Joe Haden and the Cleveland Browns are expecting a track meet when the ball is kicked off Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
Haden, 25, has played in the Georgia Dome twice in his football career – just not with the Browns. Florida made the SEC Championship game in 2008-09. The Gators beat the Crimson Tide in '08 en route to the National Championship before losing to Alabama the following year.
The cornerback loves the turf surface in Atlanta as opposed to the sometimes averse conditions he sees with the wet Cleveland weather.
"You can wear your most comfortable cleats," Haden said. "You can come clean out of your breaks."
As tremendous as Haden has been playing as of late, he'll need the extra help playing in a dome will give him. The Falcons like to throw the football 40 times a game, at least, and they feature one of the NFL's premier receivers in Julio Jones.
Jones' 105 targets are the most in the NFC and his 912 receiving yards rank him eighth in the NFL. Outside of Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, on paper, Jones presents the toughest matchup Haden has seen in 2014.
"He's a really big receiver who can run the whole route tree. He can go up and get the ball. And he has a very capable quarterback in Matt Ryan who can put it on the money," said Haden. "Going up against him is a challenge. I like to go up against the top receivers and it brings out the best in both of us."
Atlanta has to be careful what it wishes for. A track meet type of game might actually benefit the Browns this week. Is the Falcons 32nd ranked secondary equipped to slow down Cleveland's bevvy of receivers and Brian Hoyer? Hoyer's 43 passes of 20 yards or more put him at third in the NFL, only behind Andrew Luck (55) and Peyton Manning (44).
"I'm ready to get out there and show my speed," said Taylor Gabriel, praising the turf surface of the Georgia Dome.
Gabriel said the return of Josh Gordon has made the wide receivers more competitive during practice. Each player has been pushing each other to try and be the best. Hoyer, on the other hand, isn't as sold as his other teammates this will be a shootout type of game. Lots of that has to do with all the new wrinkles Atlanta puts in every week.
"When you play against a Mike Nolan defense, you're just not really sure until you get out there and the game kind of declares itself what it's going to be," said Hoyer.
The good news for the Browns is they are capable of scoring points. In games where Cleveland has scored 21 points or more, they are 6-2 – and those two losses were last second field goals.