Big test for Browns today vs. Pack

CLEVELAND – For a team that has a 3-3 record and is only one game out of first place in its division, the Browns sure attract a lot of negative attention.

It could be because there isn’t a groundswell of belief that a team with Brandon Weeden at quarterback can remain a playoff contender. There was a collective groan when Brian Hoyer suffered a season-ending knee injury 17 days ago, and it doesn’t seem as if fans have moved beyond that moment.

It’s not as if Hoyer was going to play out a Tom Brady-like story of a backup quarterback coming off the bench because of an injury to the starter and becoming a star. Still, he gave people hope that the Browns could make a run at the AFC North Division title.

That goal is still within easy sight and could become more realistic with a win today over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. For that to happen the Browns’ defense will need to keep quarterback Aaron Rodgers under control to some extent and, more importantly, receive a productive performance from Weeden.

Browns coach Rob Chudzinski remains firmly in Weeden’s corner. He said earlier this week that the decision to stick with Weeden is his and that he’s not under pressure to go with Jason Campbell.

“His mindset has been good,” Chudzinski said of Weeden. “What you try to do as a coach any time you’re talking and coaching guys and working with guys is you accentuate the positives and the good things.

“We had meetings, and going through it he did some good things in the game (against the Detroit Lions), particularly in the first half. If you look at the first half, he was getting the ball out; he was very efficient; he was managing the game well. You really focus on those, and then you correct the things that he didn’t do so well.”

It was apparent that Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner exchanged notes before meeting the media this week. The first-half theme (the Browns had a 17-7 halftime lead over the Lions) apparently led the talking points when preparations began last Wednesday.

“You look at the things we did in the first half,” Turner said. “That’s a good defensive football team. As an offense we did an awful lot of good things. Now we have to be able to do that through four quarters.”

There’s the burning issue through the first six weeks of the season. Something seems to happen to the Browns (offensively and defensively) during the 12 minutes they spend in the locker room at halftime.

“There’s not a lot of time when you really break it down because the coaches get together for a little bit of time to discuss going forward,” Chudzinski said. “As the first half is going on, you’re talking about things that you need to do. A lot of times we’re already making adjustments as the game is going on. Halftime kind of just gives you time to reset.”

There’s a sense that today could be a turning point in how Chudzinski and the front office deal with Weeden. There’s no going back to Hoyer, who had surgery on Friday, but Campbell could be an option if Weeden struggles.

Campbell was passed over for Hoyer after Weeden missed time early in the season with a sprained right thumb. Campbell certainly isn’t the long-term answer, but he could be the only option remaining if the consensus of opinion is that there’s no way the Browns can win with Weeden on the field.

As far as anyone knows, Campbell has maintained a professional attitude through it all. He’s probably glad to be making a buck in the league at age 31.

“He’s a true pro,” Chudzinski said of Campbell. “He’s a great guy in the locker room. I know he’s ready and will be ready if he’s needed. His approach has been outstanding.”

Campbell better be prepared. He could get his chance soon.