All hail, the Bye Week is officially over. For better or worse, there will be Cleveland Browns football for the 13 consecutive weeks beginning Sunday.
Before the season began, there was a majority of fans expecting the Browns to be 0-3 at this point with games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens. You can make an argument they were a miracle drive against the Saints away from that record, or you can make an argument they were a few plays here or there against the Steelers and Ravens to be 3-0.
We can all agree the Browns are playing competitive and exciting football, which has been something that has been sorely lacking in recent seasons.
Coming off the bye things have set up nicely for what appears to be a much-improved Browns team. Players and coaches will spout the cliché that they are taking one game at a time. Fortunately, we’re neither so we have the luxury of being able to look ahead.
This week it’s the Tennessee Titans followed by games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. These five teams are a combined 4-16. Five consecutive wins by the Browns puts them at 6-2. Not a bad record to have at the midpoint of the season, which will bring a game against arguably the best team in the AFC, the Cincinnati Bengals.
But, with respect to the players and coaches, we are getting ahead of ourselves because once you think you’ve figured out the NFL, you’re proven wrong.
Just take last Sunday. The Buccaneers were coming off a 56-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night. Ten days later they were traveling to Pittsburgh for what most expected to be a Steelers romp.
Buccaneers 27, Steelers 24.
On paper, the Browns should have their way with the 1-3 Titans. Offensively, Tennessee is 30th with an average of 15 points per game and defensively they’re 27 allowing 27.5 a game. After the Titans beat Kansas City 26-10 in the season opener, they’ve lost to Dallas, Cincinnati and Indianapolis by a combined 100-34.
You want to believe the Browns will go to Nashville take care of business by 21 points and come home 2-2. But this is the Browns. But this is the NFL. Things could get dicey.
The Browns need to be able to stop the run. It’s not like Titans quarterback Jake Locker is going to suddenly find his inner Joe Montana. Locker has been in the league since 2011 and he’s a career 57.7 percent passer with 25 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. The Browns need to focus on slowing down Shonn Green, Bishop Sankey and Dexter McCluster. Combined those three have 73 carries for 337 yards and two touchdowns. So far, the Browns have allowed more than 150 yards rushing per game.
Offensively, the Browns are playing well. Shocking, I know. Ben Tate is back to join Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell to bolster the Browns running game. The more the Browns can run the more pressure it takes off quarterback Brian Hoyer, who has yet — knock on wood — thrown an interception.
In the team’s most recent game, a few plays were not made that otherwise would have sealed a Browns’ victory. Spread the blame around to the offense, special teams and defense.
This is a game the Browns should win and win by a comfortable margin and spark the team to a successful stretch of victories.
Yet the outcome is not a given, and it’s why we love sports.