When it comes to writing Bold Predictions, I usually have to make stuff up. But this being a Ravens-Browns contest, fact turns stranger than fiction. Days before the game, the weirdness begins: Billick engages in some ill-advised excuse making, prompting league action and a sharp rebuke from Carmen Policy. Ravens' owner Art Modell, meanwhile, gets slapped with a $1 million law suit from former-Brown Al Bubba Baker for failure to pay an $80,000 worker's comp claim. It's like the stolen logo lawsuit all over again.
It gets weirder on the field. As promised, Billick motors out onto the Cleveland Browns Stadium field in a modified golf-cart-turned-Popemobile. Safely ensconced in Plexiglass, Billick calls the plays from his cart and buzzes around the sideline to badger coaches and incent players. Things get murky when Billick's plastic shield fogs over, causing him to run over a referee's foot while arguing a call. That draws an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and, when Billick backs over the ref's foot a second time, gets the coach (and his Popemobile) ejected. Cleveland fans pelt the offending vehicle with plastic cups and Beanie Babies, a sign that Policy's kinder, gentler Cleveland Browns program is actually working.
On the field, it's Jamir Miller time. The all-world linebacker is a force on defense, causing three early Tony Banks fumbles, including one that is run back 35 yards for a touchdown by a rumbling, stumbling, bumbling John Jurkovich. Jurko nearly coughs up a lung on the play and actually stops talking for an entire quarter before he finally catches his breath. The Ravens offense, meanwhile, is a study in despair. Banks gets yanked in the second quarter, giving hero-turned-goat Stoney Case just enough time to throw three interceptions before the end of the half. The Browns go to the locker room leading 31-0.
Shades of Kansas City! A distraught Art Modell, watching from a secure bunker in Baltimore, is on the phone. Convinced this whole Baltimore thing just isn't working out, Modell pulls the trigger on a secret deal that will send the Ravens to the Caymen Islands. Free of pesky US income tax laws, Modell can rest assured that he can continue to live in the manner to which he has become accustomed.
The deal gets made midway through the fourth quarter. With the Browns leading 69 to -17, the Ravens assistant coaches get the news. The Baltimore Ravens are now the Caymen Ravens. Maryland Governor Parris Glendenning is outraged--outraged!--that an NFL team can just pick up and leave a city like that. None of this affects play on the field. By the fourth quarter, a sluggish Scott Mitchell is blundering around behind an exhausted Ravens line, tossing wounded-duck interceptions to defensive backs, linebackers, defensive tackles, and first-down marker guys.
Final score? Cleveland Browns 172 Baltimore/Caymen Ravens -22
And that's the way I see it. GMD