OLB Nick Perry (foot), TE Ryan Taylor (knee), RB James Starks (knee), ILB Brad Jones (hamstring). Questionable: DE/OLB Mike Neal (shoulder), WR James Jones (knee), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), CB Jarrett Bush (hamstring).
Browns – Out: DL Billy Winn (quadriceps). Questionable: LB Brandon Magee (oblique). Probable: LB Jabaal Sheard (knee), DB Chris Owens (finger), RB Willis McGahee (knee). Note: S Josh Aubrey (ankle/knee) was placed on injured reserve and RB Bobby Rainey (groin) was waived.
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
Last man standing: With Randall Cobb out for at least the next eight games, James Jones unlikely to play and such luminaries as Myles White, Jake Stoneburner and perhaps waiver-claim Chris Harper as possible targets for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, it would stand to reason that the Browns would direct much of their defensive focus toward wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who enters the game with 27 receptions for a team-high 484 yards and team-best four touchdowns.
But that’s not what Nelson is expecting. Rather than constant double-teaming, Nelson figures he’ll see Browns top cornerback Joe Haden on a down-in, down-out basis, sometimes with help over the top, and sometimes simply one-on-one.
“I don’t. I honestly don’t,” Nelson replied Friday when asked if he thinks he’ll be double-covered all afternoon. “Watching the film the way they play, they mix up their coverage, but they believe in Joe Haden and the type of DB he is, and I can see why. They’ll mix up their coverage, they play a little bit of everything, but I don’t think it’ll be severe double teams at all.”
And so he expects lots of matchups with Haden?
“I’ll be shocked if he’s not (on me), just based off film study and what they’ve done in other games, especially with Randall and James being down,” Nelson said.
Nelson said he had Haden on him in preseason in 2011 and 2012, when he caught a total of two passes for 26 yards in two exhibition games. Asked how much he remembers about how Haden plays, Nelson replied, “A lot, to be honest with you. It’s great to have those games and a feel for the way he played. It’s preseason, and he might play differently, but it’s just great to have that knowledge. You can see it and you can remember what he did against you and how it felt and then watch film and kind of confirm that, like, ‘OK, that’s what he’s still doing or that’s what he does do.’ It’s just great to have that knowledge, and hopefully we can put it to use.”
No overconfidence: The Browns seemingly were getting their offensive act together after starter Brandon Weeden was replaced – in part due to Weeden’s thumb injury, in part due to his ineffective play – by third-stringer Brian Hoyer, who gave the offense a jolt. Alas, Hoyer is done for the year after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, so the Browns have to go back to Weeden, who is – get this – older than Rodgers (he turned 30 this week) and is presumably on his way out since it was ex-president Mike Holmgren’s front-office group that decided to invest the No. 22 overall pick in him, even though Chudzinski did his best to sell the idea that the Browns are confident in him.
“I think you look at last week, I think that he played very well in the first half. He did some really good things,” Chudzinski said in his conference call with Wisconsin reporters about Weeden, who finished last Sunday’s 31-17 loss to Detroit having completed 26 of 43 passes for 292 with two sacks, two touchdowns and two interceptions (76.9 rating). “I think he’s improved overall. Looking back at last season, he’s come a long ways. He made some decisions last week that I know he would want back. It’s about consistency. He’s working at it, he’s doing all the things that you ask him to do and we’re going to do everything that we can to give him the best opportunity to succeed.”
The one player more than any other that gives Weeden that opportunity is tight end Jordan Cameron, who enters the game with 38 receptions for 460 yards (12.1-yard average) and five TDs. A basketball player-turned-football player, Cameron is delivering on the potential the Browns saw on him coming out of USC in 2011, when they drafted him in the fourth round.
“This tight end, this Cameron, he’s the real deal – 38 receptions, five touchdowns,” Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “He’s a real matchup threat inside.”
He could have a field day against the Packers’ depleted linebacking corps, and Capers admitted he may have to dial back some of his play-calling because of the injury problems his unit is experiencing.
“You’ve got to be careful. You’ve got to make sure that you’re not overloading some of those guys because we’ve got some new guys out there,” Capers said. “You’ve got to be smart and figure out how much they can do and do efficiently and not ask them to do too much where you slow them down. I think the best thing we’ve done the last two, three weeks is we’ve played fast. I think we’ve swarmed to the ball, had multiple hits, and we’ve got to keep that going.”