The Cleveland Browns will host New England on Sunday. Let’s hear from Musket Fire about what to expect from the Patriots in this Week 5 matchup.
The Cleveland Browns finally return to First Energy Stadium on Sunday for just their second home game of the 2016 NFL season.
And as luck would have it, the Browns are hosting the New England Patriots, who are coming off their first loss of the season – and first home shutout since 1993 – and are getting Tom Brady back after his four-game suspension.
“We’ve got a game to play and who knows what can happen in a three-hour period,” head coach Hue Jackson said on Wednesday. “You’ve just got to go play the game and we’ll find out.
“What we have to do is play our best football game of the year and I think our guys have been getting better but we’ve got to continue to grow and this is a really good test for our team. I think we’ll be ready to play.”
Q: So, who will the Patriots be starting at QB on Sunday?
Connor: I heard this week that the Patriots signed some 39-year-old off the beach in Italy to take over the quarterbacking duties …
Q: In all seriousness, is there any reason to believe that Tom Brady will be anything other than Tom Brady after missing the first four games of the season?
Connor: I think you have to expect a certain amount of rust. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Patriots offense stalls and stutters at the beginning of the game as Brady adjusts to the speed of a live-action regular season game; after all, it’s been about nine months since he last played in a competitive game. But for the most part, I expect Brady to click with his targets as the game goes on, especially Julian Edelman.
Q: There was some pearl clutching over the fact that Barkevious Mingo and John Hughes joined Jabaal Sheard as ex-Browns on the Patriots. Sheard has done well; how are things going with Mingo and Sheard?
Connor: Sheard was the single best free agent signing the Patriots made in the 2015 off-season. Without Chandler Jones or Rob Ninkovich around this year, Sheard has been the marquee defensive end, and he’ s been up to the challenge.
As for Mingo, he has only appeared in five snaps on defense, instead making his mark felt on special teams, where he has been on the field for more than 83 percent of the snaps. As for Hughes, the Patriots signed him and then cut him within a matter of days; now he’s with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With Vincent Valentine hurt, the Pats are probably wishing they held on to Hughes.
Q: The Browns have trouble containing tight ends. What’s the status of Rob Gronkowski and, even if he can’t go on Sunday, should Cleveland be worried about Martellus Bennett?
Connor: This week, Gronk was the most optimistic he’s been in weeks that he will finally be able to please fantasy football owners. But if I’m the Browns, I’m just as worried about Martellus Bennett, who actually leads the team in receiving yards. The veteran has never looked better than he has so far this season, even when Gronk is on the field.
Q: Who is a player (or players) that Browns fans may not be familiar with to keep an eye on this Sunday?
Connor: Browns fans should keep a close eye on diminutive receiving back James White. Brady loves to hit White (or the injured Dion Lewis) out of the backfield, much like he did with Shane Vereen in the last meeting against the Browns (Vereen racked up 153 receiving yards on 12 catches in that game). White is No. 28, for those of you with a pen and pad right now.
Q: What’s the prediction for the game?
Connor: I’ve got the Patriots winning this game 31-13 thanks to some big special teams plays and the energy that the Patriots will have thanks to Brady’s presence in the huddle. That’s not to say I don’t respect the Browns, because I do; their 0-4 record does not accurately represent the caliber of this team. But the Browns got a tough draw being the first team to experience Brady’s anger upon returning from suspension.