It’s pretty crazy how quick the narrative on a team’s season can change. Going into the bye-week the Browns were riding high with tons of “momentum” coming off a win over the Ravens and Jason Campbell was looking like a legitimate quarterback. There was talk of playoffs and winning the division for two straight weeks. Then the second quarter in Cincinnati happened. Now the season is lost, Campbell blows, and we’re going to finish too far out of the top of the draft to get a good QB.
I’ve been trying to preach all season long about the necessity of this team to get a quarterback and how the three guys who have been on this roster all season are only good as the players around them and how the team won’t win without great defense and good special teams. Yet twice now Browns fan has been sucked in by mediocre QB play into thinking we actually had something. If only people would have just heeded my words they wouldn’t have been surprised by Campbell’s stink-bomb on Sunday.
But no fear, all is not lost. I wrote on Tuesday that the Browns playoffs hopes are not in fact dead because the defense really is playing great, and has been all season. It’ll be tough sledding to get to the postseason for sure, especially since the Browns are competing with eight other teams for one spot. But if the defense continues to make plays and stuff opponents the way that they have, then all the offense and special teams needs to do is just play mediocre—which they’re certainly capable of doing.
Looking at the remaining schedule I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for the Browns to go 5-1 down the stretch here. That would put them in the driver’s seat for that final spot likely. But before we get ahead of ourselves we have to start by winning this week. If they don’t beat the Steelers here then it is essentially all lost for the Browns.
So let’s pick some games…
(Home team is in CAPS. Lines are still from SportsBook.com. And gamble at your own risk.)
BROWNS (-1) over Steelers
It should be insulting to the Browns players to only be favored by one point at home to the Steelers. If that doesn’t light some fire under their butts then nothing will. The Steelers have played better of late, winning four of six since their bye-week. Three of those four wins have come at home and their road performances this season have been abysmal for the most part, including losing to both the Vikings and Raiders and surrendering 55 points to the Patriots.
The deciding factor in this game I believe will be the Browns defense. The offense should be able to hold up their end and at the very least not be crap. But the defense is going to be what makes the difference because they are going to pressure Roethlisberger and force mistakes like they did against the Bengals. The front seven hasn’t gotten a ton of sacks of late but this week against that porous Pittsburgh offensive line they could have a field day. It will be up to the secondary, which has been very good most of the season, to make plays when the Steelers try and get the ball out quick.
Neither of these teams have been able to do anything running the ball this season. So the team that can actually get some production there to take pressure off the QB dealing with the pass rush could be huge. I’m still driving the bandwagon of “give Chris Ogbonnaya more carries”, especially after he ripped off a 43 yard run on Sunday, the longest by a Browns running back this season by a wide margin. Obgonnaya has two 20+ yard runs on the season in only 27 carries and he’s averaging 6.3 YPC. The Browns running game has been atrocious, so why not give Obby some more carries? He did have a costly fumble (on a great hit) last Sunday but that was only his fourth fumble of his career, so it’s not like the guy has butter fingers. As long as the rest of the RBs on the roster continue to suck and Obby continues to make plays, I’m going to keep harping on this point. Give Ogbonnaya the ball!!!
LIONS (-8.5) over Buccaneers
Even after their disappointing loss last week in Pittsburgh I still like the Lions big against the Bucs. They’re just a different team at home in Detroit where that offense is much more potent. Also, even though Tampa Bay is riding a two-game win streak, don’t be fooled. This is still a crap team.
TEXANS (-10) over Jaguars
This is simple for me: the Jags are 1-9 overall this season, and only 2-8 against the spread. Picking them is just stupid, no matter who they’re playing or what the spread is. Simple as that.
Vikings (+5) over PACKERS
Call it a hunch, bunch this has the feel of being a big Adrian Peterson game. I don’t know if the Vikings will win outright, but picking the Packers to cover five points with Scott Tolzien isn’t a bet I’m willing to make.
Chargers (+5.5) over CHIEFS
This will be an interesting to see how the Chiefs react after their first loss of the season—in what was a no-doubt beating. This is a very good Chiefs team, but they’re not as good as their record and they’ve faced an alarming number of backup/crappy QBs this season. The Chargers offense is pretty good and Philip Rivers has been experiencing a bit of a career resurgence. It’ll be fun to see how this one plays out but I like San Diego.
Panthers (-4.5) over DOLPHINS
Carolina is the hottest team in the NFL and also the best in the league against the spread. Who’s picking against them right now with as well as they’ve been playing—especially defensively. Going up against a Dolphins team with offensive line issues? Easy call here.
Bears (+1) over RAMS
Apart from that weird obliterating of the Colts in Indi, the Rams season has gone pretty to form of what you would expect. And I expect them to lose this week.
RAVENS (-3.5) over Jets
The Jets have won every-other game this season so if that form keeps up they’ll win this week. I don’t expect it will. Geno Smith has been not-so-good of late throwing only one TD against 8 INTs over the course of the last five games. There’s no way that every-other pace was going to keep up all year too. So this is as good a time as any for it to stop.
Titans (-1) over RAIDERS
I’ll be completely honest, this is one of those games where I have no clue how it will shake out. You have two backup QBs in so it’s basically a crap-shoot trying to guess which one of them plays well. I guess I feel better about Ryan Fitzpatrick than Matt McGloin.
CARDINALS (-2.5) over Colts
Hey the Cardinals might actually be good! They’ve got a good defense and pass rush and Indi has struggled on the offensive line all year. And Carson Palmer hasn’t been bad lately.
While we’re here…Remember when Trent Richardson scored a touchdown on his first carry with the Colts? Well since then he only has one other TD and is averaging 2.8 YPC. Just to keep everyone updated.
GIANTS (-2.5) over Cowboys
When was the last time that the Cowboys won this game? I don’t mean on the road against the Giants necessarily. But it feels like every season the Cowboys start off good and then the season starts to unravel culminating in a crushing loss to a division rival in a game they needed to have. This feels like just such a game.
PATRIOTS (+3) over Broncos
Again, I feel like the pregame coverage of this contest has been severely lacking. What exactly are the big matchups in this game? How did this not get flexed? Does anyone care about this game?
Seriously though, everything feels like the Broncos are just a better team and the Patriots are on the decline. But Tom Brady just has a way of always beating Peyton Manning in these games. And I really don’t want to bet against Brady and Belichick when they’re home underdogs in a big game.
49ers (-6.5) over REDSKINS
The Niners offense has really struggled the past two weeks and seemingly without anyone noticing they have the worst passing offense in the NFL in terms of total yards. However, if there was ever a cure for an ailing offense, it just might be the Redskins defense.
LAST WEEK: 7-6-1
BROWNS PICKS: 2-8
 Tells you about the current state of the Browns offense that this is a point I’m hammering home over and over again to try and get something positive going with this team. It’s been a rough year, hasn’t it?