>>Find a way to prevent Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley from dominating the line of scrimmage. Saying this won’t be easy is an understatement. It could very well be impossible. But the Browns need to figure something out to keep the NFL’s biggest, strongest, and nastiest defensive-tackle duo out of the face and off the back of Brandon Weeden. First, their offensive line – and especially the interior – is going to have to raise the level of its game. Guards John Greco and Shawn Lauvao must be able to handle their share of one-on-ones, while also getting alternating assistance from center Alex Mack. The Browns will no doubt do their share of scheming, with tight ends and running backs involved with pass protection, but they want to be careful not to remove too many pass-catching options from the offense.
>>Brandon Weeden needs to be efficient, while being effective. Weeden is doing a good job of keeping the ball out of opponents’ hands. That has to continue Sunday against a Lions team that is solid enough in all phases to fully capitalize on mistakes. Weeden doesn’t have to carry the weight of the offense on his passing arm. He doesn’t need to feel he has to do it all. But he does have to do enough, which means completing the passes he should complete (and placing the ball so that his receivers have maximum opportunity to make plays after the catch) and connecting on a big throw or two in clutch situations that should arrive in what figures to be a close, competitive game. As usual, Josh Gordon will find openings in the secondary to exploit for chunk yardage.
>>Coverage must hold up against Calvin Johnson while not allowing others to make too many big plays. Johnson’s sore knee could limit his production, if it doesn’t keep him out altogether. If he plays and is anything close to his Megatron self, cornerback Joe Haden has to do him what he has done to A.J. Green and other top receivers – keep him from causing a whole lot of damage. That might not be possible, but Haden is having a Pro Bowl season and this matchup, provided Johnson is Johnson, will be the ultimate measuring stick. Still, regardless of Johnson’s health, the Browns cannot allow Reggie Bush and the rest of Matthew Stafford’s targets from tearing things up.
>>Jabaal Sheard has to return with a vengeance. Sheard was having the best season of his three-year NFL career before suffering the knee injury that kept him out of the past two games. His return to outside linebacker puts him more teeth into an already fearsome pass rush. Sheard also is a huge force against the run, something the Browns clearly missed against the Bills. He is capable of making everyone else around him better, especially fellow outside linebackers Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo.
>>Jordan Cameron gets back to being a back-breaker. Cameron had a fairly quiet game against Buffalo. He figures to be a much larger force on Sunday. The Lions’ safeties are extremely aggressive. They’re big on seeking big plays and will do a fair amount of guessing and jumping routes. If they’re right, they make interceptions. But if they’re wrong, there should be more than a few chances for Jordan to make some high-impact receptions, especially near the end zone.
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