ALL EYES ACROSS THE LEAGUE WILL BE GLUED TO THIS GAME. The two most hapless franchises in the league, battling it out to see who might be the worst football team of the decade—and possibly of all time—in front of maybe 400 fans. Browns! Lions! The NFL on CBS! (That sound you hear is league and CBS executives banging their heads on their office walls…)
Total offense: Detroit, 26th (15.9 ppg); Cleveland, 32nd (8.7 ppg). Total defense: Cleveland, 28th (25.0 papg); Detroit, 32nd (29.3 papg). That’s right. The league’s worst offense against the league’s worst defense. The real “battle” will be the high-20’s matchups between Detroit’s offense and Cleveland’s defense. This game is gonna be AWESOME. Without further ado…
The Browns Will Win If…
Craig: …the same defense shows up from last week against the Ravens and they consistently get into field goal range. Joshua Cribbs has to play and his returns have to be big big big so they can get Captain Clutch Phil Dawson some opportunities. I am thinking that the Browns should probably be able to win this game 15 or 18 to nothing in a toilet-bowl style rout if they can just get into field goal range. Phil Dawson in a dome? YES PLEASE! And if they find a way to convert a touchdown on defense or special teams, WATCH OUT! And if the Browns don’t win it is like the song on Rizzo’s show says… It is the battle for draft position. You just might have to lose to win! The GLC!
Scott: …they can somehow play the Lions like they did in the preseason, with half of the same players. Braylon’s gone, Barton’s hurt, our and I don’t even know our punter’s name. But that preseason game was really the only time (save for spurts against Cincinnati) where the Browns looked like a real football team. Their pass defense is actually worse than ours, so if the staff actually calls plays that move the ball down the field instead of in the flats, the Browns could surprise someone. And by surprise, I mean at least get into field goal range this time – something that they haven’t been able to do since there were almost 11 minutes left in the third quarter two weeks ago…
DP: …they can actually give Quinn some time to throw some semi-long passes. The Lions’ pass defense is by far the worst in the league (271.7 yards/game through the air), and the Browns simply HAVE to capitalize on this. Ideally, I’d love to see Cleveland run the ball 45 times for 175+ yards to keep their opportunistic defense on the sidelines resting, and keep the game out of Brady Quinn’s hands. But, given the numbers on pass defense for Detroit, you HAVE to try to exploit this weakness. Detroit’s offense is not very good (even though it is better than ours), so if the defense can simply continue to do what they did against Baltimore on Monday I think they should be OK. One would assume both of these teams actually believe they can win this game, so the potential for “effort” has my curiosity piqued… in a passing-a-12-car-pileup-on-the-freeway kind of way.
RockKing: …the Lions are who we thought they were, but we don’t let them off the hook. Look, normally when a team from Ohio plays a team from Michigan on the weekend before Thanksgiving, it’s a great, prideful battle that not only can inspire, but can equally devastate. But that is not this game. The Browns are playing a 1-8 Lions team, and I’m convinced the Browns have no shot of winning this game. The Lions have a QB who will try to throw the ball further than 3 yards, and that’s all you need to know about this matchup. The Lions are bad, but the Browns are bad on an epic level. In my experience, epic fail always loses to fail.
Rick: …Cleveland really is ‘cursed’. Think of it—the Browns manage to win this week, and maybe even another game down the road this season. They finish 3-13, and Randy Lerner decides he’s seen enough “progress” to bring back Mangini. No respectable “football guru” will touch the GM job because they don’t want Mangini here, and once again Eric gets to hand-pick his GM, which of course means Mangini = head coach/GM. But there’s more. Brian Daboll returns as Offense Coordinator, until the last preseason game, at which point Mangini fires him and takes over play-calling duties. At this point Mangini = HC/GM/OC. After getting handing their jocks against Pittsburgh, Rob Ryan quits after his latest sideline feud with Mangini. Mangini takes over that role as well, meaning Mangini = HC/GM/OC/DC. This is all according to plan of course, and “progress” is still being made. Mangini claims after every press conference that he “likes what’s going on” and that “we’re doing some things right.”
On the plus side, all the home games are blacked out, so we’ve got that going for us.
Denny: …I’m actually at a loss. I have no clue how the Browns are going to win this one, and the Lions are horrendous. Maybe the Browns actually play well at practice, and the half-empty arena will remind them of practice. I don’t know.
Now, for the other side of the coin. For once this year, the Browns are up against a team that, over the lions-share (see what I did there?) of the decade, has been equally as soul-sucking to its true fans as ours has. We reached out to a few bloggers for the Lions to see how this game might shake out from their perspective. The one that replied shed some light on this dire situation.
The Lions Will Win If…
Big Al Beaton is the purveyor of The Wayne Fontes Experience, where he notes that “In Detroit, you’re either with us, or we hate you.” Do tell, Big Al.
…several things happen. Hell freezing over is one of them. Barry Sanders un-retiring after finding the fountain of youth, then rejoining the Lions by Sunday, is another. Bobby Layne rising from the dead is one as well. The Browns getting lost on the way to Ford Field would help considerably…
Think I’m exaggerating? The numbers don’t lie.
The Lions have lost 32 of their last 34 games. They’ve won once in their last 24. This is the third consecutive season the Lions’ defense has been ranked 32nd in the NFL. Detroit has gone through 3 offensive coordinators in 3 seasons, and 3 defensive coordinators in 4. Including interim, there have been 7 head coaches… in this decade alone.
Earlier this week, the 11th Lion went on injured reserve. They have 13 starters who weren’t even on the roster in 2008. You can expect 5 rookies to start, and Detroit’s best special teams coverage man is a rookie as well. The leading rusher, Kevin Smith, averages a miniscule 3.4 YPC…and it’s gone up over the past 2 weeks.
So call me cynical if I don’t believe the Lions can beat the dysfunctional Browns. Thing is, I’m not a cynic. I’m a Lions fan. This is how we cope with being stuck in a never-ending circle of NFL Hell.
On the field, a couple of things need to fall in place for Detroit. Matthew Stafford, who has shown enough this season to give us some reason for hope, needs to connect with another reason (one of the few) for hope, Calvin Johnson, early and often. Johnson is the only receiver who can consistently catch the ball. The rest of the Lions’ receiving corps, especially rookie TE Brandon Pettigrew, need hold on to Stafford’s passes, something which doesn’t happen near enough…if at all.
The offensive line, which was overwhelmed by the Vikings’ Williams Wall last week, needs to keep Stafford on his feet…which didn’t happen often in Minnesota. Most teams have not needed to blitz in order to put pressure on Stafford.
The running game needs to keep the Browns’ defense honest, which is hard to do when the Lions average 3.9 YPC as a team.
Defensively, the Lions need…they have…they could…they might…who am I kidding? The Lions have shown an utter inability to stop any team for an entire game. Yes, I even expect the Lions to have trouble stopping the immortal Brady Quinn.
Detroit’s defensive backfield is the WORST I’ve ever seen. Head coach Jim Schwartz, when asked about the pass defense when rookie safety Louis Delmas (who has played well, if out of control) couldn’t play last Sunday replied, “We’d give up 50 points a game without Delmas.”
If that isn’t an indictment of your defense…
When it comes down to it, the Lions can win if…the Browns somehow, someway, play their worst game of the season. Maybe of the decade. From what I’ve seen of the Browns, it might actually be possible. But I’m not counting on it. The Lions couldn’t beat the downtrodden St. Louis Rams, so it’s not a stretch to think beating the Browns as asking for more than this team can give.
You Cleveland fans should have reason to be encouraged, as a win in Detroit is not out of the question. In fact, it may be a gimme.
What say, there, fuzzy britches?