Far be it from me to pick a fight with a holy man. But in honor of this week's game between the Saints and the Browns, and in a no-doubt futile effort to shut up an obnoxious friend who is a Saints fan (yeah, Dan, I'm talking about you), here is a look at famous Saints and Browns through history.
But first, a note about historical accuracy, lest I be struck down by St. Elmo's Fire: I'm not making these people up.
So, here it is, the Browns vs. the Saints. Who would you want on your side?
- St. Bernadine of Siena, patron saint of advertisers; or Jim Brown, the finest running back in NFL history?
- St. Charles Borromeo, patron saint of apple orchards, or Bobby "I Did Whitney Houston" Brown?
- St. Drogo, patron saint of unattractive people; or James Brown, the Godfather of Soul?
- St. Lydwina of Scheidam, patron saint of roller skaters; or Paul Brown, who was long ago forgiven for giving birth to the Bengals?
- St. Anne, patron saint of broommakers (speaking of Bengals and broommakers, nice season sweep, huh?); or Orlando "Zeus" Brown?
- St. Bonaventure, patron saint of bowel disorders; or Courtney "The Quiet Storm" Brown?
- Bill Bixby as "The Saint"; or Candace Bergen as "Murphy Brown"?
- "When the Saints Come Marching In"; or "Brown Sugar"?
Other saints who might come in handy for New Orleans this week: St. Philomena, patron saint of lost causes; St. Amalburga, patron saint of arm pain; St. Maurice, patron saint of cramps; and St. Vitus, patron saint of soar throats (and, presumably, chokers).
By the way, there have been 17 guys named Brown who have donned the orange helmet over the years – Bobby (2000-01), Courtney (2000- ), Dean ('69), Eddie (‘74-75), James (2000), Jerome ('93), Jim (‘57-65), John (‘62-66), John III ('92), Ken (‘70-75), Lomas ('99), Orlando (‘94-95, '99), Preston ('84), Richard (‘91-92), Stan ('71), Terry ('76) and Thomas ('81, '83) – but only one "Saint," DE Mike St. Clair (‘76-79).
Time to start winning
OK, enough of this win one-lose one crap. If the Browns are going to make the playoffs, this week is the time to start making a move.
Just look at the standings and the remaining schedule and one thing becomes clear – the playoffs are there for the taking for a hot team. And you can't get hotter than bright orange helmets, right?
Coming into week 12 of the 2002 season, there is only one team in the entire AFC that is two games over .500 (Denver, at 7-3). Only five others (Miami, Indianapolis, Tennessee, San Diego and Oakland) are at 6-4. At 5-5 – and just ½ a game out of first – the Browns are in prime position to strike for a division title or, at the very least, a wildcard spot.
The AFC West has the best record in the conference right now, with everybody at .500 or better. But look at the schedule for the rest of the year. Denver plays the Chiefs at home and the Chargers and Raiders on the road. San Diego plays Denver and Oakland at home and KC on the road. The Chiefs play at Denver and Oakland and home against San Diego. And Oakland plays at San Diego and plays host to Denver and KC. Figure on these teams beating the hell out of each other and one team (my money's on Oakland) making the playoffs.
The AFC East is pretty much the same picture. Miami's at 6-4, everybody else is 5-5. Everybody has two division games left. Looks like Miami will emerge, bloody but victorious.
And in the AFC South, Indy and Tennessee are 6-4, Jacksonville is 5-5 and Houston's out of it at 2-8. Here is where the most likely competition for the wildcard spot comes from. Indy has just one division game left, a season-ender at home with the Jaguars; Tennessee has division games at Jacksonville (a team they've consistently whupped over the last five years) and at Houston. And the Jags, who've been a major surprise this year, still have Dallas and the Bengals on the schedule.
Now look at the Browns' division. At a half-game behind a Steelers team that suddenly finds itself relying on Kordell Stewart again, a title is there for the taking. This week at New Orleans and the season-ender with Atlanta are likely to be the toughest tests remaining on the schedule (but I can't wait to see Michael Vick try to play outdoors on the lakefront in late December). Carolina is tough on D but certainly beatable Dec. 1; Jacksonville (Dec. 8) is inconsistent and has a shaky kicking game; the real Colts (Dec 15) only show up for every other game or so; and the Ravens (Dec. 22), well, let's just say a nice pair of crutches would be a fine Christmas gift for Ray Lewis.
The biggest worry, frankly is the Steelers, who still have home games against the Bengals and Texans on their schedule. They also get Carolina and Baltimore at home and travel to Jax and Tampa. The Ravens, who are in the middle of a minor QB controversy (couldn't happen to a nicer bunch o' guys) play the Titans, Saints and Browns at home and the Bengals, Texans and Steelers on the road.
Of course the easy way to make the playoffs would be to just win ‘em all and finish 11-5. But 9-7 would probably do it and 8-8 isn't out of the question.
But first things first. The Saints are going down, baby!