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NCP Browns v Jets Preview - by Big $ and The Ice Cube

What the hell happened against the Titans and who/what is to blame?


Big $ - A catastrophe such as the week 1 debacle usually has several components that contribute to the disaster. This particular S- Show can be boiled to two specific issues: Building outside in, and inexperience at the HC spot. The NCP warned you that focusing on the glitz and glam outside of the hash marks and dismissing the importance of the OL could be the downfall of this team. Then Sunday comes and we see Teller and Corbett inactive. It’s hard to disagree that trotting out practice squad players on the offensive edges ended up killing the offensive scheme (and almost led to a Baker injury). I do not foresee Greg Robinson acting a total fool again, but I still think the lack of depth/quality on the Offensive Line will be an on-going theme in 2019.

To blame in this case: Dorsey

The second issue was one the NCP did not see coming. All summer, I was more than happy to drink the Freddie Kool Aid. “If you don’t wear Brown and Orange, yada yada yada” was all it took for us starved fans to be ready to run through a wall for him. His southern shucks attitude had us forget that the guy was only a RB coach a short time ago. Then Sunday comes and CBS starts reminding us of his used car salesman background and things start coming into focus Keyser Soze style. A team that was disorganized, unprepared and lacked focus came out of the tunnel. The play calling was erratic at best and downright fire-able at its worst. The biggest indictment was that when the chips were down the team lacked heart and appeared to quit. This is a lot of BS to overcome in a week, but I am truly hoping that we witnessed an aberration. If not, there is a better chance Freddie hits the unemployment line than a playoff berth in 2019. 

To blame in this case: Freddie Kitchens

 

What should we expect Monday night vs the Jets? 

The Ice Cube – Honestly, who the hell knows after the performance in the opener.  Last week, the total yards and time of possession were nearly identical, and although the Browns were a poor 1 for 10 on third-down conversions, Tennessee only converted on 2 out of 10.  And … Cleveland lost by 30. Sure, Baker’s 3 interceptions didn’t help, but the biggest issue was the penalty yardage. The Browns were flagged 18 times for 182 yards, a large chunk of which was of the personal foul variety.  That is insane! The lack of discipline was truly stunning, and the penalties continually kept drives alive for the Titans and really prevented Cleveland from getting any rally going. The margin of error in the NFL is small, and the Browns simply can’t afford to lose their collective shit.  

The good news is that this week’s game presents the best possible opportunity to get back on track.  Although the Monday Night Game is on the road, the Jets are at a low point and primed for a kick in the ribs.  ICYMI, QB Sam Darnold is out with mono. Former Northwestern Wildcat Trevor Siemian will be under center. He hasn’t played in a regular season game since 2017, and his career TD to INT ratio is about even.  Siemian will also be standing behind an offensive line that has only ever played one game together—giving up 4 sacks in a loss to Buffalo. The Browns had 5 sacks last week and frequently pressured Marcus Mariotta, which should to continue against this Jets line.  Because of the opportunity to pressure a rusty backup, I also expect the Browns to get a turnover or 2, after getting zero last week. The defense will be without safety Damarius Randall, though, who is out with a concussion.  

Even better news is that New York’s star linebacker C.J. Mosley, who often tormented Cleveland as a member of the Ravens, is also out because of injury.  In addition to being a tackling machine, he is strong against the pass. His absence could allow the Browns to control the clock with the running game, and it could open up passing lanes in the middle of the field.  Look for tight end David Njoku to get some more targets this week.

Also, New York’s kicking game is just as bad as Cleveland’s.  They cut their kicker last week after he missed an extra point and a field goal in their one-point loss.  If Monday’s game turns into a battle of field goals, the Browns will not be at a disadvantage.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed in this game, but other than a home game against the Dolphins, right now I cannot think of a better chance for Cleveland to rebound than Monday’s game versus New York.  If Cleveland puts on a showing like it did last week, this season will get really ugly, really quickly.  

follow on twitter @northcoastposse



The North Coast Posse Browns Preview


The North Coast Posse are considered a Top Five Browns follow. Big $ and The Ice Cube can be found on Twitter @northcoastposse

What a difference a year makes. The Browns suddenly have, gulp, expectations. What is a realistic win total for the 2019-20 season? 

 

The Ice Cube: That’s the key word this year: “expectations.”  Without playing a game, this offseason the Browns have ping-ponged from perennial also-ran to “the World’s Team,” and now they are getting some hate for being overrated.  As a long-suffering fan, despite all the hype, I am cautiously optimistic and not as bullish as the betting action in Vegas. I think 10 wins is a possibility, but the scheduled is rough, with 3 of the first 7 games against the Rams, Seahawks, and Patriots.  If the Browns have a slip up in games they are expected to win early, like the Jets or 49ers, we could be looking at a struggle to hit .500. I am projecting wins in the opener against Tennessee, and other non-division victories against the Jets, 49ers, Bills, Dolphins, and Cardinals.  Throw in a pair of W’s against the Bengals, and you are going to be fighting for a playoff spot at the end of the year, especially if you can get a win of the established NFL elite.

 

Big $: Let the person who has not downed 7-11 Hilltop Lagers, pulled up the ole schedule and wistfully talked themselves into a 12-4 season cast the first stone. However, upon clarity and sobriety, you see the murderer’s row (Rams, Seahawks, Patriots) mentioned above and are reminded that our divisional foes in Pittsburgh and Baltimore are both accustomed to winning and served us Ls last year. All things considered, the NFL is designed for each team to go 8-8, and the Browns may be good enough to finally bust that bell curve on the right slope and hit 10-6.

 

What three players need to stay healthy if the Browns are going to be playoff contenders? 

 

The Ice Cube: Outside of Baker, and hoping not to sound to obvious, but Odell Beckham, Jr., is already starting the year injured.  A nagging hip injury has kept him limited in practice, and he admittedly is not 100% going into the opener. If he can’t stay on the field, the wide receiver corps is going to be thin.  The Browns No. 3 receiver Antonio Calloway is already serving a 4-game suspension to start the year. If OBJ is out to start the year, Hollywood Higgins becomes your No. 2. I’m OK with that given his chemistry with Baker, but the depth behind him is lacking, as shown by the constant roster turnover at the 4th and 5th receiver slots to close out the preseason.

 

My second pick is Greg Robison, the left tackle.  John Dorsey pulled this former No. 2 overall pick off the scrapheap, and he was the anchor of the line in the second half of last season.  Don’t be surprised if he makes the Pro Bowl this year. The Browns have built more depth on the O-line this year, but not at left tackle. If Robinson goes down, Baker better buckle his chin strap tight.

 Staying on the offensive side of the ball, I am praying Nick Chubb stays off the IR.  Without him, I don’t think the Browns have a running back that can handle the full load of carries per game, and that includes Kareen Hunt when he comes back in Week 10.

 

 Big $: I’m concerned the Browns have focused too much attention building outside in with the additions of Jarvis and OBJ and have left the team with an OL that leaves much to be desired, Therefore, if Bitonio or Tretter miss significant time we could watch the season go south real quick.

 The other player that must stay healthy is Oliver Vernon. Having him occupy space in opposing team’s heads and game plans will allow Myles, Larry and Sheldon to wreak havoc.

 

Is Freddy Kitchens up for this job or would he be better suited replacing John Goodman coaching the team in Revenge of the Nerds? 

 

Big $: This has been an off season like no other here on the North Coast.  Browns fans and media alike have been heaping expectations upon the franchise that are usually felt in Foxboro and Pittsburgh etc. With that said, Freddie has stayed even keeled and dismissed the rat poison. I’m excited to watch him lead this next chapter of Browns football.

 

The Ice Cube: Freddie may be Goodmanesque in stature but I think that is where the comparison stops.  He has been an assistant in the league a long time and has finally got his shot to be the HC. He seems fully prepared when it comes to handling his team and the media. He is the underdog you want to cheer for, unlike that Coach Harris from Adams College.  I don’t doubt Freddie is the right man to lead the Browns right now, but with every young coach, it seems that clock management can be a challenge. If he can keep that from hampering the team early, I think he will quickly become beloved in Browns Nation.  

 

What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of this team? 

The Ice Cube: Arguably the greatest strength is going to be the defensive line and pass rush.  With the additions of Vernon and Sheldon Richardson upfront, teaming with Garrett and Genard Avery to bear down on the quarterback, expect more sacks and interceptions this season.  No doubt there should be more explosiveness on offense with the addition of OBJ, especially when Hunt and Calloway get back in the lineup. There is better depth in the defensive secondary, as well.  The weakness I have my eye on is the kicking and punting game. The Browns have been killed in countless games by failures on special teams (second chance field goals because of Browns encroachment penalties, missed FGs, the “Kick Six,” etc.) and they need consistency from their rookie kicker in Austin Siebert, a draft pick out of Oklahoma.  They also cut the excellent Britton Colquitt in favor of their rookie punter Jamie “the Scottish Hammer” Gillan. The former rugby player has a howitzer for a leg, as shown by his 70-yard net punt in the preseason, and he is actually a tackling machine, but he has to learn the ball placement of his predecessor to keep the field tilted in Cleveland’s favor.

 

Give me a best case and worst case for the Browns this season. 


Big $: I’m going to be short and sweet here …

Best Case: 1 playoff win

Worst Case: Baker injury


The Worst Boxing Blog 8/24/19 - by Colin Gawel

If someone wants to cover boxing for Pencilstorm, please contact us at pencilstormstory@gmail.com. I’m a big fight fan but we haven’t had any luck filling the position so I am going to knock something out. I’m as ready as I’ll never be. Please forgive the typos I’m doing this in between customers at Colin’s Coffee.

Let me start by saying that SI Boxing with Chris Mannix is essential listening every Friday. This podcast is my go-to on trying to keep up with the different fights, different platforms and upcoming fighters. Actually I am listening to an interview with Shawn Porter  as I write this. I didn’t know he is originally from Northeast Ohio and he was Manny Pacquiao’s sparring partner in his prime. Porter takes on the great Errol Spence in a PPV in October. Guess what, now I am really excited for this fight. It goes to show that to truly enjoy boxing, you have to actively follow the sport. Also, on Twitter I follow Chris Mannix, Dan Rafeal, and Max Kellerman. 

Upcoming fights of note:

Sergey Kovalev  vs Anthony Yarde for Light Heavyweight Title. Saturday August 24th 4pm ESPN +

Kovalev literally killed a man in the ring. Then won the title. Then lost two fights to the great Andre Ward before hiring a new trainer and regaining the belt following Ward’s retirement. Experts seem to think Yarde will be a pushover but he is undefeated and looks like a handful to me. 


If Kovalev wins he could be in line for a megafight against Canelo Alverez. This would be a very interesting fight as Canelo would have to  jump two weight classes to try and get the belt in that weight class.


In fact, Canelo was hoping to have Kovalev on Mexican Independence day, September 14th, but his drunken (allegedly) manager Oscar DeLa Hoya botched the deal and now their our serious legal troubles brewing between the two parties. 


You can’t talk about Canelo without GGG. DAZN has signed both fighters to big $ contracts in hopes of promoting their 3rd fight on the new streaming service. I subscribe to DAZN and I love it. The model is that for a monthly subscription of $10 a month you get numerous pay-per-view quality fights without the expense of plopping down $80 a fight


Gennady Golovkin fights Derevyanchenko (I literally cut and pasted that name in) on DAZN on Oct 5th at MSG for some sort of title belt.


The best thing that has happened to DAZN is the Mexican Homer Simpson, Andy Ruiz, knocking out the pride of Britain, Anthony Joshua for the heavyweight championship of the world. I watched this live on DAZN and was jaw agape watching Ruiz get off the mat to pummel the undefeated champ into submission. The rematch is essential viewing on Dec 7th from… Saudia Arabia? 

Who is the best P4P fighter in the world? Many would say it’s Vasyl Lomachenko and he is fighting Luke Campbell on August 31st on ESPN +. 


Ok, that’s it for now. Back to coffee customers. Thanks for reading the world’s worst boxing blog. - Colin G.







WWE vs AEW in a Steel Cage Match - by Big Vin Vader

2019 Mid-Year Pro-Wrestling Update

AEW

All Elite Wrestling has been the biggest news in professional wrestling ever since the venture was announced last year.  More than their roster and the backing of Tony Khan, their television deal and their unbelievable PPV success in recent months have been among the most important developments in years.  Not only are they bringing pro wrestling back to TNT, but they’re also doing so with more momentum built up than any other promotion in years.  They’re pretty much guaranteed to be the U.S. promotion with the all-time greatest in-ring product.  WWE should be worried, having the threat of WCW-like competition, but they clearly are not.  With their recent TV deals with FOX and USA, not to mention the piles of money from the Saudi government, WWE will not be in any financial trouble for the next decade at least.  Unfortunately, fans don’t want wrestling promotions that are monetarily soluble yet insist on shitting on their audiences’ expectations.

Next to their television deal, AEW’s inaugural PPV, Double or Nothing, is their first notable success story as an organization.  While we won’t know until fall how they’ll do on television, DoN did fantastic numbers, selling out the arena and doing the highest PPV buy for a non-WWE promotion in twenty years.  It was also a hell of a show, with no bad matches, and several guaranteed classics.  It was the kind of major PPV show that hardcore fans have dreamed of, and with folks like Kenny Omega, the Young Bucks, and others on the card, the in-ring portion aspect was leagues ahead of anything WWE has put on recently, save NXT.  And the fact that wins and losses and believable athletic competition are to play a greater role in the promotion’s overall goals is an even more promising departure from WWE’s jumbled mess of a product.

But there’s always the question of the casual fans, the ones who tune into RAW weekly, but don’t subscribe to the WWE Network for PPVs.  They don’t have a clue who Kenny Omega or The Young Bucks are, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll see any reason to change the channel to TNT and watch people they’ve never seen when something more familiar and comfortable is available.  Then again, back in the days leading up to the Monday Night War, WCW was largely an unproven commodity, one that catered to Southern audiences with little of the mainstream flash of 1980s WWF.  So there’s a good chance that the more curious fans will do some investigating and check this new promotion out for themselves.  The idea that wrestling fans are dumb and uncultured should have died long ago.  Fans know what they want, and are certainly smart enough to realize when they’re being given crap, and are bound to get fed up at a certain point and make a change.

The bolder part of AEW’s plan is their direct challenges to WWE, particularly the fact that they’ll be running their TV program against RAW on Monday nights.  If there were any doubts that the group had WWE in their sights, Cody made his feelings pretty clear when he destroyed a mock-throne at DoN in a jab at Triple H’s ego.  That whole thing was a little too on the nose and cartoonish for my tastes, but it got a huge reaction from the live crowd, which was the point.  Obviously, AEW poses no real threat to WWE’s financial security and place on top of the wrestling heap.  But they do exist as a serious alternative for the fans who want to watch wrestling, not sports entertainment, and they represent the first mainstream example of this in nearly twenty years (we’re not getting into TNA/Impact today).  The company’s long-term success almost seems secondary at this point in time, simply because everything else is going so right for them and things are finally exciting for fans once again.

Success does seem likely for AEW, however, as their All Out PPV coming this summer sold out in a matter of minutes, with over 150,000 fans in the queue to order at the time.  Sure, a 10,000 sell-out for All In last year was huge, as was 11,000 for DoN.  Now 12,000 for All Out proves that the company isn’t just a flash in the pan, but are catering to an established audience.  AEW’s production style thus far has been just as smooth and polished as WWE’s, and given the fact that there’s no Vince McMahon calling the shots and directing cutaways, I have no doubts that AEW will even surpass their rival on this front.  I’ve watched plenty of terrible-looking wrestling shows, both independent and major, and it really does make a difference in how enjoyable the overall product is.  It may seem like a minor aspect of AEW’s overall presentation and success, but I really do believe that their polished aesthetics will work hand-in-hand with their in-ring and storyline strategies to give their brand a much wider appeal.

NJPW/Moxley

AEW may be the promotion Jon Moxley is most associated with at this point in time, but New Japan Pro Wrestling is where his career revitalization really began.  It’s also going to be the place where he has to prove himself in the coming months, as he’s been booked for their annual G1 Climax tournament, which is hands-down the best wrestling series in the world quality-wise each year.  Moxley stepped out of WWE ready to show the world not only how much he had been held back, but also how passionate he still is about wrestling.  His debut at AEW’s Double or Nothing proved that the wrestling audience hasn’t abandoned their support despite his abysmal recent run in WWE, and also demonstrated that his brawling style has only improved since he’s bulked up and refined his goals.  Then, just a week or so later, Moxley won NJPW’s North American title in a fantastic first match during their Best of the Super Juniors tournament final.  He proved that he can not only hang with the promotion’s stiffer, more grueling in-ring style, but also that there are big plans in place for him. 

The only other success story along these lines I can think of is Cody, who was the first person to step away from WWE, express honest frustration with their system, and find considerable success in the wrestling world.  I may not be a huge fan of Cody’s, but his DoN clash with brother Dustin was every bit the five-star classic it was made out to be, and he seems to have found his place in AEW.  There’s also something to be said in just how successful Cody has been at making me hate him as a character, and he’s tapped into some classic, old-school heel psychology.  Moxley, as Dean Ambrose, was one of my favorites in WWE, and it was pretty damn obvious as a fan that he was being restricted.  So I’m thrilled to see him so well-received and eager to prove he’s capable of more than he got to show in WWE.  His title win from former NXT talent Juice Robinson was fairly brutal, and Moxley showed that he’s willing to tap into his hardcore roots once again.  But there’s still a lot up in the air, and the G1 is just about the most grueling stretch in professional wrestling, with even world-class talent wearing down over the month of shows.  So that, more than any AEW or indie shows will prove just what tier Moxley is at, and the number of dream matches in the tournament’s brackets is impressive.  Likewise his upcoming match Kenny Omega.  His match with Joey Janela at Fyter Fest was a bloody weapons spectacular, and Moxley made it clear he’s willing to do what it takes to get the job done.

Regardless of how Moxley holds up against today’s crop of in-ring talent, the biggest takeaway from his new path is how he represents the solidification of AEW’s challenge to WWE.  Not only did he walk away on his own and into a hugely successful position, but he also did so while openly acknowledging the many issues within the company itself.  His Talk is Jericho appearance and other interviews reveal an intelligent, thoughtful man who was not only discouraged, but disgusted by what Vince McMahon was ordering him to do.  That anyone would doubt scores of other main roster talent are just as miserable as Moxley was recently is foolish, and as far as the fans I know personally, they’ve all just about had their fill as well.  People know things are wrong with WWE’s way of doing things, and now that we have an alternative, things will be more interesting.

NJPW has always been the high watermark of wrestling in mine and many others’ eyes, and it still holds true.  Watching the BOSJ final that included the Moxley-Robinson match was one of the shows recently, along with Double or Nothing, that made me actually, truly excited about wrestling again.  The promotion is doing fantastic, even with the loss of key players Omega, the Young Bucks, and more to Ring of Honor and AEW.  They’re actually developing new stars, while established performers have been given opportunities to shine anew.  The only major issue is the fact that things are getting out of hand as far as spots and injuries, which only distracts from how tremendous the matches themselves are.  

WWE 

For as much as this column started as a WWE-centric outlet, I honestly don’t keep up with them much anymore.  Sure, I’ll watch PPVs when I get the chance, but I’m certainly not calling off work to catch any shows at this point.  And I’ll admit that a good amount of matches actually make a solid impression, but the overall process of WWE fandom has just become too much of a grind for me to really maintain an interest.  Let's briefly go over some of the things that have happened since I last checked in.  I don't have the energy to delve into things too much, and so much has actually occurred that there isn’t space here to touch on everything anyway:


-Brock Lesnar, who was unannounced for the show and not in the match, ran out to win an otherwise excellent Money in the Bank match.  Somehow, this qualified him to hold the briefcase, and he's teased cashing in several times, but nothing has happened yet.  Guess we just have to wait and see if he's booked for another title run at the cost of a younger, more talented and deserving wrestler.  Or maybe he'll lose his cash-in.  Sure.

-Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff have been put in charge of RAW and SmackDown, respectively, and not as characters, but actual creative forces behind the scenes.  Bischoff I have a lot of doubts about, but everyone knows how brilliant Heyman can be when kept on the booking side of the equation.  So I think this is an interesting, if not necessarily smart move.

-WWE returned to Saudi Arabia for the third of ten arranged PPVS.  This one, Superstar Showdown, may not have been bogged down with all of the immediate baggage that last year's Crown Jewel had coming right after the execution of Jamal Koshoggi, but that doesn't mean it was an apolitical event either.  Alexa Bliss and Natalya were actually flown out to Saudi Arabia with the potential promise of a women's match on the show, but were told the day of the PPV that it wasn't going to happen.  So there were still no women booked, and the company's affiliation with Saudi Arabia is just as troubling as ever.  Also, the show was an absolute trainwreck, with some calling it the worst company PPV in years.  Of particular note was an abysmal Undertaker-Goldberg match ("First time ever!") that showed just how out of shape and beyond their prime both men were.  

-Plenty of talent has walked away from the company: Tye Dillinger (Shawn Spears), Hideo Itami (KENTA), Dustin Rhodes/Goldust.  Several others have asked for or hinted at requesting their release but have been denied, including Luke Harper and The Revival, all of whom are capable of so much more than they’re being allowed to do.  

As far as the good things happening right now, there are still a few saving graces that keep me coming back to the shows.  Kofi Kingston is still World Champion, and has had a fairly solid run up to this point, so at least his title win wasn’t just a transitional fluke to cash in on his Elimination Chamber popularity.  Kevin Owens continues to do just about everything right despite the cards creative have been dealing him.  AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, and apart from his embarrassing Stomping Ground match with Baron Corbin, Seth Rollins all continue to be top-notch workers.  Ricochet seems to have finally found his place on the main roster, winning the US Title from Samoa Joe.  Even if he lost the very next night in a non-title match.


NXT, meanwhile, has been consistently, unfathomably good since the middle of last year.  The booking has been almost perfect (save in the women’s division, it’s about time Shayna Baszler lost the title), and the roster is incredible, stacked with some of the best former indie talents of the last few years.  Johnny Gargano and Adam Cole have had two of the best matches in WWE history on the last two takeovers, and other breakout stars like Matt Riddle, Velveteen Dream and so many others continue to demonstrate just why NXT is on a tier approaching NJPW for quality wrestling.

What it basically comes down to, is that the rest of the wrestling world continues to evolve and challenge the form while WWE remains as stubbornly behind the times as ever.  Not that it’s ever been a secret or question, but it’s more apparent than ever that Vince McMahon’s dated, unique sensibilities are holding back the company’s writers, workers, and everyone in between.  For god’s sake, there was a tug-of-war match on RAW between Bobby Lashley and Braun Strowman.  Who in the hell asked for that?  Moxley’s various podcast interviews have made clear just how unhappy he, and by extension, other members of the roster are with the current system.  Sasha Banks has hinted at her frustrations for some time now, and several writers have quit in the last few months.  These aren’t the signs of a healthy company, and there’s no aspect save financial in which WWE isn’t struggling right now.  Again, they aren’t risking the casual fans who only watch cable, but as far as their long-term and hardcore audience, things are looking too promising elsewhere to really expect them to stick with such a mess of a promotion.