Browns at Giants -- Week 5
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J. (FieldTurf, outdoors)
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Spread: Giants by 9
Forecast: 55 degrees, cloudy, slight breeze, 40 percent chance of rain.
Records: Browns (Overall: 0-4, AFC North 0-2); Giants (Overall: 2-2, NFC East: 0-2)
Past results: The teams have split their last two matchups: Oct. 13, 2008: Browns 35, Giants 14; Sept. 26, 2004: Giants 27, Browns 10.
Series record: Browns lead 26-19-2, but have lost four of the past five meetings.
What matters: “Winning the turnover battle” is one of those clichés that Giants coach Tom Coughlin frequently uses -- only it’s not just a cliché. Had it not been for Brandon Weeden’s seven interceptions this season (tied for second in the NFL), the Browns’ record wouldn’t be 0-4.
That’s good and bad news for the Giants.
Weeden has averaged 41.8 passing attempts per game (third in the NFL), which means New York will have opportunities for an interception. But if Weeden can cut down on one or two bad throws per game, Cleveland would have a significantly more dangerous offense.
The Giants have four interceptions, but three are by Michael Boley, who is questionable with a hip injury, and the other came from rookie CB Jayron Hosley, who is out with a hamstring injury. CB Corey Webster is also questionable, but even if he does play, he’ll have a sore hamstring and a cast on his broken right hand. In other words, someone is going to have to step up and make a play on defense.
New York lost the turnover battle and the game to the Eagles last week.
Who matters: Suddenly Linval Joseph is the veteran at defensive tackle.
Before the season it looked like he would share the field with veterans Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard and Shaun Rogers. But with Canty on PUP nursing a knee injury, Rogers on IR with a blood clot and Bernard out because of a quadriceps injury, Joseph is the most-experienced interior defensive lineman.
Kuhn (26) is older than Joseph (23) and although Austin has only appeared in two NFL games, he is also 23.
Kuhn and Austin are short on experience. They each have great physical gifts, but neither has had a full snap load in an NFL game, and the Browns feature a punishing between-the-tackles running back in Trent Richardson.
If the Giants are going to win the possession battle, they’ll have to stop the Browns' running game and that means Kuhn and Austin have to be as effective as Bernard has been for the first four weeks of the year.
Key matchups: Browns' TE Ben Watson is second on the team in receptions (12) and could have a bigger role this week because WR Mohamed Massaquoi is doubtful with a hamstring injury. The Giants are banged up at weakside linebacker (Boley has the hip injury, and Keith Rivers is doubtful because of a hamstring issue), so we could see nickelback Will Hill, Ss Stevie Brown and Antrel Rolle, as well as strongside LB Jacquian Williams dropping in coverage against Watson.
He’s not the deep threat he was at the beginning of his career, but Watson can still get open underneath the coverage, and he might be catching the Giants at a vulnerable time.
Injuries of note: The Giants will be without WR Ramses Barden (concussion), Bernard (quadriceps), CB Hosley (hamstring), WR Hakeem Nicks (foot/knee) and S Kenny Phillips (knee). RT David Diehl (knee) and WLB Rivers (hamstring) are listed as “doubtful,” but the rest of the walking wounded should play, including Boley, who predicted he’d be active on Sunday.
Expect to see more of WR Domenik Hixon, WR Rueben Randle, Hill, Williams and possibly WLB Spencer Paysinger. Sean Locklear will likely start for Diehl at right tackle, and Will Beatty should start on the blind side.
Inside stuff: The Giants have a difficult decision about activating S Tyler Sash, who just came off a four-game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy (he says he failed to notify authorities about an Adderall prescription). If he’s to play Sunday, the Giants would have to make a roster move by 4 p.m. on Saturday. They can wait until Monday at 4 p.m. to make a move, but he wouldn’t be eligible to play Sunday.
Usually this wouldn’t be much of a decision (the player in question would usually sit in favor of someone who has been playing for the past four weeks), but with Phillips out and Rolle battling his knee issue, it might be wise to have Sash in uniform against the Browns. If nothing else, he can fill in on special teams because Brown will be needed more on defense in place of Phillips.
Connections: Giants FB Henry Hynoski’s father, Henry Sr., played for the Browns in 1975, rushing seven times and making four catches. … Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron served under Coughlin with the Jacksonville Jaguars and running backs coach Gary Brown played for the Giants in 1998 and 1999.
Stat you should know: The Giants rushed for 69.5 yards per game in their two losses and 109.5 yards per game in their two wins. Ahmad Bradshaw handled the majority of the carries in the losses, and Andre Brown carried the load in the wins. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride has said that Bradshaw sees more time when the Giants have to pass because he’s better at protecting QB Eli Manning, but for the Giants to be successful Sunday, there might need to be more balance in the backfield.
Looking ahead: Enjoy this game against the 0-4 Browns because the schedule gets scary. Next week, New York is in San Francisco to face the 49ers before hosting the Washington Redskins in Week 7 and traveling to Dallas in Week 8. The Giants are 2-4 against those three teams the past two times they’ve faced them.
Prediction: Giants 28, Browns 16