Cleveland Browns (0-0, 0-0ATS) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0, 0-0ATS) NFL Week 1, Sunday September 12th, 1:00PM Eastern Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Browns +2/Bucs -2
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the luxury of hosting their opening game when the Cleveland Browns come rolling into Raymond James Stadium. Unfortunately both teams had miserable seasons in 2009 and are not expected to make any serious run at the postseason in 2010. However, the Saints proved how valuable preseason expectations are last year when they were predicted by most to finish 3rd in the NFC South. Instead of course the Saints were lifting up the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season. Now I may not go so far as to say the Browns or Buccaneers will be the next SuperBowl Champions. However, both are in the rebuilding stages and looking to turn a few heads with some young talent this season.
The Buccaneers have a very young and talented team, tarting with QB Josh Freeman, who showed some flashiness and inexperience at times last season. Freeman’s numbers were nothing impressive throwing for 1,855 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 18 picks. However, Freeman had a few games where he performed very well despite the numbers. Still all the blame can not solely be on Freeman for the 2009 troubles. Outside of Kellen Winslow, who caught 884 receiving yards last year, the Buccaneers are in desperate need of playmaker at the receiver position. To fill that void, Tampa Bay drafted two standout wide receivers in Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams. However, inexperience may be the biggest thing holding the Buccaneers back this season as some of their young guys still need to time to develop.
Tampa Bay also brought over running back Derrick Ward from the Giants prior to the 2009 season in hopes of revamping the running game. However, Ward turned out to be a big disappointment with just 409 rushing yards last season. Instead, veteran Cadillac Williams returned to form and more importantly stayed healthy all season long in 2009 rushing for 823 yards. Williams and Ward would really benefit if the passing game could improve considering the amount of effort opposing defenses put towards stopping the run. So the focus for the Buccaneers has to lean towards the youngsters in the passing game. If Freeman can get the passing game involved, the Buccaneers can become a much better force on the offensive side of the ball.
For the Browns, there are tons of uncertainties on the offensive side of the ball. QB Jake Delhomme will take over behind center after being released from the Panthers after a horrible 2009 campaign throwing for just 55% with only 8 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. To be honest, I never really thought of Delhomme as a great quarterback and believe that will become even more apparent this season. If Delhomme could put up those pitiful numbers in 2009 with the Panthers, what is he going to do with a less talented receiving group and offensive line? On the other hand, maybe Delhomme can prove he is worthy and return to form this year. I just don’t expect it.
On the other hand, Browns fans can be excited about running back Jerome Harrison. Harrison exploded at the end of 2009 rushing for 561 yards and 5 touchdowns in the final 3 games of the season. Harrison accomplished those numbers during that 3 game stretch without any type of help from the passing game. If Delhomme just provide some type of help behind center, Harrison could be poised for a breakout season. In fact, expect the Browns to place a lot of emphasis on running the football this season considering the talent they have on the defensive side of the ball. Still, only time will tell if Harrison’s impressive 3 game stretch was a fluke or an omen for things to come.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Spread: I think the Browns defense is the difference in this ball game. They should keep the Tampa Bay offense at bay for the most part. The main objective for Cleveland will be protecting the football which will be the responsibility of Delhomme. If that happens, I believe Harrison can provide the consistency needed on the ground to pull out the victory. Take the Browns +2.