In week one of the NFL regular season, two of the NFL’s worst teams in 2009 look for a fresh start as the Cleveland Browns visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Vegas odds have placed the Bucs as 3-point favorites as the home team, mostly because someone had to be a favorite in a game featuring teams that combined for 8 wins in 2009. The Browns did well as a road underdog against the spread (ATS) in 2009, going 5-3. On the other hand, the Bucs were 1-7 at home ATS. The two teams have not met since 2006, a Tampa victory.
The Browns ended 2009 with four straight wins that more than likely saved Head Coach Eric Mangini’s job, and they hope to build upon that positive momentum to start 2010. Offensively, the Browns are built around young player such receiver/kick returner/runner Josh Cribbs, running back Jerome Harrison, and receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. Harrison really came-on at the end of 2009, including a franchise single-game record of 286 yards vs. KC. They’ll all have to mesh with new quarterback Jake Delhomme, who had a strong preseason. They’ll be performing against a Bucs defense that finished last in rushing defense and 27th in total defense and scoring defense in 2009. Tampa Bay has few impact players on defense but the Browns will need to be aware of MLB Barrett Rudd, cornerback Ronde Barber, and free safety Tanard Jackson. Tampa also features two rookies, Myron Lewis at corner, and first round pick Gerald McCoy at defensive line, whose presence should shore-up the run defense.
The Bucs had a difficult time scoring but quarterback Josh Freeman, with a year under his belt, should have some success against a Browns’ defense that ranked 29th in passing last season. Ex-Brown Kellen Winslow should be psyched to play against his old mates and could find the seams in the Cleveland defense. Cadillac Williams made an unexpected comeback in 2009, and could be a big asset for this team, especially in this game, as the Browns may be missing their big man in the middle, NT Shaun Rogers. As a group, the linebackers can make players and were paramount to the Browns’ late-season surge. Matt Roth and Eric Barton can be especially disruptive.
This game could come down to the kicking game, as the Browns possess Cribbs, one of the most dangerous return men in the league, and the Bucs ranked second in the league in KR average. In a three-point game, this could give one team an edge.
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