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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening
Here's a closer look at a matchup to watch in Sunday's Browns-Saints game:
Browns' special teams vs. Saints' special teams
As of this writing, the status of Browns RS Joshua Cribbs (concussion) for Sunday's game at New Orleans was in question, though head coach Eric Mangini expressed hope Monday that Cribbs could play. Though he's averaging just 20.6 yards on kickoffs and 6.2 yards on punts this season, Cribbs can single-handedly alter an opponent's special-teams strategy, and if he can play, it would be a major lift for Cleveland. Chansi Stuckey, who filled in for Cribbs on punt returns after Cribbs left the Week Six loss to Pittsburgh, lost a fumble that set up a Pittsburgh touchdown.
With RB Reggie Bush out with a leg injury, WR Lance Moore has taken over as the Saints' punt returner, and he had a 72-yard return vs. Atlanta in Week Three. Saints KR Courtney Roby has racked up 25.1 yards per return this season.
Both teams are exceptional covering punts; the Browns are allowing just 4.0 yards per punt return, while the Saints are allowing 4.9 yards. Saints P Thomas Morstead, best known for his successful onside kick in Super Bowl XLIV, leads the NFC in net punting (42.2 avg.). Browns P Reggie Hodges (39.9-yard net average) is having a very good season, too, and four of his punts were downed inside the Pittsburgh 10 last week.
Similarly, both teams cover kickoffs well, too, with the Browns allowing 18.1 yards a kickoff return and the Saints surrendering 22.9 yards per return.