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Eye on the Browns: Breaking Down the Matchup


*'s Michael Eisen scouts the team's Week 12 opponent: *

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will take their five-game winning streak on the road Sunday when they face the Cleveland Browns in First Energy Stadium. Victories in three consecutive home games improved the Giants' record to 7-3, good for second place in the NFC East. The Browns are the NFL's only winless team at 0-11. Cleveland leads the regular-season series, which began in 1950, 26-20-2. The teams split postseason games played in 1950 and '58. The Giants have won five of the last six meetings dating back to 1991, including a 41-27 triumph on Oct. 7, 2012 in MetLife Stadium. The Browns won the teams' most recent game in Cleveland, 35-14, on Oct. 13, 2008.

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What is the Brown's biggest strength?

They can and have moved the ball (though they have had trouble converting yards to points). Quarterback Josh McCown will make his third start of the season, and his previous two starts were the games in which the Browns had their best chances to win; they took a 20-0 lead vs. Baltimore (before losing, 25-20) and a 10-0 lead against the Jets (a game they lost, 31-28).

The offense has been productive under McCown, who is one of six players to throw passes for Cleveland this season. And he lines up with several talented players, including left tackle Joe Thomas, running backs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, Jr., wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, and tight end Gary Barnidge.

What player is key to the Browns' offense?

Pryor is Cleveland's most productive and dangerous weapon. He leads the Browns with 56 receptions, he has eight rushing attempts, and he's completed five of nine passes. The former quarterback has made the transition to wide receiver, where he is big, smooth and athletic. Pryor has the speed to go deep and the strong hands and leaping ability to come down with the ball in a crowd.

He has been targeted 102 times, the league's fourth-highest total – and that's four more passes than the Giants have thrown to Odell Beckham, Jr.

What is the strength of the Browns' offense?

Their scheme. First-year head coach Hue Jackson is an excellent offensive coach. He is very creative is moving players around, using numerous formations – including pods, with three players bunched near the numbers - and getting all of his skill players involved. Jackson forces opposing defensive coordinators, like the Giants' Steve Spagnuolo, to prepare for almost anything.

Which player is key to the Browns' defense?

Linebacker Jamie Collins, who was acquired in a trade with New England on Oct. 31. He's been all over the field, has 26 tackles in his three games with the Browns, and has proven to be the one player on defense who is most likely to make an impact play. Collins is a hybrid linebacker who lines up outside in Cleveland's base defense and inside in their sub packages. He doesn't yet know the nuances of the Browns' defensive scheme, but he runs around at 100 miles an hour and makes things happen.

What is the strength of the Browns' defense?

We're not going to pretend this unit has excelled. The Browns are ranked 31st in points, total yards, and rushing yards allowed. But Cleveland does have players on every level of its defense who can positively affect the game. Danny Shelton is a 335-pound nose tackle who is virtually immovable in the middle of the D-line. He moves away from the center in the sub defenses. Collins has had at least eight tackles in each game since joining the Browns. Inside linebacker Christian Kirksey is tied for third in the NFL with 101 total tackles. Cornerback Joe Haden is a two-time Pro Bowler who can play all the coverages. He leads the team with three interceptions.

Which player is key to the Browns' special teams?

Fifty photos from the 50 games between the Giants and Browns, including postseason

There's more than one. Dominique Alexander and Joe Schobert are excellent covering kicks and share the team lead with eight special teams tackles apiece (each has seven solo tackles). Punter Britton Colquitt excels at placing to the ball and has a 40.9-yard net average.

Based on the scouting report, the Giants must do this one thing to win:

Ignore the Browns' record and not take them lightly. The Browns have been competitive in almost every game. Four of their losses have been by six or fewer points, and they've held a halftime lead four times. Cleveland is a difficult team to prepare for, and they've played better at home.

Statistics you should know:

  1. Since Eli Manning became the Giants' starter on Nov. 21, 2004, the Browns have used an NFL-high 24 starting quarterbacks – eight more than runner-up Oakland.
  1. McCown's record as a starter is 18-41, a winning percentage of .305 – which is isn't close to being the lowest among active quarterbacks with 25 or more starts. Four QBs have a lower percentage: Blaine Gabbert (9-31, .225), Brandon Weeden (6-19, .240), Blake Bortles (10-29, .256) and Colt McCoy (7-18, .280).
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