And now begins the Brandon Weeden redemption tour in Cleveland. While most fans have already written B-Weeds as a lost cause and essentially refuse to give him any benefit of the doubt, I’m still a believer.
Weeden played pretty well last week leading the Browns to a come-from-behind win over the Bills especially considering he hadn’t had any reps in practice for almost three weeks and hadn’t had any reps with his No. 1 receiver in over a month. Heck, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the fourth best QB last week. He’s still getting acclimated with The Norv’s offensive system but if last week was any indicator we could see some of that explosiveness that we thought we were getting before the season.
For Weeden’s sake, I almost wish that this week’s game was on the road. The Browns fans, while I love them and am one of them obviously, can be a harsh, cruel, unmerciful, unsupportive bunch if they’ve made up their collective mindset that they don’t like you. That was never more obvious than during and after the Browns Thursday night win over Buffalo. Weeden basically did the same thing that Brian Hoyer did just two weeks earlier and led the team from behind to win a game. But the difference is that fans either had an open mind about Hoyer or in some cases, like my little brother, had an irrational love for the guy stemming from his Ohio ties or the fact he was Brady’s backup or that he looked good playing that fourth preseason game against insurance salesman and grocery store managers. The fans were looking for a savior and Hoyer unspectacularly won two straight games and all of a sudden you have Tony Rizzo basically having an on-air orgasm talking about how “special” the kid looked.
If only the savior could remember how to slide.
When Weeden came into the game the fans basically thought that that game and the season was a loss. There was no way that Weeden could win because he sucks because we’ve made up our minds that he’s no good and that’s that! And then that funny thing happened where he actually played pretty good and made a couple throws that Brian Hoyer can only make in his dreams and on Madden and the fans were stuck in that tricky place where they want to root for the team without rooting for the QB that they’ve already decided isn’t good despite evidence to the contrary. So they pick apart every little minutia of his game and complain that he holds on to the ball too long (which he does at times) and that he stares down his receivers (which Hoyer did too incidentally) and that if the opposing QB wouldn’t have gotten hurt we still would have lost. As a collective whole Browns fans found every possible reason to not give Weeden any credit for the win.
And when he comes out this Sunday against the Lions and either throws his first incomplete pass or takes his first sack the home fans will rain boos on their starting QB because that’s just what they do. Heaven forbid that we actually try and support the hometown team and the players who play for it.
Weeden is never going to be a perfect quarterback. He’s always going to be someone who occasionally holds onto the ball a little too long because he’s trying to make a big play. He’s going to take a few sacks every game. Those things don’t make him a terrible QB just like Hoyer’s inability to most post-snap defensive reads which takes away a lot of downfield throws didn’t make him a terrible QB. It just makes him flawed and it forces the coaches to come up with ways to overcome those flaws. The Norv overcame and masked Hoyer’s flaws by switching to a quick passing game that emphasized the underneath routes and check-downs. Hoyer picked it up quick and basically made one read on every play and if that guy was open he was getting the ball and if he wasn’t it was going to the check-down. Hoyer played well enough in that system to get a couple wins. Now it’s The Norv’s job to that same thing with Weeden. One of the best offensive minds in the NFL will need to find a way to mask Weeden’s flaws so that they don’t become a negative.
For Brandon Weeden it’s his time of reckoning. You don’t get long in the NFL to become a franchise QB, especially when the guys who drafted you are no longer around. Now is the time when we’ll figure out where Weeden falls on the continuum from “passable NFL QB” to “minor league pitching coach”. And while most of the fans at the stadium on Sunday already believe that he’s more of the latter, this one writer stills believes that he can be the former. We’ll see it how pans out this week and if the home fans even decide to give their QB a chance.
Now to the picks…
(Home team in CAPS. Lines from SportsBook.com. Gamble at your own risk.)
BROWNS (+3) over Lions
If both teams were at full strength I actually believe that the Browns are a little bit of a better football team because they have a really good defense. But if Calvin Johnson doesn’t play and if I’m actually getting points with the Browns at home??? This is a no-brainer. You should basically always take home dogs that are at least semi-competent and the Browns might actually be borderline good. Obviously I’m a little worried about the Browns offensive line holding up against the Lions defensive line but again, with the Browns defense being as good and game-affecting at they’ve been, I’m confident in a Cleveland victory this week.
Raiders (+8) over CHIEFS
This is a pretty big spread for an inter-division game. I get that the Chiefs are a good team and that they have one of the best home field advantages in the NFL. But this Raiders team with Terrelle Pryor is sneaky tough and they’re actually 4-1 against the spread this season. And Pryor played in the Big Ten so he’s no stranger to tough crowds so I don’t think he’ll be affected the way some young QBs might. Give me the Raiders to cover.
BUCCANEERS (+2.5) over Eagles
This is a bit of the same logic I talked about with the Browns/Lions game. The Bucs are a shade under semi-competent but they’re playing an Eagles team that hasn’t earned the right be favored on the road. I don’t know who’s playing QB for Philadelphia this week and their defense is still pretty bad so I’m actually willing to take Mike Glennon in this spot.
Packers (-3) over RAVENS
Remember what I said about taking a home dog if they’re at least semi-competent team? Well forget that. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers haven’t been great this season. But when they are great is when they’re going up against a team that doesn’t have a strong defense. Baltimore is just middle of the pack against the pass and haven’t shown much of an offensive game yet this year. This is a tough matchup for the Ravens and I really like the Packers in this game.
VIKINGS (-2.5) over Panthers
This game will go one of two ways. Either the home team rallies around the heartbreak that team has felt and comes up with a big win, or they fold because they aren’t mentally where they need to be to play a mentally demanding sport like football. I’m betting on the former.
And let me just take a moment to say that I’ve purposefully avoided reading or listening to much about Adrian Peterson and the death of his son. My own son turns two in two weeks and the thought of losing him is too much to bear. I cannot possible begin to image what Peterson is dealing with and my heart goes out to him. The pictures of him with his son hit me pretty hard. I really hope Peterson is able to battle through this tough time. It’s the worst of worst things that can possibly happen to a father.
Rams (+8) over TEXANS
Why again are the Texans favored by more than a TD over anyone not named the Jaguars when their QB is a free-fall that rivals Jake Delhomme? Not only to I NOT like the Texans to cover, I’m not even sure that I like them to win the game in their current state. How could anyone possible bet on Matt Schaub right now?
JETS (-1) over Steelers
The Jets actually aren’t terrible and that defense is pretty good. Plus Geno Smith is at home and you always would rather bet on a rookie QB when he’s playing at home.
Also the Steelers are terrible. So there’s that too.
Bengals (-6) over BILLS
I so badly want to take our old buddy Thad Lewis in this game but I just can’t do it. The Bengals defense is too good. Now, if you did want to make a case for Thaddy Lew and the Bills in this game they’d try and replicate what the Browns did a couple weeks ago with their backup QB against the Bengals. You get the ball out quick and home you can make some plays here or there and trust your defense not give up any and leave Andy Dalton to do Andy Dalton things. I feel like I just talked myself into the Bills. But it’s too much ask, even for Thaddy Lew.
SEAHAWKS (-13.5) over Titans
No, I would not like to bet on Ryan Fitzpatrick in Seattle no matter what the spread is.
BRONCOS (-27) over Jaguars
And, no, I would not like to bet on the Jags anywhere, playing anyone, no matter how ridiculous the line is. I won’t do it.
Cardinals (+10.5) over 49ERS
Arizona has been sneaky not-terrible this season, especially against the spread where they’re 4-1. The Niners on the other hand haven’t looked like the team that went to the Super Bowl last season. This line feels too high so I’ll take the points.
Saints (+1.5) over PATRIOTS
I don’t want to dwell on the fact that I’m picking the Pats to lose at home so I’ll just say that the Saints have been pretty stinking good this year on both sides of the ball and I think New England is going to have a tough time matching up.
Redskins (+6) over COWBOYS
Give me Bob Griffin coming off of a bye week to at least cover. Also this line is a little big for an inter-division rivalry game that is usually a closely contested battle.
CHARGERS (+2.5) over Colts
I like the Chargers at home this week only because it’s a night game and their fans might actually show up and be loud and all that. Also, the Chargers have looked rejuvenated this season. Tough to pick against Andrew Luck right now but he can’t be awesome all the time…can he?
LAST WEEK: 8-5-1
BROWNS PICKS: 2-3
 I thought what The Norv did with Hoyer was really nothing short of brilliant and he probably didn’t get enough credit for it. Maybe people with online blogs should have done more to write about it instead of just making the point a footnote. At this point though with Hoyer out it would be silly. But I just wanted to make the point that if you watched the second and third quarters of that Vikings game it was glaringly obvious that Hoyer couldn’t read a defense post-snap and make decisions that way. That’s why he threw those three picks that almost single-handedly cost the Browns the game until he came back and won the game in heroic fashion becoming a folk hero for cleaning up his own mess and no credit was given to the play-caller who made the necessary adjustments to put his QB in a favorable position to be successful. So this is me giving The Norv props for making Brian Hoyer a passable NFL QB for two weeks.