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Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
Last season’s spectacular flameout by the Philadelphia Eagles made the term “Dream Team” a running joke in NFL circles. Undeterred by the ridicule and lack of success, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick proclaimed that the team – which has not won a playoff game since 2008 – has the makings of a dynasty. Philadelphia surely is oozing with talent, starting with Vick, who has missed multiple games in the past three seasons and barely saw the field in the preseason due to thumb and rib injuries.
At the other end of the spectrum are the Cleveland Browns, who will host the Eagles on Sunday amid expectations that a pair of high-profile rookies can turn around a team that routinely endures double-digit losing seasons. Running back Trent Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick, has yet to take a snap after undergoing knee surgery last month but is expected to play Sunday. He will be part of an untested backfield with rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, the 22nd overall selection.
ABOUT THE EAGLES (2011: 8-8): Philadelphia never overcame a 1-4 start to the season, but it ratcheted expectations for 2012 by winning its final four games by an average of nearly 20 points. Vick has missed 11 games over the past three years, but he finished with a flourish last season, posting a passer rating of at least 104.1 in his last three. Running back LeSean McCoy ran for 1,309 yards and a league-leading 17 touchdowns and the passing game should be improved now that disgruntled wideout DeSean Jackson received a new contract. Philly’s defense had a league high-tying 50 sacks and added a stud at tackle in first-round pick Fletcher Cox.
ABOUT THE BROWNS (2011: 4-12): Much is riding on the shoulders of Richardson, who led Alabama to the national title and has been widely touted as the best back to enter the league since Adrian Peterson in 2007. Weeden, a 28-year-old rookie and former second-round pick of the New York Yankees, led a high-powered offense at Oklahoma State, but he doesn’t have a lot of weapons on the outside and has the misfortune of playing in the AFC North, the league’s most physical division. The Browns had a solid defense last season, but the offense was among the league’s worst with 218 points scored.
1. Former Browns owner Art Modell, who went from revered to reviled when he moved the franchise to Baltimore following the 1995 season, died Thursday at age 87.
2. Vick has dedicated the season to Garrett Reid, the son of Eagles coach Andy Reid, who died last month.
3. Browns star CB Joe Haden is expected to play. He has appealed a four-game NFL suspension for taking a banned substance. LB Scott Fujita is also expected be in uniform after his suspension for allegedly taking part in a bounty program with the New Orleans Saints last season was overturned by an appeals court.