NFL

Falcons at Browns

FOX Sports D. Orlando Ledbetter; Staff, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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In the fifth game of the season, what if ...

1. Cleveland running back Peyton Hillis keeps rolling.

After searching for years, the Browns appear to have found a legitimate running back in Hillis, a former Arkansas Razorback.

The Falcons remember him from his days in Denver. He rushed for two touchdowns and gave the Falcons their only defeat at home during the 2008 season.

He has landed in Cleveland and is shooting for his third consecutive 100-yard rushing game and his fifth consecutive game with a rushing touchdown. He is the first Cleveland back since Greg Pruitt to score a rushing touchdown in four consecutive games. Pruitt had five in a row in 1975.

Hillis ran for 144 yards in a loss to Baltimore and then ran for 102 against Cincinnati and helped the Browns run out the final 4:41 to seal the 23-20 victory.

2. The Falcons punt and kick off to Joshua Cribbs.

Cribbs, a returner/receiver/running back for the Browns, is a game-breaker.

"He's a busy guy for us," Browns coach Eric Mangini said.

He has 107 return yards, which puts him 12th on the career list with 8,443. He has 12 catches and is a more polished route-runner.

The Falcons know they have to account for him on special teams and when he's in on offense. The former quarterback at Kent State will line up in the backfield in the Wildcat formation.

"He's been productive here early on in the receiver position for us," Mangini said.

The Falcons have allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown and a long 72-yard punt return. However, the kickoff return was nullified by a holding penalty.

3. Falcons running backs Michael Turner and Jason Snelling run well.

The Falcons will face another 3-4 front. They didn't run well against the 3-4 employed by Pittsburgh and San Francisco, but they absolutely mauled Arizona's 3-4.

The Browns are pretty sturdy up front and have some massive bodies to stack the line of scrimmage in Shaun Rogers and Matt Roth.

The Browns give up 108.8 yards per game, which ranks 17th in the NFL. The Falcons lead the league with 149 rushing attempts through four games. The Browns held the Bengals to 67 yards rushing last week.

The Falcons need Turner to get rolling. When Turner has 22 carries or more, his team is 14-1, dating to his San Diego days. In those 15 games, he has rushed for 1,793 yards (119.5 per game) and 20 touchdowns.

So the magic number for Turner is 22.

4. Falcons get off to a fast start and force the Browns to throw.

The Browns' passing attack is anemic.

For the second week in a row, the cornerbacks can take the game off. Like San Francisco, the Browns don't throw it much outside to the wide receivers.

The leading receiver is tight end Ben Watson, with 18 catches.

The leaders in catches among the receivers are Cribbs with 12 and Chansi Stuckey with 10. Former Georgia standout Mohamed Massaquoi is listed as the No. 1 receiver, but has only four catches.

Brian Robiskie has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury.

5. Roddy White turns in a big game.

Last week, Cincinnati's Terrell Owens torched the Browns secondary for 221 yards receiving. The week before, Baltimore's Anquan Boldin had 142 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

White leads the NFC with 32 catches for 362 yards and two TDs. He could be due for a big game.

"Roddy White is a really good player," Mangini said. "There is not much that he can't do. I've seen him catch a short one and run it for 90 [yards]. I've seen him beat corners one-on-one and catch the fades. I've seen him catch underthrown fades."

AMERICAN CONFERENCE

East

W L T Pct PF PA

N.Y. Jets 3 1 0 .750 106 61

New England 3 1 0 .750 131 96

Miami 2 2 0 .500 66 92

Buffalo 0 4 0 .000 61 125

South

W L T Pct PF PA

Houston 3 1 0 .750 108 102

Jacksonville 2 2 0 .500 71 111

Indianapolis 2 2 0 .500 117 92

Tennessee 2 2 0 .500 98 68

North

W L T Pct PF PA

Baltimore 3 1 0 .750 61 55

Pittsburgh 3 1 0 .750 86 50

Cincinnati 2 2 0 .500 79 78

Cleveland 1 3 0 .250 68 77

West

W L T Pct PF PA

Kansas City 3 0 0 1.000 68 38

San Diego 2 2 0 .500 113 71

Denver 2 2 0 .500 87 85

Oakland 1 3 0 .250 76 107

NATIONAL CONFERENCE

East

W L T Pct PF PA

Washington 2 2 0 .500 73 79

N.Y. Giants 2 2 0 .500 72 88

Philadelphia 2 2 0 .500 95 79

Dallas 1 2 0 .333 54 53

South

W L T Pct PF PA

Atlanta 3 1 0 .750 93 60

New Orleans 3 1 0 .750 79 72

Tampa Bay 2 1 0 .667 50 59

Carolina 0 4 0 .000 46 87

North

W L T Pct PF PA

Chicago 3 1 0 .750 69 68

Green Bay 3 1 0 .750 106 73

Minnesota 1 2 0 .333 43 38

Detroit 0 4 0 .000 82 106

West

W L T Pct PF PA

Arizona 2 2 0 .500 58 118

St. Louis 2 2 0 .500 77 52

Seattle 2 2 0 .500 75 77

San Francisco 0 4 0 .000 52 103

Today's games

Atlanta at Cleveland, 1 p.m. (Fox)

St. Louis at Detroit, 1 p.m.

Denver at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

N.Y. Giants at Houston, 1 p.m.

Green Bay at Washington, 1 p.m.

Chicago at Carolina, 1 p.m.

Jacksonville at Buffalo, 1 p.m.

Tampa Bay at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

Kansas City at Indianapolis, 1 p.m. (CBS)

New Orleans at Arizona, 4:05 p.m.

Tennessee at Dallas, 4:15 p.m. (CBS)

San Diego at Oakland, 4:15 p.m.

Philadelphia at San Francisco, 8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Open: Miami, New England, Pittsburgh, Seattle

Monday's Game

Minnesota at N.Y. Jets, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Three key matchups

1. Falcons DE John Abraham vs. Browns LT Joe Thomas: Abraham started his career in the AFC. He has 10.5 sacks in the past nine games against AFC teams. Abraham's 91.5 sacks since 2000 are the second-most in the NFL. Thomas, the third player taken in the 2007 draft, has been to three consecutive Pro Bowls. He anchors Cleveland's line and helps to power its rushing attack.

2. Falcons SS William Moore vs. Browns TE Ben Watson: Moore, the Falcons' second-round pick in 2009, will make his fourth career start. He has faced tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Vernon Davis in his past two games. He will see another quality tight end in Watson, a former Georgia standout, who leads the Browns in receptions with 18. Watson has amassed 185 yards and scored one touchdown. Watson is shooting for his third consecutive game with five or more receptions.

3. Falcons RT Tyson Clabo vs. Browns OLB/DE Matt Roth: A former second-round draft pick by Miami, Roth appears to have found a home with the Browns. He's a super-sized linebacker at 6-foot-4, 275 pounds. The Browns also will convert him to a defensive end and have him rush the passer. He had a key fourth-quarter sack last week against Cincinnati and finished with six tackles --- three for losses --- and three hits on the quarterback.

Pro Football Challenge: Week 5

AJC sports columnists Mark Bradley and Jeff Schultz are teaming up with Channel 2 WSB-TV Sports Director Zach Klein to see who can make the best predictions for select NFL games. Check here every week for their picks and then find out how they did on "Sports Zone Sunday" at 11:35 p.m. on Channel 2.

Falcons DE John Abraham vs. Browns LT Joe Thomas: Abraham started his career in the AFC. He has 10.5 sacks in the past nine games against AFC teams. Abraham's 91.5 sacks since 2000 are the second most in the NFL. Thomas, the third player taken in the 2007 draft, has been to three consecutive Pro Bowls. He anchors Cleveland's line and helps to power their rushing attack.

Falcons SS William Moore vs. Browns TE Ben Watson: Moore, the Falcons' second-round pick in 2009, will make his fourth career start. He has faced tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Vernon Davis in his past two games. He will see another quality tight end in Watson, a former Georgia standout, who leads the Browns in receptions with 18. Watson has amassed 185 yards and scored one touchdown. Watson is shooting for his third consecutive game with five or more receptions.

Falcons RT Tyson Clabo vs. Browns OLB/DE Matt Roth: A former second-round draft pick by Miami, Roth appears to have found a home with the Browns. He's a super-sized linebacker at 6-foot-4, 275 pounds. The Browns also will convert him to a defensive end and have him rush the passer. He had a key fourth-quarter sack last week against Cincinnati and finished with six tackles, three for losses and three hits on the quarterback.

History lesson

Cleveland leads the series 10-2 in the regular season.

The Browns have won the past two meetings, a 17-13 win in 2006 in Atlanta and a 24-16 victory in 2002 in Cleveland, in their only meeting in Cleveland Browns Stadium.

The Browns have won eight of the past nine meetings.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, a native of Barberton, Ohio, served as a scout for the Browns from 1998 to 2002.

Compiled by D. Orlando Ledbetter

Cleveland leads the series 10-2 in the regular season.

The Browns have won the past two meetings, a 17-13 win in 2006 in Atlanta and a 24-16 victory in 2002 in Cleveland, in their only meeting in Cleveland Browns Stadium.

The Browns have won eight of the past nine meetings.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, a native of Barberton, Ohio, served as a scout for the Browns from 1998 to 2002.

Games this week

Standings (right-wrong)

Atlanta at Cleveland

Tampa Bay at Cincinnati

Green Bay at Washington

Kansas City at Indianapolis

N.Y. Giants at Houston

Tennessee at Dallas

San Diego at Oakland

Denver at Baltimore

Jeff Schultz

17-15

Atlanta

Cincinnati

Green Bay

Indianapolis

N.Y. Giants

Dallas

San Diego

Baltimore

Zach Klein

13-19

Atlanta

Cincinnati

Washington

Indianapolis

Houston

Dallas

San Diego

Baltimore

Mark Bradley

18-14

Atlanta

Cincinnati

Green Bay

Indianapolis

Houston

Dallas

San Diego

Baltimore

Tagged: Falcons, Browns, Saints, 49ers, John Abraham, Michael Turner, Tyson Clabo, Roddy White, Matt Roth, Josh Cribbs, Joe Thomas, Peyton Hillis, William Moore

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