Cleveland Browns Offense Can't Get Worse and Week 2 NFL Lines
I could go on a long diatribe about how bad the Browns offense and Brandon Weeden were in the opener last Sunday, but I’ll spare you. Safe to say that point has been hammered home enough at this point.
It can’t get much worse for Weeden. He started fine, but looked shell-shocked, uncomfortable and lost by the end of the game.
He didn’t get much help. The offensive line wasn’t great. Trent Richardson clearly didn’t have the legs to be a lead back in his first real game in about nine months. And Pat Shurmur’s play-calling still leaves a lot to be desired.
I’m all about believing in your system and all that, especially one that has stood the test of time like the West Coast offense. But good coaches adapt their offense to fit the skills of their players.
That’s what John Fox did in Denver last year with Tim Tebow and has now done again with Peyton Manning. That’s what Mike Shanahan did in Washington for Robert Griffin III. Look, even the Packers and Patriots run versions of the West Coast offense.
But the offense they're running doesn’t look very similar to what the Browns have run thus far under Shurmur.
Shanahan took a player with unique talents in RG3 and gave him the opportunity to excel with those gifts. But he also recognized that he needed to build Griffin’s confidence.
He accomplished that by calling the first six passing plays behind the line of scrimmage to make them manageable and build that confidence. The seventh pass? It was a post to Pierre Garcon that went for an 88-yard TD.
If Shurmur wants to keep his job past two years, he needs to do a better orchestrating the offense and drawing up a game plan that is effective on Sundays. He is, after all, an offensive coach by trade. I find it flooring that a team that employs Shurmur, Brad Childress, Gil Haskell and Mike Holmgren can be so bad on offense.
While Weeden was downright terrible on his own, he didn’t get much help from his line or the receivers. With the exception of Joe Thomas and Alex Mack, the rest of the Browns' line did a very poor job and showed their youth quite often. The line allowed too much pressure on Weeden, which naturally affected the rookie adversely in his first game.
The receivers simply did not get open often enough. When they did, Weeden didn’t get them the ball, which is on the QB. But the receiving corps needs to do a better job of giving the passer a chance.
They were going up against the best cornerback tandem in the league, so this should be their worst game of the season in that respect. That, of course, doesn’t absolve them from dropping the football, which has turned into an epidemic, a virus no doubt left by Braylon Edwards.
Then there’s the running game. I am not going to absolve Richardson and give him a pass because of the injury and the time he had off. If he didn’t feel his best, he should have pulled himself out of the game for someone who could average more than two yards per carry.
His lack of explosion through the hole was clearly evident. His poor play hurt the team. Shurmur, Childress and the staff need to recognize that 19 carries was too many for Richardson.
There’s a lot more that could be said about how bad the Browns' offense was, but I feel I’ve said enough already. It stinks.
The defense, on the other hand, was great. I wrote last week that the defense didn’t get enough credit for the job they did last year. No, it's not the best defense in the NFL, but it's definitely top 10 and championship-caliber.
It still looks lost trying to stop the run. But as a whole, it is quite formidable. You can't undersell the job it did against Michael Vick and those receivers.
It may be frustrating at times to watch the defense give up bunches of yards, but that's how Dick Jauron's defense works. It's philosophy is bend but don't break and create turnovers, of which there were five on Sunday.
The Browns offense will likely struggle all season, but the defense will give them a chance to win every week. And in today's NFL, that's all you can ask for from a defense: just give you a chance.
I loved how the linebackers played, especially the young guys that I said no one would be scared of. I guess Vick should have been afraid after all.
I thought the defensive backs were outstanding. I thought Eric Hagg played pretty well and T.J. Ward played great.
And the defensive front four played a very good game, especially getting pressure on Vick in passing situations.
I'm still worried about the struggles against the run, but luckily for us, the NFL is a passing league now.
I predicted that the Browns would finish 7-9 and I'm sticking with that prognostication. Mostly because I'm stubborn, but also because the offense can only get better (a phrase spoken in Cleveland approximately 634,511,828 times this past week).
Also because hope is all I have right now as a Cleveland sports fan.
On that happy note, here are your Week 2 lines.
(Once again, I don't actually gamble on any of these games, so take my "expert" opinion at your own risk. Home team in CAPS. Lines from SportsBook.com.)
Browns (+7) over BENGALS
A lot has been said about "Who is going to cover A.J. Green with Joe Haden suspended?" This might be crazy, especially since Green is fantastic and had the big play in both games against the Browns last year, but I'm actually not that worried about it.
There's this new thing coaches are trying called "zone defense" and "rolling coverage" that's all the rage right now. Obviously, I'd rather just stick Haden on Green and call it a day, but we don't have that luxury.
It's not like Dmitri Patterson is going to be required to play Green one-on-one all game out on an island. If the Browns play man-to-man, I'm sure that Hagg will roll over the top for support and the outside linebacker on that side will shade out to help on the slants.
Not to mention that the other receivers on the Bengals don't leave you shivering in your boots. I'm sure Green will make some plays, but I think the Browns DB's will be fine. Jauron's a smart guy, if he could stymie Vick and his boys he can handle the Red Rifle.
What I'm more worried about is the offense. The question will be, "Can the Browns offense be not as bad as the defense is able to be good?"
I don't think that made any sense, but what I'm trying to say is that Weeden, Richardson and the offense need to find a way to sustain drives and put points on the board so the defense doesn't have to be on the field for 90+ snaps again.
The defense will give the team a chance to win, but the offense needs to hold up its end.
Ultimately, I think the Bengals will win, much like they did in Cincinnati last year. They will get a big play from Green late in the game to pull out the win and crush Cleveland's heart for a second straight week.
I still believe the Browns will cover. I think this is going to be a trend this year, as the perception of the Browns will be tied to the futility of the offense and not the team as a whole. The defense will keep games close enough to cover spreads this big.
I'm glad we have so much to hold on to as fans of this team.
Buccaneers (+7) over GIANTS
The Giants seem to always start slowly. I don't think they'll lose and go 0-2, but this will be a close game.
The Bucs pulled out one of the surprise wins of Week 1, beating Cam Newton, and might have a bit of a resurgence under their new coach. They have a lot of talent and will give a lot of teams a tough time this year. Watch for them as a sleeper in the NFC South.
PATRIOTS (-14) over Cardinals
I agonized over this one. Obviously, I don't feel good about Kevin Kolb on the road against Tom Brady. But two touchdowns?
The Patriots looked great in the opener on both sides of the ball, so I have to believe they'll run all over Arizona. So I'll lay the points with New England.
Vikings (-1.5) over COLTS
The Vikings are featured in the "poop sandwich" game of the week for two straight weeks. Adrian Peterson appears to be rebounding well and you can't say enough about how bad the Colts are. I feel like I've already said too much about this game.
Vikings by a field goal.
Saints (-3) over PANTHERS
I was very disappointed in Cam Newton and the Panthers in Week 1. These early season games are so hard to pick, but I'll take the team with no coach over Newton. Both teams lost games they felt they should have won last week and will look to rebound. But the Saints are just a better team.
Why am I starting to second-guess my choice? I need to move on before I change my mind.
Chiefs (+3) over BILLS
I was fairly bold in picking both of these teams to win last week and they both let me down. I kind of forgot that Bills were, well, the Bills and that, apparently, Ryan Fitzpatrick injured his throwing arm when he signed that fat new contract last season.
I'll take the Chiefs for the win just because I believe in them more. I sold all my Bills stock after it took a huge nosedive against the Jets.
Ravens (+2) over EAGLES
Yes. Please. If I was a betting man I'd actually put money down on this.
Let's roll back what we have here...
The Ravens looked as good if not better than any team in Week 1, dispatching a playoff and division rival with relative ease.
The Eagles struggled greatly against the Browns. They also have the weight of enormous expectations on them.
This line essentially says that these teams are equal, but I just do not believe that is the case. The Ravens should have been in the Super Bowl last year and the Eagles couldn't even make the playoffs. How are they getting points?
I may have to rethink this whole "not gambling" thing.
Raiders (-2.5) over DOLPHINS
I have to believe that the Raiders got their long-snapper issues worked out. Darren McFadden, after failing my fantasy team miserably the past two years caused me to pass on him this year, looked very good on Monday night.
I'm not a believer in Carson Palmer, but I'm less of a believer in Ryan Tannehill at this point, especially with his skill-position players.
JAGUARS (+7) over Texans
This just in...Blaine Gabbert wasn't terrible in the Jags opener. And the Texans didn't exactly blow the hinges off a bad Dolphins team either.
Look, I don't feel good about taking Gabbert in a game I know the Jags will lose. But at home they'll get a late score to pull in close and may actually have a chance at a last-second desperation heave. The arrow is pointing up for Jacksonville right now.
Wait, did I just write that?
SEAHAWKS (+3) over Cowboys
This has classic trap game written all over it. The Cowboys are coming off an emotional opening night win over their bitter rivals and the reigning NFL champs. Now they've had a week and a half to listen to people talk about how good they are.
Meanwhile, it's not easy to go into Seattle and win. I know I'm taking a team that lost against the Cardinals over a team that looked great defeating the Giants, but the Seahawks have a tough defense and will force Tony Romo into some turnovers.
Also, for some reason I'm rooting for Russell Wilson. Not sure why.
Redskins (-3.5) over RAMS
This has all the same potential to be a classic trap game as well except for one thing...
I've been in on Robert Griffin III for a long time now and I still think I would have made that trade for him if I were Cleveland. I hope I'm wrong, but Griffin looked great in that win over the Saints. I just think he's a special player and that Skins team isn't that bad.
I may not be driving the RG3 bandwagon, nor am I necessarily riding in it. but I'm following intently from a distance.
Jets (+5.5) over STEELERS
I feel like I'm getting suckered in by all these road teams. I don't feel good about this pick at all. I'm probably overreacting to what happened with both these teams in Week 1. The Jets blew out what is probably a terrible Bills team and the Steelers lost to Peyton Manning.
This is going to be good game, but I think the Steelers are losing their edge a little. The Jets defense will put a lot of pressure on that suspect Steelers line and Roethlisberger will get beat up.
And Tebow's good karma will pull out the win in that bastion of civilization, Pittsburgh.
CHARGERS (-6) over Titans
The Chargers are a good football team and in their home opener they will play very well. The Titans, on the other hand, were terrible in Week 1. Also, I'm tired of taking road dogs with the points. This is why I don't gamble.
49ERS (-7) over Lions
It's the Handshake Bowl! Whatever the odds are that Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz will come to blows, I want money on it happening. Not necessarily because I believe it will, but because I believe it needs to happen.
The rematches never deliver, however, and I'm sure they'll be civil after the game because that's boring. For the record, in a fistfight I'd put money on Harbaugh. But in anything goes, I'd take Schwartz.
As for the football, I think the 49ers will win again. I actually changed my pick to take the 49ers and lay the points. I just see them as a far superior team.
Broncos (+3) over FALCONS
Always bet on Peyton Manning in night games. Also I'm still not a believer in the Falcons.
Last week: 9-5-1
You can follow Benjamin Flack on Twitter @ClevelandFlack.
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