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Posted by Oct - 2 - 2011 0 Comment

Thoughts, musings, and ramblings about today’s game:

  • The prevailing thought on the Browns both locally and nationally is that they are probably the least impressive 2-1 team this season so far, given the teams they have faced. They beat the winless Colts and Dolphins, and given (quite literally) the Bengals their only win of the season. If the Browns were 3-0, their opponents’ combined winning percentage would be .000. So the idea is that this game will better tell how good the Browns currently are or aren’t. That is, until you start tossing out caveats like the loss of WR Kenny Britt for Tennessee, or the fact that RB Chris Johnson doesn’t appear to have his ‘football legs’ under him yet thanks to his holdout. So expect the responses to a Browns win to be “well, the Titans were without…” or a Browns loss to be “they lost to a team missing so-and-so”, making the win appear less significant or a loss even that much more damning.
  • That said, this is a Tennessee Titan team that has a defense currently ranked #1 overall in the NFL, and a QB in ageless wonder Matt Hasselbeck who seems to be playing some of his best football in recent years. Though if you look at the offenses that Tennessee has faced, you’d find the 27th ranked Broncos and 28th ranked Jaguars among them. (The Ravens are currently 11th in the league, though lost to the Titans.) Meanwhile Hasselbeck’s fountain of youth was discovered against the 11th ranked pass (15th overall) defense of Denver, and the 17th ranked pass defense (13th overall) of Baltimore. The Titans’ lone loss was against the 7th ranked pass defense (4th overall) of Jacksonville. So what will they see today in the Browns? The 26th overall ranked offense along with the 3rd ranked pass defense (9th overall). (*If you’re not a stat guy, these points probably mean little to you. Sorry.)
  • The Browns offense will get back their catalyst in Peyton Hillis this week, who’s contract situation is apparently a bigger topic of conversation than his impact on the field. (Gotta love the Cleveland media.) With today’s weather being questionable throughout the afternoon, it will be interesting to see how much Pat Shurmur puts the ball in his hands. If he’s back, healthy, and Montario Hardesty gets more touches, be ready to understand that the paradigm shift of the Cleveland offense is in full swing. Plus, it will put some of the contract talk to rest as it will probably all be moot. (Hope you saved your receipt for your Hillis jersey!) The reality is that this offense needs to have Hillis be a significant part of it in order to be successful today, and for the rest of this season.
  • The Browns defense continues to improve each week quite noticeably. You can see with each game that Browns rookie D-linemen Jabaal Sheard and Phil Taylor are growing and maturing as players with each snap. Chris Gocong looked to have shaken off his early season rust and contributed nicely last week against the Dolphins. They seem to have found their nickel back in Dimitri Patterson, and oh-by-the-way, you have the first AFC Defensive Player of the Month for the 2011 season in MLB D’Qwell Jackson.  DC Dick Jauron has also been more creative and aggressive that I had expected him to be this year, given both his track record as a conservative blitzer and the number of new players in his 4-3 system this year. If this unit stays healthy, I fully expect them to be in the top 5 in most major defensive categories throughout the league.
  • Don’t confuse my ideas of getting Peyton Hillis the ball more with thoughts that I don’t want to see it in Montario Hardesty’s hands as much. He looks to be a player that, if he can stay healthy, can make significant contributions to this offense. He has shown a nice set of hands coming out of the backfield, and has a different set of skills as  a RB when compared Hillis. Hardesty is no scatback at 6′ and 225 lbs, but compliments Hillis’ style of play well. Given that they are in a WCO that is pass first, I don’t think you’ll see them as the next set of backs to each have 1,000 yards in the same season as Mack and Byner did in ’85. But in the right offense for them, I could see it.
  • So, prediction time. Tennessee is playing some pretty decent football right now, though they will be without their #1 WR in Kenny Britt due to his season-ending knee injury last weekend. As well, Chris Johnson doesn’t seem to be on track yet, though historically RBs have been able to do so against the Browns run defense. All that makes what their offense is doing that much more impressive in Tennessee. Add to that the high level their defense is playing at, and you have quite the formidable opponent. For the Browns, it seems that while the Bungles got credit for the win in week one the only team that has proven capable of beating the Browns so far are the Browns. They are 2-1 despite their best efforts either keep themselves out of games, or decide that the first quarter just isn’t the best place to start playing the game. That will have to change this week. The offense MUST come out and establish a rhythm on their first drive and maintain it throughout the game in order to win. I would like to say that they are trending that way, but last weeks effort against the Dolphins in contrary to that idea. The laws of averages can play out in the Browns favor today in a couple ways. First, the team could come out and decide to actually start playing in all phases immediately following the coin toss. That would help. Second, Matt Hasselbeck has proven in the past to have some of his worst games right when he starts playing at his best. Not having his #1 passing target could help continue that trend. These things have to happen otherwise it could be a long, cold day on the lakefront. Still, while common sense tells me that the Titans may be the better team in a lot of aspects, I think that this Browns team can build on the last-second victory from last week and head into their bye on a high note. I don’t see the Browns wanting the Titans to be the first team to defeat them (they want to hold on to that title for themselves!) and don’t want to sit out the bye week with the taste of a loss in their mouths, having to wait two weeks to resolve that. I think the Browns surprise some folks today, including themselves. Browns 28, Titans 24.
Categories: Cleveland Browns

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