Jake Delhomme will start for the Browns for the first time since Week 1.
Back to Delhomme: Did the Cleveland Browns choose the right quarterback? Although the statistics say otherwise, Browns coach Eric Mangini believes veteran Jake Delhomme gives them the best chance to win Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. With rookie quarterback Colt McCoy out with an ankle injury, Mangini likes Delhomme's familiarity against his former team over backup Seneca Wallace. But Delhomme hasn't played well in limited time this season. He's thrown one touchdown, four interceptions and has a 48.2 passer rating. Wallace, on the other hand, has thrown four touchdowns, two interceptions and has a 88.5 passer rating.
Ganging up on Hillis: Browns tailback Peyton Hillis is getting a lot of attention for the first time in his career. Hillis has established himself as Cleveland's primary weapon, and defenses are doing everything to take him away, which includes crowding the line of scrimmage. Last week Hillis averaged just 2.3 yards per carry in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. After a fast start, he's surpassed 100 yards rushing only once in his past six games. The Browns have to find other players to step up offensively and take pressure off Hillis in order to score more points and consistently win games.
Stopping the run: The Baltimore Ravens have had uncharacteristic lapses in their run defense. There was a time when the Ravens would go seasons without allowing a 100-yard rusher. But this year they've already allowed two, including Panthers backup tailback Mike Goodson, who rushed for 120 yards against Baltimore last week. Baltimore faces another stiff challenge against Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back LeGarrette Blount, who is one of the NFL's hottest rookies. The Bucs will try to control the line of scrimmage and are 12th in the league in rushing.
Beware of the pass:Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't a household name, but he's been one of the most streaky quarterbacks in the NFL this season. That could be a problem for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have issues defending the pass. Fitzpatrick caught fire last week against the Cincinnati Bengals and torched them for four touchdowns. He has 18 touchdowns passes on the season and isn't afraid to take shots downfield. One of the few ways the Bills could pull the upset would be with big plays against Pittsburgh's secondary. The Steelers need to get pressure on Fitzpatrick and keep Buffalo's receivers in front of them.
Ugly finish: The Bengals (2-9) lost their eighth straight game Thursday against the New York Jets. Looking at their schedule, Cincinnati could end up with only two or three wins this year. Of the five remaining games, the Bengals (2-9) face just one team currently with a losing record: Cleveland (3-7). That's the only game Cincinnati may be favored in at home. Otherwise, it would take a big upset by the Bengals against teams like the New Orleans Saints (8-3), Ravens (7-3) and Steelers (7-3). The good news is a 2-14 or 3-11 record should land the Bengals in the top three of next year's NFL draft, where they will be able to fill a major need.