Chargers at Browns -- Week 8

Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium (natural grass, outdoors)

When: Sunday, 1 p.m., ET (CBS)

Spread: Chargers by 3

Forecast: 48 degrees, slight chance of rain early with decreasing cloud cover as game progresses

Records: Browns (Overall: 1-6, AFC North 1-2); Chargers (Overall: 3-3, AFC West 2-1). 

Past results: Two most recent regular-season meetings -- Dec. 6, 2009: Chargers 30, Browns 23; Nov. 5, 2006: Chargers 32, Browns 25. Series record: Chargers hold 14-7-1 advantage and have won seven of past eight meetings.

What matters: The disgusted look on new owner Jimmy Haslam's face caught by the TV cameras on Sunday is etched in the minds of Browns fans. He was reacting after coach Pat Shurmur called for a punt on fourth-and-1 on the Colts' 41-yard line with six minutes remaining in the 17-13 loss. That view of Haslam signaled the start of a new era in Browns football. The defeat at Indianapolis was not how Shurmur wanted his job evaluation to begin. He and GM Tom Heckert must prove to Haslam and CEO Joe Banner they are taking this team in the right direction, though some believe the new guys in town already are planning to bring in their own people. It would certainly help Shurmur if the Browns can at least begin to defend their own turf. They played well at home in their lone win two weeks ago against Cincinnati and will host San Diego and Baltimore in their next two games. Aside from the 10-6 season in 2007, the Browns have not enjoyed a significant home-field advantage at any point since returning to Cleveland in 1999.

Who matters: RB Trent Richardson is coming off a game in which he carried eight times for eight yards. The Browns can’t afford a repeat. If his rib injury is a severe hindrance to his ability or willingness to attack holes, he will be removed again in favor of Montario Hardesty. An effective Richardson is critical to the success of the offense and in preventing defenses from flooding the passing lanes. The Chargers rank second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (427) and fourth in yards yielded per carry (3.5), which makes the task far more difficult.

QB Brandon Weeden is improving every week and the Browns are finally showing some depth of talent at wide receiver. The offensive line has yielded just three sacks in the last four games and has consistently given Weeden time to throw. The line should be fine in pass protection against a San Diego team that ranks 26th in the NFL with 10 sacks and 27th in the league with 14 touchdown passes allowed.

Another key will be CB Joe Haden, who will be greatly responsible for covering Chargers WR Malcolm Floyd. Haden has been fine since returning from his four-game suspension but has been susceptible at times to the big play. He yielded a 57-yard TD pass to Bengals WR A.J. Green two weeks ago. Floyd is averaging 16.7 yards per catch and has hovered around 20 yards per catch in recent years. If the Browns keep Floyd from taking them deep and contain RB Ryan Mathews, the offense should give them a chance to win.

Key matchups: SS T.J. Ward vs. TE Antonio Gates. Browns LBs have struggled at times against opposing TEs, so look for Ward to cover Gates when the defense is not playing zone. Ward should be able to stay with Gates, but it remains to be seen how well he counteracts his size. Body positioning will be critical for Ward, who is giving up a half-foot in the matchup. The Browns must keep Gates at bay, especially on third downs, to prevent the Chargers from consistently moving the chains. DE Jabaal Sheard vs. QB Philip RiversSheard has just one sack and has been virtually invisible in all aspects in some games this season after leading the team with 8 1/2 sacks a year ago. The pass rush has been strong all season, recording 18 sacks and generally putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. But the rush has come more from the inside and the occasional blitz while Sheard has failed to join the party. A breakout game from Sheard would prove helpful in keeping Rivers off-balance and jittery in the pocket. Rivers has been known to throw interceptions when hurried.

Injuries of note: The losses of OLB Scott Fujita (neck, shoulder) and LG Jason Pinkston (blood clot) to injured reserve have forced others to step up. Veteran John Greco performed quite well in replacing Pinkston the last two weeks while rookie James-Michael Johnson is still a work in progress at strong side linebacker.  The Browns will be at full strength at WR if Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring) returns, which is quite likely. DT Phil Taylor, who has returned to practice for the first time this season following pectoral surgery, won’t be back until at least Week 9 against Baltimore.

Inside stuff: Rookie RT Mitchell Schwartz has quietly emerged as one of the better offensive linemen in the league. He has progressed every week after struggling in the preseason keeping pass rushers off Browns quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Brad Childress praised Schwartz for his development, offering that one knows a lineman is performing well when his name generally goes unmentioned. The right side of the Browns line was a mess in 2011, but Schwartz has solidified it to the point where it is considered one of the better units in the NFL.

Connections: Browns MLB D’Qwell Jackson and Chargers OL Jared Gaither were teammates at the University of Maryland. … San Diego OL Rex Hadnot spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons with the Browns. … Gates played college basketball at Kent State.

Stat you should know: Greco graded out to a plus-5.1, according to Pro Football Focus, in the loss at Indianapolis. That was the highest grade among all Browns linemen, which is quite impressive considering his lack of playing time before taking over for the injured Pinkston. The Browns averaged 5.2 yards per carry running behind Greco, who also surrendered no sacks, hits or hurries in pass protection. Greco will likely remain the starter at that position the rest of the year.

Bulletin board quote: “Sometimes he doesn’t make the best decisions. We’re going to try to capitalize on that and create some turnovers and interceptions.” -- Ward on Rivers.

Looking ahead: The Browns host the Ravens, who they haven't defeated since Baltimore hired coach John Harbaugh before the 2008 season, next week before their bye. 

Prediction: Chargers 30, Browns 24

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