It's easy to overlook the Cleveland Browns. They're really not any good. They haven't been especially good for a while now, and while last year, Derek Anderson shocked the world, he's now on the verge of being benched. Braylon Edwards just hasn't shown up to play, and Jamal Lewis is wearing down. He's done very, very little this season.
It's even easier to overlook them when you're the 4-0 New York Giants, arguably the best team in football, and unquestionably the reigning Super Bowl champions. With the best ground game in the league, a deep receiving corps, and an excellent defense, the Giants are extremely well-rounded, and extremely GOOD.
Some may point at the schedule when mentioning the Giants' success. They haven't exactly played the toughest teams. But it's not like the Giants are hanging with the lower squads, barely beating lesser opponents. They made the Rams and Seahawks look silly, and they beat the latter without their star receiver.
But even if the schedule is the reason for the Giants' success, it's not like the Browns should change the trend. They're pretty lousy, and even coming off a bye week, there is no reason to expect an instant turnaround.
The Cleveland D will be no match for Eli and co. Big Blue is averaging an astonishing 431 yards of offense per game, while the Browns give up 313 per. Expect both those numbers to increase this week. Conversely, the Browns' offense hasn't moved too much (only 210.8 yards per game), and the Giants' defense isn't allowing too much either: just 236 yards a week. Those stats alone indicate what should be the final outcome: a blowout, courtesy of Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning, and Justin Tuck.
But then again, the Giants can't overlook this team. Obviously, you can never consider any game an automatic, or the games wouldn't be played. But the Edwards and Lewis are talented players, and while they haven't lived up to this year's hype, they can go off at any minute: coming off a bye week, they may choose to start it up now. If they get going, Anderson is sure to return to last year's form. This is easier said than done, and I doubt this is the week that the Browns decide to wake up; but it's something the Giants must keep in mind.
Giants fans, though, will be more wary of our suddenly-fearless leader, Eli Manning. Sure, he looks great right now, and he's got all the talent in the world (to use an awful cliche). And yeah, he led us to a title just a few months ago. But until then, he was just an overhyped, erratic, underachieving, deer-caught-in-the-headlights little boy in his big brother's shadow. As great as he looks, Giants fans can't help but fear the moment he screws up and reverts to his nervous-wreck days. And wouldn't this be the moment to do it: on Monday night, against a team that should be disposed of easily, but just might have some fire left.
Giants fans are all too aware of their team's 18-30-1 Monday night record. Sure, those are all different Giants teams, and they didn't all have the luxury of playing the lowly Browns. But it's something on every Giants fan's mind, just like Eli's history.
I think the Giants will walk away with this one, and will do it easily. There's no way the Browns can stop them. They're just too good in every facet of the game, and the Browns are too bad. The Giants have a superb passing game, and if that doesn't work out, they've got an even better running game. The Browns D won't be able to stop either part of the offense, let alone both. And should they miraculously pull that off, the Giants' D is more than good enough to hold the Browns' offense down. The Browns have absolutely no edge over the Giants whatsoever.
There's only one thing that can stop the Giants in this game, and that's the mental factor. There's the pressure of playing on the big stage, coupled with the team's poor history on Mondays. There's the fact that Eli could potentially revert at any minute (although I doubt this is likely). And, of course, there's always that possibility that the Giants could overlook this bad team. All the Giants have to do is keep their heads in the game, and they'll be absolutely fine.
That said, I don't think Manning will ever return to his pre-Super Bowl days. He's always been extremely talented, and really needed some sort of mental boost to get him there. Last year's playoffs seem to have done the trick. He matured a lot over those games, and he and the Giants haven't looked back. It's about time the first overall pick lived up to his hype, and while it may be early to speak, we could be seeing the next great quarterback in the NFL. Don't be surprised to see Eli's name mentioned in the same breath as his brother Peyton's very soon. He's been better than big bro this year. I doubt Peyton stays down for long, but the fact is that Eli is here for good. And this cupcake game against the Browns should only further broaden his confidence.
As for a prediction, I say the score will be a LOT to a little. Very little. To predict a score is rather pointless, but I'd be surprised if the Browns got more than one touchdown.