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Big$- In all honesty, when we started this little project I never expected to be writing about a 6-3 football team. As a lifelong Browns fan, I’m not just a glass half empty guy, I’m a “holy crap, now were gonna die of dehydration guy”, but even I am having a hard time focusing on the negatives from last week. The defense forced a $20-million-a-year QB into Joe Bauserman land and the offense was smooth and efficient. It was great to see the three headed monster running attack chew up the field allowing Hoyer to fire off precise strikes when necessary. As a side note, I want to personally take the time to apologize for my lack of faith in new center, Nick McDonald. He came up a big last week, and after reading about he overcame being abandoned by his widower father as an early teen I feel bad for doubting him. So in conclusion, rather than harp endlessly about the punt return woes (hopefully Jim Leonard was reminded he isn’t Gale Sayers during film sessions this week), I’m gonna sip my Four-String Brass Knuckle, kick back and enjoy 6-3.
K-Dubs, the Soldier- It took nine games, but the Browns finally put together a complete game effort. The offense was balanced, as the team rediscovered the running game. The Browns gained more yards through the air (198) and nearly as much on the ground (170) as the Bengals had in total offense (179). The defense caused four turnovers, turning one of them into a touchdown and missing a field goal on another, and the offense dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 11 and ½ more minutes. I honestly did not see this one coming, but the performance—not just the win—lent legitimacy to the Browns record, as coming into the game they only had one win over a plus-.500 team in the schizophrenic Steelers. As the NCP hates on all AFC North rivals equally, watching Andy Dalton get pulled to lick his wounds was an early Christmas gift. The win on the national, Thursday-night stage, gives the team great momentum heading into the second-half of the season.
Where we starting LeBron this week?
Big$- This week, I’m giving the King a 1 day reprieve from his Cavalier duties and calling on him to keep the WR1 spot warm for the soon to be returning Josh Gordon. His athletic prowess should allow for muscle memory to kick in and recall his 2002 all state days.
K-Dubs, the Soldier- No offense to Gary “Big Play” Barnidge and Jim Dray “Day,” who have filled in quite admirably in the absence of Jordan Cameron, but I would like to see LeBron start at tight end this week. If you think Jimmy Graham, who played basketball at the University at Miami, Florida is great at tight end, think of the damage a guy that went from dominating in high school to dominating in the NBA in a span of six months would do.
Big$- Although it may be easier for me to write about painful losses, I don’t foresee one coming this week. As excited as I am for the all of the elements that have been working for the Browns, my main source of optimism comes from the Texans starting QB Ryan Mallett. He has always seemed to me to be, for lack of a better term, disinterested. I have full faith that Dansby, Whitner, Haden and company will find ways to exploit this lack of interest. On offense for some reason, I have a strange feeling that Dr. Dray will find a way to impact this game as Hoyer may be looking for quick outlets in the face of J.J. Watt. In the end, with the Dawg Pound as rabid as ever, I expect a 17-10 Browns victory.
K-Dubs, the Soldier- This game is a tough one to predict. The Texans have a very good defensive line, even if No.1 draft pick Jadeveon Clowney sits this one out with the knee injury that has hampered him this season. The Browns have struggled this season when they played defensive fronts that can get penetration to stifle the run and pressure Hoyer. See the Jacksonville and Tampa Bay games. I imagine nightmares involving J.J. Watt have kept Kyle Shannahan up late all week. There are a lot of factors cutting in the Browns’ favor, though. For starters, despite having an All-World D-end in Watt, the Texans still rank 28th in the league in total defense. Second, the Browns are up against another inexperienced quarterback in Mallett, who is making his first pro start. This is good news for the Browns, who are plus-9 in turnover margin this year. Also, Texans running back Arian Foster is injured and not expected to play. He left last week’s game against the Eagles with a groin injury. The loss of Foster, who leads the AFC with 822 yards, is also huge because of his utility in the passing game, as the Texans like to flex him out into the slot position to match up against linebackers and safeties. The production they have gotten from Foster has been necessary because the drop-off in production from perennial all-star wideout Andre Johnson. He is no longer the deep threat he once was, having a career low in yards-per-catch and tallying only 1TD so far this year. He is the type of receiver Joe Haden has had success against in the past. The real battle to watch will be between second-year receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who leads the team in receiving yards and TDs, and which ever No.2 cornerback will be covering him, likely Buster Skrine. This game is also at home and will presumably be in bad weather. Therefore, the conditions should favor a quarterback in Hoyer, a Cleveland native and Michigan State grad, over a guy in Mallett that played at Arkansas. Considering these factors, I think the Browns will win a tight game, benefiting from turnovers to overcome a lack of production on offense. Look for the Browns to win 20-13.