First off, my apologies for the delay in posting this week’s Browns preview. I could blame it on a lack of time from the recent site redesign, or the fact that I’ve been a little under weather this week, or that there were other more interesting stories to write about; but, the real reason why I’m not writing and posting this until just a few hours before kickoff is that I’ve specifically wanted to avoid writing about today’s Browns-Ravens game.
Because, regardless, I am going to the Browns Backers with my parents to watch the game, and I have pretty much no hope whatsoever that the Browns have even a prayer to win today.
That lack of hope was made even more severe yesterday when it was announced that Jamal Lewis and Phil Dawson will not play in today’s game.
Quickly, here is the pertinent viewing info for this afternoon from the Week 3 TV schedule and point spreads guide:
Cleveland Browns (0-2) at Baltimore Ravens (2-0)
- Browns-Ravens Date: Sunday, Sept. 27
- Browns-Ravens Time: 1:00 ET
- Browns-Ravens TV Network: CBS
- Browns-Ravens Announcers: GUS JOHNSON and Steve Tasker (Yes!!! A reason to watch the Browns! Gus Johnson!)
- Browns-Ravens Point Spread: Ravens -13.5
- Browns-Ravens Over-Under: 38.5
Here is the best way that I can illustrate my pessimism heading into today’s game: while surfing a few news headlines this morning on my iPhone, I stumbled across the following at FoxNews: “Horrified Zoo Goers Witness Deadly Bear Attack.” My immediate first thought—and I am not making this up—was how appropriate a similar headline will probably be later this afternoon: “Horrified Browns Backers Witness Deadly Raven Attack.”
Such is life in 2009 (as it was in 2008…and 2006…and 2005…and…) as a Browns fan.
(Side note: and remember, at least one Baltimore Raven, pictured left, has previously been involved in a deadly attack…)
Is a Browns win possible? Oh..sure it is, I suppose.
This is the NFL after all, where the phrase “any given Sunday” is a truly relevant cliche. These Ravens aren’t the 2007 Patriots or the 1972 Dolphins, and these Browns very likely (at least we hope) are not the 2008 Lions.
But after watching eight quarters of Browns football so far this season, and seeing the highlights of Baltimore’s well-oiled offensive machine, any Browns fan who truly believes Cleveland will win today is a quintessential example of a person with faith. Believing in the Browns’ chances to win at Baltimore truly would require believing without seeing.
So, here is the Browns-Ravens prediction that I’ve dreaded giving all week long: Baltimore will win, and they’ll win big, and I think they’ll cover.
Forgive me, but I just can’t shake the mental images of our putrid offense from the last two weeks. With Baltimore’s offense looking so strong, I think we have to hold them to 17 points or less to have even a prayer, and I just don’t see that happening.
However, there is hope.
What, there is?
Yes, and there is hope based soundly in historical precedent not only for this week but for the rest of the season.
This may admittedly be a wild stretch, but here goes:
Last year, the Miami Dolphins started of the season 0-2. In week 3 the Dolphins limped into Foxboro to face the New England Patriots and were a prohibitive underdog and expected to get pummeled. In that game, however, the Dolphins shocked the Patriots and the world by racking up 461 yards of Wildcat-powered offense en route to a 38-13 victory.
The Dolphins would thereafter proceed to win 10 of their next 14 games and make the playoffs…and it all started with a road win when no one gave them a chance.
- Team left for dead after only two weeks? Check.
- Tough Week Three matchup against divisional opponent on the road? Check.
- No one, not even the most optimistic of fans, giving team a chance to win? Check.
- Putrid offense looking for a spark? Check.
That last one is the key to today’s game.
The Dolphins introduced the Wildcat offense in that Week Three matchup, which totally caught the Patriots by surprise and proved to have staying power as a viable solution for moving the ball. The Dolphins, and many other NFL teams, are still running the Wildcat this season.
What do the Browns have in their arsenal that could have similar effect today?
I’m not exactly sure.
Perhaps we will see Josh Cribbs line up more behind center in the Wildcat today?
Honestly, I’m not sure why this hasn’t happened more already. Cribbs can run and throw, and he has not made a smooth transition to wideout. Maybe the Browns should let Mike Furrey, Mohammed Massaquoi, and Brian Robiskie work opposite Braylon Edwards and find easier ways—a la the Wildcat—to get Cribbs the ball.
Hmm…or perhaps we will see the long-awaited coming out party of Jerome Harrison?
The Browns’ backup running back—he of the 5.7 yard per carry average for his career—will get an extended look today with Jamal Lewis out. Exciting but unproven rookie James Davis should also get a look. Maybe the fresh legs of these two runners can spark the Browns?
Or maybe, just maybe, Brady Quinn will quiet his naysayers can play like a first round pick today?
If I had to rank the above three scenarios in order of their probability of occurring:
- Harrison, Davis spark Browns’ ground attack
- Josh Cribbs sparks Browns’ offense with dual-threat Wildcat
- God takes a break from his busy schedule to divinely intervene on the behalf of long-suffering Browns fans to orchestrate a stunning upset.
- Brady Quinn plays like a first round pick and leads the Browns to victory.
I guess we’ll see. But barring some sort of crazy, flukish afternoon, one of those things will have to happen for the Browns’ offense to get in sync. The defense can play as well as it is capable of playing and it won’t mean squat if Cleveland can’t challenge Baltimore on the other side of the ball.
I sure hope it happens, and I sure hope that my prediction proves wrong. I shouldn’t already be bored with—and afraid of—these weekly Browns previews after only two weeks.
So let’s defy the odds and make it a game today boys.
At the very least, please don’t force us all to shuffle out of the bar today feeling like we just witnessed a deadly bear attack.
* – Ray Lewis photo credit: Stephanie Krell via Flickr
* – Derek Anderson getting sacked photo credit: Nick Wass / AP Photo via Dawgs by Nature