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THE NCP TALK THIS WEEK'S BROWNS GAME AND MANZ-ELF'S FIRST START

What was up with last week’s loss?

K-Dubs, the Soldier:  Last week’s 25-24 loss to the Colts was really demoralizing.  In the closing minutes, Andrew Luck drove his team 90 yards, hitting T.Y. Hilton with a game-winning touchdown pass from 1 yard out with 32 seconds.  That drive sucked all the life out of a defense that played tough all afternoon.  The Browns held one of the league’s best offenses to well below its average output and scored two defensive touchdowns.  The loss, though, hung on the offense and its inability to move the ball, particularly in the second half, and capitalize on scoring opportunities.  In fact, a 23-yard interception return by rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert gave the Browns a two-touchdown lead early in the third quarter, Brian Hoyer and company could manage just three three-and-outs, gaining just 12 yards, in that quarter.  The loss appears to have marked the end of Hoyer’s run as the quarterback for his hometown team, as rookie Johnny Manziel is set to start this week.  And although Hoyer has played terribly for the last month or so, as a long-suffering Browns fan, I appreciate that he leaves with a winning record. 

What’s our take on the QB situation?

Big $:  Brian Hoyer must be having one of the most “WTF” months in American sports history. Only a month ago he was truly living his dream. I’m not talking about some general American dream like home ownership or paying off his student loans, I’m talking about closing your eyes and waking up the lead singer of Led Zeppelin type stuff.  He was the starting QB of his hometown team and coming off a dismantling of the in-state rival Bengals. Fast forward a few week’s,  insert Stoner McCamo car, subtract any sort of arm accuracy and not only has #6 been relieved of his starting duties, he is being run out of town. I rarely feel sympathy for professional athletes,  but that has to smart.

That brings us to Browns fans new favorite son, the mischievous Johnny Manziel. I don’t know if any phenomenon has confused me more than Mr. Football’s popularity in the 216. First, if Johnny maintained the same persona but changed skin color I’d expect his fan base would be slashed considerably (but that’s a debate for a different time and place). Second, this town’s fan base is the same group who had their hearts set a flutter by a letter that opened with, “In Northeast Ohio, everything is earned, nothing is gained...” in July.  A few months later, that value has been shelved in order to embrace the diminutive Snicker slinger. His entitlement  has been on full display since the August 2013 S.I. article that painted him as a petulant punk. Since that time a myriad of events have occurred that could only serve to further this deep character flaw. From saving his plunging draft stock by hooking fellow entitled southern D-bag, Jimmy Haslam, with the uber lame “wreck this league” text to being handed an NFL starting job through the failure of his predecessor I can’t imagine Johnny has done much maturing over the last 16 months. As much as I believe his lack of stature will hinder him I believe he will eventually be undone by his personal and mental make up.

K-Dubs, the Soldier:  I think Hoyer was given every opportunity to tighten his grip on the quarterback job, but he blew it.  I think the losses to Buffalo and the Colts really harmed any playoff chances this team had, and Hoyer’s flaws were key reasons the team lost those games.  I was pulling for him, but it is time to see what Manziel can do.  I would feel the same way about any quarterback the Browns drafted in the first round.  That said, I also don’t understand the Manziel-mania, will never call him Johnny Football, and hate when he does the “makin’ money” gesture after scoring garbage time touchdowns.  If he can play well and win, I’ll be happy, but I didn’t ask Santa for a No. 2 Browns jersey for Christmas.

Who would you like to start LeBron in place of this week?

K-Dubs, the Soldier:  Last week also marked the last game for kicker Billy Cundiff, who was waived after a very inconsistent season.  Cundiff had missed five kicks in the last five games, including one last week that was the difference in the team’s one-point loss to the Colts.  To replace him, the Browns signed Garrett Hartley, who was waived by the Lions earlier this year because he was inconsistent.  I am not sure that LeBron can kick, but I give him the start here this week.

Big $- For the 2nd straight week I’m starting LeBron at QB, mainly due to my disdain for Manziel.

What are your thoughts for this week’s game against the 8-4-1 Bengals?

Big$:  Although it’s possible that Johnny may enjoy some early success due to the change of pace he provides, I believe that Marvin Lewis should be fired if he can’t devise a game plan to confuse the playbook novice at opposing QB.  Bengals 34 Browns 16

K-Dubs, the Soldier:  The big story this week is that Manziel is making his first career start.  He did lead a touchdown drive against the Bills two weeks ago when he came in to relieve an ineffectual Hoyer, but that was against a defense playing a soft zone while icing its big lead.  So it is hard for me to predict just how he will do and how the offense will perform, especially with receivers Miles Austin out and Josh Gordon not playing up to his potential.  The Bengals, though, are playing without top linebacker Vontaze Burfict, and they gave up 543 yards last week to the Steelers in a 42-21 home loss; and 193 of those yards came on the ground.  Also, the Browns dominated the Bengals in their first meeting, forcing quarterback Andy Dalton into a historically bad performance.  And the Browns defense is playing even better now than it was then.  All things considered, picking a winner in this one is like handicapping the Kentucky Derby, but I am calling for a Browns victory 21-17.