This has all the ingredients of a trap game for the Patriots. First, there's New England, 6-1, atop the NFL after five consecutive wins. Since the bye week, the Pats have beaten the Ravens, Chargers and Vikings — not too shabby a résumé. With Pro Bowl OG Logan Mankins returning on Sunday, everything seems to be clicking.
Then there's the Browns. They may be 2-5, but one of those wins was a dominating defensive performance over the defending-champion Saints. In addition, the Browns are coming off a bye, so head coach Eric Mangini has had extra time to prepare to defeat his former mentor.
With rookie QB Colt McCoy starting again, the Browns will likely do their best to establish a run game with Peyton Hillis, but even McCoy should be able to find success against the Pats' 31st-ranked pass defense. Expect the Browns' defense to throw everything they've got at Tom Brady, dialing up blitzes often to rattle the QB and keep the Pats out of a rhythm.
This game won't be nearly as easy as the Patriots would like, and they cannot be caught looking ahead to a big matchup with the Steelers in Week 10. But Belichick will not allow a letdown, and the Pats should find ways to score against the Browns' defense.
Prediction: Patriots 31, Browns 23