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Fearless Prediction: Browns (1-6) at Bears (3-3)
Game SnapshotKICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS (Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots)
SERIES: 14th regular-season meeting. Browns lead series 9-4. The Browns will be playing in Soldier Field for the first time since 2001. The Browns and Bears met six times from 1951-69. The Browns won five of those games, two of them by shutouts. Since the Browns' rebirth in 1999, the teams have split two games.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Bears QB Jay Cutler has thrown 10 interceptions, but far too much of the offensive load has been thrust onto his right arm with RB Matt Forte (3.5 yards per carry) struggling behind a poor run-blocking line. Cleveland scores just 10.3 points per game, so Chicago's main objective must be to protect the ball and force the Browns' offense to produce. For Cleveland, it's about keeping the game close and therefore keeping RB Jamal Lewis involved. QB Derek Anderson is struggling mightily, in large part due to a very young receiving corps that lacks a proven playmaker. FAST FACTS: The Browns have been held without a touchdown in three of four road games. ... Cutler has a 65.4 passer rating with three interceptions in the red zone this season.
- TE Steve Heiden (knee) had hoped he'd be able to play against the Bears, but that was diminished Thursday. After being limited Wednesday he did not practice Thursday. Heiden has missed the last two games.
- TE Greg Estandia missed practice Thursday with a knee injury. He was not on the injury report Wednesday.
- TE Robert Royal practiced on a limited basis Thursday after not practicing Wednesday. A hamstring injury kept him out of the game against Green Bay.
- QB Derek Anderson practiced fully again but remains on the injury report with a sore hip.
- K Phil Dawson was limited in practice with a calf injury that has bothered him for six weeks.
- DT Tommie Harris (knee) on Thursday made it back-to-back full practices for the first time this season, and he is expected to be in better shape on game day than he has since the season opener.
- RB Adrian Peterson (knee) practiced in full Thursday and is expected to be back on the field Sunday.
- LB Hunter Hillenmeyer is expected to moved from the strong side to the middle, so he can make the defensive calls, changes and get everyone aligned.
- LB Nick Roach will move from middle linebacker to the strong side.
- DE Adewale Ogunleye (ankle) was limited at practice but is expected to start Sunday.
Inside the CampsBrowns:
The game between the Browns and Bears on Sunday in Soldier Field pits the dynamic kick returner Josh Cribbs of the Browns against the Bears' star returner, Devin Hester.
Cribbs and Hester mirror each other as return stars, but Hester has evolved into a reliable pass receiver, and that is a goal Cribbs hasn't yet attained.
Cribbs has eight career returns for touchdowns, a franchise record. He has returned one punt for a touchdown and one kick for a touchdown this season, giving him two punt returns and six kick returns for touchdowns in four-plus seasons.
Hester has 11 career touchdown returns < four on kicks and seven on punts. He has been taken off kick returns since becoming a fulltime receiver.
Since having his receiving role diminished, Cribbs has been back on kickoff and punt coverage.
Hester was third on the Bears last year with 51 catches. He leads his team this year with 28 catches after six games, putting him on pace for 74 receptions. He is one of three Bears with three touchdown catches.
Hester caught only three passes in his final year at Miami (Fla.) and none as a rookie with the Bears in 2006, but that season he returned three punts for touchdowns and two kickoffs for touchdowns. Coach Lovie Smith figured the more Hester could be on the field, the better the Bears would be.
"It's good to be a great returner, but that limits you as far as the amount of plays you have," Smith said in a teleconference with Browns beat writers. "He did play some wide receiver in college, so I think it's a natural move."
Browns coach Eric Mangini has said, though not recently, that using Cribbs as a wide receiver is not an experiment. But the fact is Cribbs has become almost invisible on offense, except in the Wildcat, since the switch from Brady Quinn to Derek Anderson at quarterback. That wouldn't be noteworthy if any other wide receivers were catching passes, but that isn't the case; in the past three games the wide receivers have a total of 10 catches. By comparison, Hester has 15 catches over the last three games.
"They gave him a nice contract and that allowed his organization to use him and say 'We have to spend time and develop him as a receiver and make it happen' and they have," Cribbs said. "They've done a great job of finding ways to get him the football.
"When a team spends money on a player it's an investment. They've been real patient with him and it has paid off."
Cribbs made the Browns as an undrafted rookie in 2005. A year later he signed a $6.7 million contract extension locking him to the Browns through 2012.
Hester was a second-round draft choice by the Bears in 2006. In the summer of 2008 he held out briefly and signed a four-year contract extension through 2013. It has a maximum value of $40 million.
Cribbs has been trying to get the Browns to restructure his contract for more than a year.
After getting 14 sacks in the first four games, the Bears have not gotten to the quarterback in the past two games, dropping from No. 4 to No. 17 in sack percentage.
"Whenever you don't get sacks you have to give them some credit," Bears coach Lovie Smith said of the Falcons' and Bengals' offensive lines. "We have gotten a lot more maximum protection, but that's a part of life. We just need to do a better job getting pressure. I feel like we can do some things to help them out a little bit, but it starts up front for us, as far as making our defense click."
Falcons' quarterback Matt Ryan finished the 21-14 victory on Oct. 18 with a clean uniform after having barely been touched by the Bears. The lack of pressure was even more noticeable in last Sunday's 45-10 loss to the Bengals.
"They didn't play well, just like our team didn't play well," Smith said of the defensive line. "I've been pleased with their play before that."
Even against Atlanta?
"We held Atlanta down pretty good, except for a couple plays, so I feel pretty good with what our defensive line has been doing overall," Smith said, noting that Atlanta managed just 253 total yards. "Let's not make this any bigger (than it is). None of us did what we were supposed to do (last Sunday), defensive line included. But we have a good group on our defensive line, and we all will play better this week."
Nose tackle Anthony Adams' position isn't expected to generate significant sack numbers
"We always want to get to the quarterback and help the defensive backfield any way we can," Adams said. "It's definitely an emphasis, (so) to not get any in two games is disheartening. It makes you want to rush harder every play, and that's what we're going to do Sunday."
The Bears' two leading sackers, defensive ends Adewale Ogunleye (4.5) and Alex Brown (2.5) have almost disappeared after impressive starts. Brown has been held without a sack in three of the last four games, and Ogunleye hasn't gotten to a quarterback in four of the last five games.
At times, opponents have max protected to give their quarterback extra time, and the Bears have blitzed less often in the past two weeks than they did earlier in the season.
"If you talk to (defensive line) coach (Rod) Marinelli, it's, 'No explanations and no excuses,' so I'll give none," Ogunleye said. "But they have been doing a little more tight ends in and max protecting. But we knew that was going to happen. When that happens, that means there are fewer guys out in pass routes, so we should be doing a little better job in the back end (secondary). There's a give and take when it comes to defense. We've got to do a better job of adjusting when stuff like that happens."
Brown says opponents adjusted their schemes because of the Bears' early-season success rushing the quarterback.
"During the season, teams tend to watch film and try to take away stuff," he said. "Now we have to figure out how to continue putting pressure on the quarterback. That's our job, and we expect to get pressure on the quarterback this week."
Brown says that, despite Cleveland's 1-6 record, its offensive line isn't a weakness.
"This offensive line is probably the best we've played," he said. "Their record doesn't say how good the offensive line is. Their left tackle (Joe Thomas) is top three in the league."
But Browns quarterbacks Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn have been sacked 18 times this season, 25th in the league, so the Bears have a chance to regain their knack for the sack. PREDICTION: Bears 24-14