Patriots-Browns matchup of the day: Tuesday

Posted Nov. 02, 2010 @ 12:36 p.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

Here's a closer look at a matchup to watch in Sunday's Patriots-Browns game:

Browns TE Benjamin Watson vs. Patriots pass defense

Watson, who played his first six seasons with New England before signing with Cleveland as a free agent in March, leads the Browns in receptions (30), receiving yards (336) and receiving touchdowns (two). He is on pace for roughly 69 catches and 768 yards, which would be career highs.

The 6-3, 255-pound Watson runs very well, and he can be a tough matchup for linebackers and defensive backs. He will line up in the slot when the Browns employ four-receiver sets. With his seam-stretching speed, he has emerged as a very valuable target.

The Patriots' pass coverage has not been a strength this season, and this extends to how they have fared against tight ends. The Pats struggled defending Jets TE Dustin Keller, who caught seven passes for 115 yards and a TD in New England's lone loss of the season. Also, Chargers TE Antonio Gates, who was limited by a foot injury early, caught four passes for 50 yards and a touchdown in the second half of New England's 23-20 win in Week Seven. In that game, the Patriots had undrafted rookie S Sergio Brown covering Gates in the fourth quarter with Patrick Chung (knee) and Jarrad Page (calf) out of the contest.

Last week, Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe caught four passes for 38 yards vs. New England (five targets), with reserve FS James Sanders covering Shiancoe at times. Chung and Page were inactive. Chung, who is more likely to return to the lineup this week than Page, would be the most likely Patriot to cover Watson if he plays.