Thursday Night Special

Cleveland, OH - Romeo Crennel waited as long a he could, but the Cleveland Browns coach felt he had to change his team's direction - and as a result, finally changed quarterbacks.

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Brady Quinn will make his much-anticipated debut as a starter when Cleveland hosts the Denver Broncos on Thursday night, with the Browns fighting to maintain their playoff hopes and the Broncos clinging to a slim lead atop the AFC West.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Browns –3.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 59% of bets for this game have been placed on Broncos +3.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

Crennel said after Sunday's 37-27 loss to Baltimore that he wasn't planning on demoting Derek Anderson, but the team announced the switch Monday, setting up Quinn's long-awaited chance to prove himself in the NFL.

"I just felt like it was time," Crennel told the team's official Web site. "We're an inconsistent football team."

Having completed less than 50 percent of his passes, Anderson hasn't played well this season after throwing 29 touchdown passes and leading the Browns (3-5) to a 10-6 record last year. After he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown late in Sunday's defeat - his first after 132 attempts without being picked off - Cleveland fans chanted Quinn's name.

Crennel insisted Tuesday that he didn't make the change based on fan backlash.

"We're not throwing in the towel. We're not giving up on the season," Crennel told the team's Web site. "I think Quinn will represent himself and represent the Browns very well. This is a lifetime opportunity for Brady to be the quarterback of the Browns."

The coach said he took into account "our record, offensive ranking, offensive production." The Browns rank 28th in total offense at the midway point of the season.

Quinn threw for more than 11,000 yards and 95 touchdowns at Notre Dame, but his pro career got off to a rocky start when he slipped down the board on draft day in 2007, falling from the top five - where many observers had projected he'd go - to No. 22, with Cleveland trading up to take him.

Then, the Dublin, Ohio native had to watch and wait last season as Anderson emerged and nearly led Cleveland into the playoffs.

"Maybe they feel like (Quinn) will bring a spark," Browns center Hank Fraley said. "It's tough because Derek is a great guy, a team leader and a captain. We just haven't been playing well around him. It's a shock to everybody on this team. It's their decision and we're going to have to live with it."

Quinn hasn't thrown a pass this year and threw just eight last season, completing three for 45 yards without a touchdown or an interception.

"He's young, so you don't know what to expect but he has worked hard and he'll be ready," Fraley said.

After starting 0-3, the Browns rebounded with three wins in four games, including a 35-14 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on Oct. 13.

However, they struggled again at home Sunday, blowing a 14-point lead in the second half and allowing 429 total yards to a Baltimore offense that came in ranked 23rd in the NFL. While the Ravens scored 24 unanswered points, the Browns went three-and-out four straight times before Anderson's interception, and embattled receiver Braylon Edwards dropped his league-leading 13th pass on what could have been a go-ahead touchdown.

"It's always deflating when you don't make a play because we needed plays," said Crennel, whose team fell to 1-3 at Cleveland Browns Stadium. "It's deflating when they run the ball in for a touchdown. It's deflating when they throw the ball over your head. It's deflating when you don't make a catch in the open. It's deflating when you lose a game."

The Broncos (4-4) know the feeling. With a struggling young quarterback, an ineffective defense and a growing list of injuries, they're searching for answers amidst a three-game losing streak.

Quarterback Jay Cutler and the offense averaged 38.0 points during a 3-0 start, but Denver has failed to score 20 in any of its last five games, losing four. The Broncos, however, have managed to remain in first place in the weak AFC West, a half-game up on San Diego.

In Sunday's 26-17 home loss to Miami, Cutler threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns, but also had three interceptions - one of which was returned for a TD. He's had five passes picked off in his last two games, doubling his season total.

Top receiver Brandon Marshall had only two catches for 27 yards and has gone four straight games without a touchdown. He didn't hold back criticism of his teammates after the loss, taking issue with the team's defense as well as Cutler's reads.

"When the quarterback sees 1-high or cover-1 (coverage), he's got to be on the same page as me and get the ball to me," Marshall said. "But it's a team game, and oh, well."

The Broncos also have injury problems, as running backs Michael Pittman and Andre Hall were placed on injured reserve after Sunday's game. Fellow back Selvin Young hasn't played since Oct. 5 due to a groin problem, which could leave rookies Ryan Torain and Peyton Hillis to carry the load. The Broncos ran for 14 yards on 12 carries against the Dolphins.

The defense, in the bottom five in the league in points and yards allowed, is also banged up. Cornerback Champ Bailey is out with a groin injury and linebacker and leading tackler D.J. Williams went down with a knee injury versus Miami.

"We're very concerned," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "Guys need to step up and fill in."

The Broncos can at least take solace in their long history of beating the Browns. Including playoffs, they've won 18 of their last 20 against Cleveland.

Denver has won four in a row and eight of nine at Cleveland, with a 17-7 victory on Oct. 22, 2006 being the only road matchup with the Browns since 1993.

Top Betting Trends
All games in this series since 1992
DENVER is 5-1 against the spread versus CLEVELAND since 1992
DENVER is 6-0 straight up against CLEVELAND since 1992
3 of 5 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
DENVER is 1-0 against the spread versus CLEVELAND over the last 3 seasons 
DENVER is 1-0 straight up against CLEVELAND over the last 3 seasons 
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at CLEVELAND since 1992
DENVER is 3-0 against the spread versus CLEVELAND since 1992
DENVER is 3-0 straight up against CLEVELAND since 1992
2 of 3 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at CLEVELAND over the last 3 seasons.
DENVER is 1-0 against the spread versus CLEVELAND over the last 3 seasons 
DENVER is 1-0 straight up against CLEVELAND over the last 3 seasons 
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons 
Key Player Injuries
[RB] Anthony Alridge IR - Hamstring - 08/29/08
[WR] Clifford Russell IR - Neck - 10/01/08
(!) [QB] Jay Cutler injured last game, probable - Finger - 10/20/08
[TE] Tony Scheffler is upgraded to probable - Groin - 10/29/08
[C] Tom Nalen IR - Knee - 09/21/08
[LB] Boss Bailey IR - Knee - 10/22/08
[CB] Dre Bly injured last game %27?%27 - Leg - 10/20/08
[CB] Champ Bailey is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. - Groin - 10/22/08
[WR] Brandon Stokley is upgraded to probable - Concussion - 10/29/08
[RB] Michael Pittman is probable - Ribs - 10/28/08
[QB] Patrick Ramsey IR - Elbow - 10/22/08
[RB] Ryan Torain is upgraded to probable - Elbow - 10/28/08
[DT] Carlton Powell expected to miss at least six weeks. - Knee - 08/27/08
[CB] Daven Holly IR - Knee - 07/25/08
[OG] Lennie Friedman IR - Shoulder - 08/30/08
[DB] Mike Adams missed last game, "?" - Hamstring - 10/26/08
[WR] Joe Jurevicius IR - Knee - 10/29/08
[DE] Robaire Smith IR - Achilles - 09/15/08
[OL] Ryan Tucker missed last game, "?" - Knee - 10/26/08
[LB] Antwan Peek expected to miss rest of season. - Knee - 09/04/08
[DT] Shaun Smith missed last game, "?" - Hand - 10/26/08

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Posted: 11/04/08 4:15PM ET

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