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Week 8: Chargers-Browns preview

The Sports Xchange
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San Diego at Cleveland

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland - TV: CBS; DirecTV: 708

*TV announcers: Spero Dedes, Rich Gannon

*Keys to the game: The Chargers were shell-shocked by a furious Broncos comeback the last time they were on the field. There's no magic bullet for the pre-bye week ills. QB Philip Rivers disavowed the notion that more conservative play-calling is needed to help him protect the ball and make his offensive line more comfortable. The Browns are developing a consistent rhythm with QB Brandon Weeden growing into his own in the West Coast-style offense. Without a true No. 1 receiver, RB Trent Richardson carries a lion's share of the workload as the team's top rusher and receiver -- and thusly the bull's-eye from opposing defenders is placed on him. He was stuffed regularly last week and might be limited with a two-week-old rib injury again. Establishing the downfield passing game with rookie Josh Gordon is the best way to expand the passing windows for Weeden. Unforced errors and mental mistakes, including multiple penalties in the red zone by the offense last week, continue to be a hindrance for the Browns.

*Matchup to watch - Browns SS T.J. Ward vs. Chargers RB Ryan Mathews: Playing through a thumb injury that limits him in pass coverage, Ward, the team's leader in solo tackles and a hard-hitting force as a run stopper, has become prone to missed tackles with his hand in a cast.

*Player spotlight - Chargers ILB Donald Butler: Along with free agent signee OLB Jarret Johnson, Butler is emerging as a standout cog in the run defense. Butler was a big reason the Chargers hit the bye week with a top-three run defense.

*Fast facts: Chargers safety Eric Weddle has nine interceptions in his last 22 games. ... Weeden is on pace for 19 TD passes this season. No Browns quarterback has topped 14 TDs in a season since 2007.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

San Diego had two weeks to stew over consecutive second-half collapses. The Browns aren't a threat unless Trent Richardson is fully healthy. If the Chargers can set the tempo and prove a killer instinct, they'll get another chance to show their wares in primetime Nov. 1 against the Chiefs.

*Our pick: Chargers 28-21

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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