Game 8: Patriots at Browns

The Patriots have won five straight and have the best record in the NFL, but the Browns are an unpredictable team, so today’s matchup is fairly intriguing despite the obvious differences in record and places in the standings.

Of the Browns’ five losses, only one was lopsided. The Steelers handled the Browns easily on Oct. 17, 28-10, but the Browns’ other four losses have all been by 10 points or fewer. Still, until the Browns scored a shocking 30-17 win over the Saints two weeks ago, Cleveland hadn’t exactly lit up the scoreboard. Prior to that, Cleveland’s highest score was in a 23-20 win over Cincinnati, and in every game before that, the Browns scored 17 points or fewer. The Browns rank 31st in the NFL in scoring. The Patriots are first.


Two weeks to prepare for the Patriots – the Browns had their bye last week – certainly also gave Browns coach Eric Mangini, a former Patriots assistant coach, ample time to put together his best possible game plan. Mangini is 2-4 vs. the Patriots in his head coaching career, including his time as head coach of the Jets.

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
Records: Patriots: 6-1, Browns: 2-5
TV: CBS (Ch. 4) with Bill Macatee (play-by-play), Rich Gannon (analysis)
Radio: WBZ-FM (98.5) with Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti

UPDATED, 12:15 p.m.: Projected starting lineups (based on depth charts and news reports)

Patriots offense: WR Wes Welker, LT Matt Light, LG Logan Mankins, C Dan Koppen, RG Stephen Neal, RT Sebastian Vollmer, TE Alge Crumpler, WR Brandon Tate, QB Tom Brady, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB Sammy Morris.
Browns offense: WR Mohamed Massaquoi, LT Joe Thomas, LG Eric Steinbach, C Alex Mack, RG Billy Yates, RT Floyd Womack, TE Benjamin Watson, QB Colt McCoy, WR Brian Robiskie, FB Lawrence Vickers, RB Peyton Hillis.

Patriots defense: DL Gerard Warren, DL Vince Wilfork, DL Mike Wright, LB Rob Ninkovich, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Brandon Spikes, LB Jermaine Cunningham, CB Devin McCourty, CB Kyle Arrington, S Brandon Meriweather, S Patrick Chung
Browns defense: DE Kenyon Coleman, NT Ahtyba Rubin, DE Brian Schaefering, OLB Scott Fujita, ILB Eric Barton, ILB Chris Gocong, OLB Matt Roth, CB Eric Wright, CB Sheldon Brown, S T.J. Ward, S Abram Elam.


Story lines
Chung out, Mankins in: Globe Patriots reporter Monique Walker confirmed yesterday that safety Patrick Chung will not return to action this week for the Patriots. Chung was injured in the Patriots’ game vs. the Chargers two weeks ago.

Chung participated in practices, but was limited.

On the flip side, the Patriots yesterday activated guard Logan Mankins, who held out for the first seven games but returned on Tuesday. The Patriots released cornerback Terrence Wheatley, and linebacker Tyrone McKenzie was released from the practice squad.

The wide receiver factory: It seems like the best way to become a wide receiver in the NFL is to go play quarterback at Kent State. Today’s game features two players who have done just that – the Patriots’ Julian Edelman and the Browns’ Josh Cribbs. Both have also become kick returners in the NFL, and Cribbs is tied for fifth in kick-return touchdowns on the NFL’s career list with 10. Devin Hester leads with 13 (combined punt and kickoff returns).

Edelman was on Kent State’s varsity from 2006 to 2008. Cribbs played for the Golden Flashes from 2001 to 2004.

Series history: The Browns lead the all-time series vs. the Patriots 12-9, including a 1995 playoff victory. But the Patriots have won the last four, and three were pretty much routs. The Patriots won 34-17 in 2007 at Gillette Stadium, won 42-15 at Cleveland Browns Stadium in 2004, won 9-3 at Gillete in 2003 and won 27-16 at Foxboro Stadium in 2001.

Thrown into the fire: Rookie Colt McCoy will make his third straight start at quarterback for the Browns. His introduction to the NFL has been against the best it has to offer – the Steelers, Saints and Patriots.


But this week, he’s also up against one of the NFL’s most widely respected coaches, Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

“He is a genius,” McCoy told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “The coaches here have even said it. He’s a great football coach and I grew up around the game. I’ve heard Bill Belichick’s name forever. Again, what an opportunity it is to go out there and play and have some fun and know that you’re playing against one of the greatest coaches ever and a great defense.”

If McCoy displays flashes of similarity to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady beyond that they both wear No. 12, here’s why:

“A lot of things we do are from New England, so it’s Tom Brady over and over,” McCoy told the Plain Dealer. “He’s a tremendous quarterback. One of the things I’ve studied is his pocket presence. You can’t coach that. Just to be on the field, to play with him, to see him, it’s going to be awesome.”

We’ll have updates throughout the morning as we get them in the press box at the stadium. Follow the Globe’s football writers on Twitter at the following addresses:

@GlobePatriots – For all Patriots posts and articles
@shalisemyoung – For Patriots beat writer Shalise Manza Young
@Greg_A_Bedard – For National Football League writer Greg A. Bedard
@monwalker – For Patriots writer Monique N. Walker
@cgasper – For columnist Christopher L. Gasper

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