Just for ye of little faith, here are a few thoughts on the today's Browns game against the resurgent Panthers to get you started on your game-day road. And, much like I did last week, I will offer a guarantee.
No, not a Browns win, although I wouldn't double over in shock if they did pull one out.
No, my guarantee is simply this: I will, to the best of my ability, finish the beer in my fridge so that room can be made for such non-essentials as "milk" and "baby formula" and "food".
(Friggin' kids. They're such pains. "Waaahhh, I'm hungry! Waaahhh, the milk's spoiled from sitting out all night!" You'd think that punching them about the face would shut them up, but, nooooooo…)
Oops, was I typing out loud again? Anyway, off to the 12-pack we go.
- If the Browns are to have any hope of upsetting the Panthers, they must—with the word "must" underlined, bolded and italicized—get off to a better first-quarter start than they have in the first four games of the season. This isn't Oakland East that they are facing and they can't afford to spot a resurgent Carolina team an eight-point lead, let alone eighteen.
- One thing just occurred to me: wouldn't getting the ball to Kellen Winslow before the second half be one way to get off to a better start? I know that might sound like the crazy ramblings of a man hopped up on early-morning Bud Lites, but it's just an idea that's insane enough to potentially work. Then again, I'm just a simple sot with no NFL coaching experience, so what do I know.
- The theme of the day should be "Save Chuck's Spleen! And Other Major Organs! And Bones Too!" Carolina doesn't have an inordinate amount of sacks entering the game—their eight are basically middle-of-the-pack type numbers—but they constantly put pressure on the quarterback, which results in a plethora of after-throw hits. It's those hits that wear down and, in some cases, break down a QB.
- Then again, if Frye didn't have his AFLAC coverage canceled following the beat-down against the Ravens, his odds are pretty good in surviving the fearsome Panther front four. You don't want to play with fire (or Charlie's life) too much, though, so max protection could be the theme of the day. Enjoy your day of rest, Jerome Harrison. Again.
- When I woke up this morning, I was surprised to learn that the Browns were playing the Panthers. And that the Steelers were going up against the Chargers, and the Ravens facing the Broncos, and so on and so on and so on. Based on the previous week's news from the Worldwide Leader in Sports, I was under the impression that the only game being played in the NFL this week was Philadelphia versus Dallas. Boy, are my cheeks flush with embarrassment at not knowing that T.O. wasn't the only show in town.
(Pardon me for a second while I go John L. Smith on myself.)
- Steve Smith/Keyshawn Johnson versus Daven Holly/Ralph Brown or a less-than-100% Leigh Bodden. This could get ugly. Robert Englund-and-Janet Reno-having-a-love child ugly. I'm strongly considering thrusting a sharp object into my eyes and then blindfolding myself for the duration of the game. Ya know, just in case.
- Or, they could take a tried and true lesson from The Carl Spackler School of Dealing With Superior Opposition: cut the hamstring on the back of Smith's leg, right at the bottom. Because of his weight displacement, he'll push all of his routes off to the right. He'll never come through anything and he'll quit the game. Hey, if it's good enough for stopping the juggernaut that was Judge Smails, it's good enough for Smith.
- Last week, Josh Cribbs and Dennis Northcutt helped jump-start the comeback with big returns. More of the same will be needed this week. Not necessarily the long returns, although Romeo Crennel wouldn't kick them out of bed for eating crackers. No, what they need to do is turn the field-position battle in favor of the Browns. Take an 18-yard kick return and turn into a 30-yarder. Take a five-yard punt return and turn it into a 15- or 20-yarder. It's those little incremental gains in field position that could turn the dream of an upset into reality.
- Just as an aside: how different would things look if someone had been able to pick up Bart Scott and keep him off Charlie Frye for just a split-second more? Or the defense had been able to keep Steve McNair under wraps for two more minutes? Yeah, yeah, the whole "if's and but's were candy and nuts" thing, but 2-2 was there for the taking and, with it, a different attitude heading into a tough matchup today with the Panthers. Damn those 60-minute games.
- Have I mentioned getting KWII involved early and often as a way of getting off to a better start? I have? Well, if that's the case, I won't mention again getting KWII involved early and often as a way of getting off to a better start. Promise. Scout's honor.
- The Panthers, in spite of all the publicity given to their defensive line, are vulnerable to the run. On average, teams run for 4.1 yards a carry against Carolina, which is tied for 20th in the NFL, and they give up 129.8 yards a game on the ground, which is 23rd in the league. In other words, a healthy Reuben Droughns given 20+ carries could help in a.) controlling time of possession, b.) winning the field-position battle, and c.) keeping the Panthers from pinning their ears back and attacking Frye. Well, that and…
- Get KWII involved early and often.
(Writer's not: I was never a Boy Scout, so their whole "not lying" mantra is so passe'—which is French for "we surrender"—to my way of viewing the world. Yes, I lied. Deal with it, because that's how I roll.)