April 23, 2014

Which Browns Team Shows Up This Week?

The Cleveland Browns have two games left against the class of the AFC North.  I know we hate to say it because we despise the Ravens and the Steelers so much, but they are. There’s just no denying it.  The Browns are also coming off a tough stretch of games for them.  The Browns went from surprising the class of the league against New Orleans, New England and to an extent even in losing to the Jets.

They followed that up by placing their coach on a considerably warmer seat (real or imagined) in the media and on the Internet.  There is no mistaking that the Browns are banged up and have some excuses.  How many teams would expect to even win five games and be so close in so many others with three separate starting quarterbacks?  And yet, we have no idea what to expect this week against Baltimore.

The Browns are better at home according to their record so far.  They are 3-3 so far at home while 2-6 on the road.  Does that mean anything?

Funny enough, we spend so much time talking about the Browns’ offense that probably isn’t even close to the key to their success.  The Browns offense is a known entity with known problems.  Even in hearing people complain about Peyton Hillis’ lack of carries last week in Cincy, I couldn’t help but point to the time of possession and scoreboard deficits.

The defense, though, has actually impressed at times this season.  It has carried the team in multiple games almost completely.  Imagine the New Orleans game if the defense had played like they did last weekend against Cincinnati.  Imagine the New England game without the Browns’ defense forcing three turnovers.

I have a habit of obsessing on the Browns’ offense and their struggles.  It might sound cliché, but that is probably largely a waste of time at this stage in the team’s development. This Browns team wins and competes by playing exceptional defense.  When Browns fans were screaming Scott Fujita’s name, David Bowens’ name and Abe Elam’s name the Browns were competing.  Add in Joe Haden and it should be pretty easy to see the key to whether or not the Browns will show up in a given week.

So I still don’t know if the Browns will show up this week against Baltimore or not.  I am guessing they will try their hardest because they always seem to do that with Eric Mangini as their coach.  That being said, I will look at the first defensive series and how that team is competing against the Baltimore offense rather than counting the number of three and outs that the Browns offense puts together.  Some teams are led by their offense, but this year’s Browns team is quite clearly led by their defense.  And Reggie Hodges.

Browns football!  Defense and punting!

  • MattyFos

    Which Browns team shows up this week?

    The team that drives down the field on the opening drive to put up a healthy 7-0 lead. Then struggles to get a first down the remainder of the game.. You know. The team who are what we thought they were.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    Close the comments section…MattyFos just nailed it.

    Please Browns…please just keep Colt upright through this game.

  • Chris

    The team that’s battered, bruised, and broken from a long season and insufficient depth.

    I know football is supposed to be a “show me the bottom line” sport, but the bottom line is deeper than our record. The bottom line is this team cannot compete over a long season until we fill in the depth chart. Considering Mangini laid waste to the roster to get rid of cancers in the locker room and we’ve only had one good draft since, I think this is inevitable and expected.

    I expect that the browns will come out hard and play for all they’re worth, but I similarly expect that it won’t be enough. The Ravens and the Steelers are coming to town and both of them need to beat the Browns.

  • http://www.60bpm.com/ Robbie

    It would not surprise me at all if the Browns win on Sunday. It would make no sense whatsover, that’s why it wouldn’t surprise me.

    If they were to win one of the next two, though, I would much, much, much rather than beat the Steelers. Again, some people might argue I should despise the Ravens more than the Steelers, but 1) there are no Ravens fans in NEO (or they’re smart enough to stay hidden) 2) they’ve already won a Super Bowl and 3) Modell is no longer involved with the organization. I’m over it.

    I still hate the Steelers and their obnoxious bandwagon fans who litter the landscape of my home with yellow and black flags.

  • jimkanicki

    best indicator: will john stclair play?

    record when stclair plays: 2-7
    record when stclair does not play: 3-2

  • http://serandez.blogspot.com Ezzie

    Just to give you an idea of how the Browns are this year, I did a really quick analysis.

    The Browns have 13 rushing TDs – league average is 11. They have 11 passing TDs – league average is 21. They have 21 FGs – league average is 22.

    If the Browns would simply have a league average amount of passing TDs (and nothing else would drop off in the process, nor would the defense get improvement despite an O using more time etc.), they would have 70 more points.

    That would give them a net point differential of +51, which would be 5th in the AFC and tied with the Bears for 10th overall – well below NE/ATL, but not far behind PIT/BAL et al.

    I think it’s safe to say that if the Browns were to get an average passing game next year, via FA or the draft, they would be a wildcard-level team. If they can get above average and/or getting some help would also impact the D and the running game, they should be able to play with anyone at the top and try to make a nice playoff run.

  • Chris

    @4: I can forgive the Steelers fans who became Steelers fans in hopes that they’d beat the Ravens…

    And… to be frank… the Browns haven’t exactly upheld their end of the Browns – Steelers rivalry. It’s like Clevelanders always said when talk of the Cavs/Wizards rivalry came up… it’s not much of a rivalry when one team always wins.

  • subadai

    I think the Browns team that wears the orange helmets will show up. Beyond that, who knows.

  • http://serandez.blogspot.com Ezzie

    Hoping this won’t get deleted due to Mangini moratorium…

    MattyFos did nail it, and Chris made a good point as well, which I think shows just how *good* of a job Mangini is doing. When you consistently have the less talented team, the best you can do is game plan as much as possible to take advantage of the element of surprise. Once you’ve done that, the other team adjusts and closes down their holes, and gets into a grind-it-out talent war, which ultimately they will win. People like to point to this and say Mangini isn’t good at adjusting in-game, but that’s not the case: He simply can’t match the talent on the other side, no matter what. He is therefore forced into a “keep the game close, and we’ll try to pull something off at the end” approach. It’s not as if the other coaches don’t have brains, and they have superior talent to work with. There’s not much Mangini can do if they keep attacking with their superior talent against the Browns’ inferior talent.

    I’d even venture that that’s why Sean Peyton and Bill Belichik are such great coaches, and also why Mangini was able to beat them – they don’t always have the *best* talent, but they combine very good talent with brilliant schemes. So while they have enough talent to beat talented teams due to superior scheming, they also struggled with teams like the Browns – who have equally good game-planning. The Browns can’t beat the Steelers, because the Steelers are just much more talented. But they can beat the Saints or Patriots, because those teams aren’t quite as naturally talented.

    For the math-minded, let’s say Coaching can get you up to a +5:

    TALENT
    Pittsburgh 10
    Atlanta 9
    New Orleans 8
    New England 7
    Cleveland 4

    The Browns can beat NE, NO. They can’t beat ATL, PIT. But NE/NO can beat those teams.

    And yes, I understand that I’m ignoring the talents of the other coaches – but that’s because the first time is definitely different and favors the upstart. Obviously if the Browns would play the Saints or Pats again, things would go much differently at this stage, and those teams would be far more prepared.

  • Harv 21

    Just want to object to everyone nicknaming John St. Clair “turnstile.”

    Prefer “St. Clair Avenue.”

  • Chris

    @9: Very well put.

    @10: As in “the DL marches straight down St. Clair Avenue and gets the sack”? I like it. :)

  • Sally

    We only play as well as the other team this year. I believe we’ll compete in both games.

  • CapGG

    @10: Last time I checked, St. Clair Ave has stop lights that at least slow down traffic.

    I’ve gotten to the point of somewhat enjoying watching the “turnstyle” spin around at the snap and finish watching his man crush the QB 1.5 s after the snap. He’s called turnstyle because that is exactly what he does, admit 1 at a time while spinning.

  • NJ

    @9 – While I agree with your general point, one of the reasons I personally have moved from Mangini supporter to apathetic on him staying or leaving, is that we’ve constantly laid eggs in games where we’ve had a higher or equal (in my esitmation) talent score. The Bills, Bengals, and Panthers games being the most obvious examples. (Yes, we won the Carolina game, but it didn’t win any points for Mangini, imo.)

    @12 – I too prefer turnstyle. I also now refer to turnstyles as St.Clairs.

    As for this weekend, based on the recent performance from our defensive front seven and offensive line, I foresee us receiving a whuppin’. This may be the week we finally get blown out.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    @12…

    BA-ZING!!!

  • Chris

    NJ: If you give me a healthy Browns team and a healthy Bills team, we win. If you give me the Browns we currently have with so many key players missing, I’d say we got about what we should expect.

  • NJ

    The Bills were far, far from healthy. Most notably, they had a comically depleted offensive line which we couldn’t exploit at all.

  • NJ

    But I hate playing the hypothetical game… are injuries and lack of depth a factor? Absolutely. What has made me apathetic towards keeping Mangini has been the lack of physical play the pass few weeks and the chronically bad offensive gameplans.

    One of the arguments for keeping Mangini last year was the way he closed out the season. Players believed in him and played tough even though our talent was lacking. Well, here we are in ’10 and it looks like the exact opposite is happening. That means something to me…

    (Sorry for breaking the Mangini ban.)

  • MattyFos

    MattyFos is loving the MattyFos lovin!

  • mgbode

    @MattyFos – you hit the main portion of the answer, but allow be to elaborate

    after utilizing Hillis to build that 7-0 lead, the offense will inexplicably go 2:1 pass:run ratio the rest of the game.

  • sealedhuman

    Anyone who claims that the Browns always try their hardest for Mangini didn’t watch the Bills or Bengals game. Need proof? Listen to the comments by McCoy and Hillis. The effort and energy was not there.