Browns at Broncos -- Week 16

Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver (DD Grassmaster)

When: Sunday, 4:05 p.m., ET (CBS)

Spread: Broncos by 13

Forecast: Cloudy, 49 degrees

Records: Browns (5-9; AFC North 2-3); Broncos (11-3; AFC West 5-0)

Past results: Two most recent regular-season meetings -- September 13, 2009: Broncos 27, Browns 6; November 6, 2008: Broncos 34, Browns 30. Series record: Broncos lead, 18-5 (Broncos have won nine straight and 17 of 19 since 1975).

What matters: Perhaps nothing matters now for coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert. Speculation is that their fates have been sealed, perhaps by the shoddy 38-21 loss to Washington, which indicated that the terrible level of competition was more responsible for their three-game winning streak than the emergence of a team as a potential playoff contender. New CEO Joe Banner said this week that he has not made any final decisions on the fate of Shurmur and Heckert, but that he will announce them immediately following the season. One can certainly speculate that both will be gone and it seems that nothing that happens in Denver or Pittsburgh to conclude the season can save them. It’s definitely hard to imagine based on the performance against the Redskins that the Browns can win this game.

Who matters: QB Brandon Weeden is playing for his job. Banner has made it clear that he is not convinced that Weeden is the quarterback of the future in Cleveland. Weeden definitely did not make a strong case last Sunday against Washington. He played arguably his worst game since the four-interception debacle in the season-opening loss to Philadelphia. He threw two picks and had four more passes batted down against a Redskins team that ranks near the bottom of the NFL in pass defense and has a struggling secondary. That doesn’t bode well for this week in Denver, which boasts three of the premier defensive players in the game in pass-rushers Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil and veteran cornerback Champ Bailey. The Broncos have won nine games in a row and have already clinched the division title. This is a team playing at the top of its game right now, so Weeden will have his hands full. If he manages to rise to the occasion, perhaps he can convince Banner that he deserves to stick around. It would be comforting if the Browns weren’t forced to waste a high draft pick or other resources on yet another speculative franchise quarterback.

Key matchups: RT Mitchell Schwartz vs. OLB Von Miller. Miller is third in the league with 16 sacks. He is arguably the quickest and fastest outside linebacker in the NFL right now, which means he will be a severe test for Schwartz, who has enjoyed a fine rookie season. Browns RB Trent Richardson must also make sure he also picks up Miller on blitzes and when he works his way into the backfield, but it will be up to Schwartz to keep this sack machine at bay. LT Joe Thomas vs. RDE/OLB Elvis Dumervil. This should be a spotlight matchup pitting two of the best in the league at their positions. Thomas is a shoo-in for another Pro Bowl berth and is probably having his best season. Dumervil is emerging as one of the steadiest and most productive outside pass rushers in the NFL. Thomas must keep him off Weeden for the Browns to have any chance for success in the passing game. But then, Weeden has at times shot himself in the foot with plenty of time to throw. Thomas can’t throw the ball for him.

Injuries of note: SS T.J. Ward (bruised knee) and OLB James-Michael Johnson (groin) have both been placed on IR. Ward, who was having his best season and managed his first interception last week since 2010, will be replaced by FS Usama Young. Originally, rookie Tashaun Gipson was going to step in for Young, but Gipson injured his foot on Thursday so Eric Hagg will step in at FS. Rookie Craig Robertson, who has impressed, will get most of the snaps in place of Johnson. TE Jordan Cameron (head) is out, which means starter Benjamin Watson will receive plenty of playing time and recently promoted Brad Smelley will likely also play.

Inside stuff: The Browns raised a few eyebrows by waiving starting nickel back Dimitri Patterson, who was quickly signed by Miami. It can be assumed they were unhappy with the pace of Patterson’s recovery from a high ankle sprain, which took about seven weeks. Patterson was upset when he didn’t accompany the team to Oakland despite claiming he was healthy enough to play. The move was a head-scratcher considering Patterson had signed a three-year contract in March worth an estimated $16 million, of which $6 million was guaranteed, and was considered a likely replacement for aging CB Sheldon Brown. Look for the Browns to take a CB high in the 2013 draft or sign a replacement for Patterson in free agency. The others on the roster are young and unproven.

Connections: Broncos staring S Mike Adams spent five years (2007-2011) with the Browns. … Broncos director of pro personnel Keith Kidd spent three seasons (1999-2001) in the same capacity in Cleveland.

Stats you should know: DE Juqua Parker has registered one sack in each of the last three games and now has a team-high six on the season. … The 38 points surrendered to Washington matches the point total the Browns yielded in their previous three games combined. … RB Trent Richardson owns 11 of the 12 rushing touchdowns for the Browns this season. The other belongs to Montario Hardesty. … WR Greg Little has 13 catches for 191 yards in his last three games, but hasn’t caught a touchdown pass in the last seven games. He needs 158 yards in receiving in the last two games to match last year’s total.

Looking ahead: The Browns finish the season in Pittsburgh, which should be playing for something more than just revenge for their eight-turnover loss in Cleveland. The Steelers were playing sans QB Ben Roethlisberger in their loss to the Browns. This will be a far sterner test.

Prediction: Broncos 27, Browns 13.

Stay dialed in on the Cleveland Browns on Twitter at @CBSBrowns throughout the season with on-site updates from RapidReports correspondent Marty Gitlin.