1. Part of what makes Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning so fun to watch is all the antics that go into his calls at the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. Everyone has seen the show, but few truly understand it. Veteran Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was dead on when he said his team cannot fall for Manning’s calls at the line by giving him a pre-snap read that will allow him to change the play. “He does a tremendous job of reading a defense and putting the offense in the best play available for that coverage,” Jackson said. “If he sees pressure, he does some different things that’s made him successful over the years.”
2. Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden needs to bounce back after last week’s struggles against the Washington Redskins. Despite facing one of the weakest secondaries the NFL has to offer, Weeden threw two interceptions in the third quarter that sealed the Browns’ fate. This week, Weeden needs to be on top of his game, going against veteran Champ Bailey, whose 11 Pro Bowls in 14 seasons are the most in NFL history by a cornerback.
3. The Browns’ offensive line has to protect Weeden from the potential crushing sacks of linebacker Von Miller (16) and defensive end Elvis Dumervil (9). The league’s second-most prolific sack tandem makes a living feasting on quarterbacks, let alone an inexperienced one who has a tendency to hold the ball too long. Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas will handle Dumervil, and inexperienced, albeit solid, rookie Mitchell Schwartz will have his hands full with Miller, the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year.
4. The Browns need to establish a consistent running game today, feeding the ball to running back Trent Richardson and his backup, Montario Hardesty. Last week, the Browns strayed from their ground game in the second half and ended up giving the ball to Richardson just twice in the final two quarters. Afterward, Richardson complained publicly. A few days later, he was reprimanded by Browns coach Pat Shurmur for throwing him under the bus.
5. Who knew? Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno was inactive for eight games this season but has come on strong since being inserted into the starting lineup the last month. During the past four weeks, Moreno ranks fourth in scrimmage yards per game (121.8) and fifth in the league in rushing yards per game (97.8). It helps his cause that the Broncos’ opponents tend to play a lot of nickel defense against Manning, which in turn open up the running game.