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Week 8 Preview: Cardinals at Browns


The Sports Xchange

Arizona Cardinals (5-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-5)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland – TV: CBS

*TV announcers: Chris Myers, Ronde Barber, Holly Sonders

*Keys to the game: The Browns run exotic blitz packages with ILB Karlos Dansby directing the organized chaos. The Browns are 32nd in rushing defense and allowing 5.1 yards per carry, while the Cardinals have their best rushing attack in years with RB Chris Johnson (567 yards, second in the NFL) finding new life in the desert. Coach Bruce Arians has followed a recent pattern of pushing the ball to his big receivers on first down and early in the game before settling into a balanced approach.

The Cardinals have intercepted 12 passes this season and dropped a handful of others, this without getting regular heat on quarterbacks. But after watching the Rams abuse QB Josh McCown, who left Week 7 with an arm injury, selling out to get to him is expected by the Cardinals. The Rams sacked McCown four times and hit him three other times last week. The Browns will rely on screen passes to slow the rush down, which means more snaps for third-down back Duke Johnson. TE Gary Barnidge has become the favorite target in the middle of the field. He has 33 catches and a team-high five touchdowns.

*Matchup to watch – Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Browns CB Joe Haden: These two won’t be matched up one-on-one all day, but Haden will see plenty of Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald has drawn double teams in the last two weeks. That’s not easy for most opponents to pull off, because the Cardinals align him in different spots in the formation to create mismatches.

*Player spotlight – Cardinals LB Dwight Freeney: The Cardinals think Freeney can provide regular pressure from outside. He had a sack last week against the Ravens, his first as a Cardinal. Freeney had only 3.5 sacks a year ago with the Chargers, but was among league leaders in pressures.

*Fast facts: RB Chris Johnson is on pace for 1,300 rushing yards, the sixth time Arizona would have a 1,000-yard rusher since 1998. … The Browns have lost 10 of their past 12 games overall.


Cleveland remains good enough to get to the fourth quarter. Finishing has been the challenge for the Browns, and no team has embraced killer instinct better than the Cardinals under coach Bruce Arians thanks to a newfound running game.

*Our pick: Cardinals 30-20.

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