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NFL Preview - New Orleans at Cleveland
NFL Preview - New Orleans at Cleveland
The New Orleans Saints take step number one toward becoming the NFL's feel-good story of 2006 on Sunday, when they travel to Cleveland for the 2006 season-opener with the Browns on Sunday.
The Saints were forced to play "home" games at three facilities last year in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. They stumbled to a 3-13 record and "earned" the second pick in the draft, where they were able to grab Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush after the Houston Texans passed on him at No. 1.
New coach Sean Payton takes the reins, and quarterback Drew Brees is in from San Diego as well for the Saints, who'll begin their 40th season in the league.
The Browns enter their second season under head coach Romeo Crennel, after he defected from the defensive coordinator position with the New England Patriots following the team's most recent Super Bowl title season of 2004. Crennel guided Cleveland to a 6-10 mark in 2005, which was tied with Baltimore for the worst record in the AFC North.
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Cleveland owns a 11-3 edge in its all-time series with New Orleans, winning its last three matchups with the Saints. The Browns were 24-15 road winners when the clubs last met, at the Superdome in 2002, and also took a 17-13 decision when New Orleans last visited Cleveland. The Saints' most recent win in the series came at home in 1990, and their only win in five contests held in Cleveland was a 16-14 triumph in 1984.
The Saints' Payton and Browns' Crennel have never met as head coaches, nor have they met one another's respective franchises.
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SAINTS OFFENSE VS. BROWNS DEFENSE
Brees takes his first snaps from center with the New Orleans offense after throwing for 3,576 yards and 24 touchdowns last season with San Diego. The Purdue product won 21 of his last 32 starts with the Chargers, and threw for an 84.9 QB rating in his five seasons in San Diego.
Bush, who averaged 5.4 yards per carry in the preseason, is expected to make his NFL debut, and the game will also mark the return of running back Deuce McAllister, who has not played since a knee injury sustained last Oct. 9. McAllister has recorded 100-yard games in two of his three career meetings with teams from the AFC North. He ran for 335 yards on 93 carries and scored three touchdowns last season before suffering a torn ACL.
Wideout Joe Horn is back after leading the team with 49 catches for 654 yards and a touchdown in 2005. He needs 57 yards to join Eric Martin (7,854) as the only receivers in team history with 7,000 for a career. Rookie receiver Marques Colston, a seventh-round draft choice out of Hofstra, could start after recording eight catches for 84 yards in the preseason.
The Saints averaged 314.4 yards per game last season, but were a woeful minus-24 in turnover ratio.
The Browns held opponents to 316.8 yards per game in 2005 and were a minus-7 in turnover ratio.
Linebacker Willie McGinest, who had six sacks with New England last season, makes his debut with Cleveland, as does ex-Raiders lineman Ted Washington. As a unit, the Browns' defense was first in the NFL inside the 20-yard-line in 2005, surrendering 22 touchdowns in 50 possessions (44 percent).
BROWNS OFFENSE VS. SAINTS DEFENSE
Quarterback Charlie Frye makes his sixth career start after posting a 60.5 completion percentage in his first five starts last season. Overall, Frye completed 98 of 164 passes for 1,002 yards and four touchdowns.
Workhorse running back Reuben Droughns can become the second back in franchise history (Leroy Kelly) to pass 1,200 yards on the ground in consecutive seasons. The ex-Denver Bronco gained 1,232 yards on 309 carries - a 4.0-yard per carry average - in 2005, with two touchdowns.
In his lone career game against the Saints, Droughns ran for 166 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries while with Denver in November 2004.
Wide receiver Joe Jurevicius arrives from Seattle after catching 55 passes for 694 yards and 10 touchdowns - second in the NFC - in 2005. In two starts against the Saints, he has six catches for 97 yards and two TDs.
Tight end Kellen Winslow, son of the NFL Hall of Famer of the same name, is slated to make his first meaningful game appearance since Sept. 19, 2004.
Defensively, New Orleans allowed 312.1 yards per game last season.
Third-year defensive end Will Smith, who led the team with 8.5 sacks in 2005, has 5.5 sacks in his last six games against AFC opponents.
Meanwhile, Mark Simoneau augments the linebacking corps after a preseason trade with Philadelphia for wide receiver Donte Stallworth.
The Browns are solid on the ground and, with the addition of Jurevicius, could advance through the air with the emergence of Frye at quarterback. Add that to a sturdy defense and you have a potential surprise team.But it'll be no match for the new-look Saints, who've been itching to re-write their sad story of 2005 with new, dynamic personnel. Look for Brees to have a strong debut, Bush to electrify at least once, and McAllister and Horn to regain the form that had made New Orleans a team to fear before the arrival of Katrina.
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About the Author: -> Predicted Outcome: Saints 27, Browns 17 CLICK HERE TO BET NOW.