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***SUBMIT CHEDDAR PICKS WEDNESDAY’S POST PLEASE, THANKS.***
In our friendly Cheddar Bay Pickstravaganza, we (or at least I) tend to tie ourselves up in knots with research to validate the pick of the week. In thinking about tonight’s Bills at Browns game, it occurred to me that there’s no team I have more research on than the Browns. So if I’m thinking the Browns a good bet to beat the Bills by more than four points, I gotta trust my eyes. It’s unlikely that I’ll be as expert in the BallSt +5.5 @UVA matchup. I can’t worry that a lot of other guys in this group have the same pick tonight.
So let’s take this on. Here’s why I like the Browns tonight.
1. Still an unknown team (nationally).
Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon might have some cachet in fantasy circles. But Craig Robertson and Buster Skrine and Mitchell Schwartz are unknowns. Do you think Phil Taylor or Alex Mack or Jabaal Sheard are known quantities outside of NEO? No way. To the rest of the country, the Browns are Joe Thomas and Joe Haden. Maybe there’s some respect for the FAs Bryant and Kruger but not so much for the talent on the team coming into the season. As a result, the Browns are good value. For now.
But while we’re on the subject of Joe Haden…
2. Joe Haden has moved to elite.
It’s one thing to look at some stats and say shit like ‘Oh wow, AJ Green only had 51 yards on seven catches so Haden must be really good.’ And while that’s true, what I’m seeing is more. I’m seeing him daring QB just to try to throw his way. Hell, I’m seeing him daring teams to RUN his way… his tackling has been intimidating this year. But what I’m REALLY seeing is him inspiring his mates in the secondary. They’re ALL playing strong; they’re all bringing Haden swag to their games. The weakest part of the Browns roster is playing great and to my eye, it’s due to Haden’s play and his leadership.
3. Competent QB play is, in fact, good-to-very-good QB play.
I well remember when Drew Bledsoe was knocked out of the game in 2001 and Tom Brady took his place. Bledsoe had the gun and the pedigree but was prone to staring down receivers and jamming throws were they shouldn’t go. Bad turnovers. Did not inspire confidence in teammates and so not a great leader. Enter Brady and he didn’t do anything spectacularly well. Just ran through his progressions quickly and pretty much always found the open receiver. Got rid of the quickly and accurately. Poised in the pocket. There weren’t any Manning-esque line-audible shenanigans then. Brady was simply a competent practitioner of quarterbacking. That’s what I’m seeing in Hoyer so far. Nothing flashy but poised and competent. Competent QB-ing is vastly underrated in my opinion. (more…)
I got nothing. Not right now.
Is Andy Dalton a bag of suck? Oh sure, you bet; but now’s not the time. Have I said that Buster Skrine plays good positionally and my greivance is with his size? Yeah* sure, but who cares… cover your ass posts are boring in general and particularly self-centered if done after such a glorious weekend. Squeeze in just a smidgeon of juxtaposition between Dolan’s off-season and Haslam’s…? Oh HELL NO!
No, no, no. Not now.
Because it’s lovely lovely lovely to have a solid Buckeye win at home over a top team; a Browns domination of a perennial playoff team; and the Indians blowing everyone’s mind and getting into the playoffs.
Let’s offer some comment on all three.
1. The Buckeyes.
I sure have some solid memories of national spotlight games in Columbus not going according to plan. That wasn’t the case Saturday. Braxton Miller looks poised running an offense who just won their line of scrimmage battle all night. On defense, who knew Joel Stave had that game in him? The Badgers were just good enough to provide a lot of coachable moments for Coach Meyer and none to soon with the at Northwestern game coming up. The Bucks look good — but not great — and certainly shouldn’t be overconfident going to Evanston.
2. The Browns.
First off, I have to say that watching in a bar is sub-optimal. But my vibe from the game was that it never felt like the Browns weren’t dominating.
Err.. I can’t not write SOMETHING about Jay Gruden’s odd non-use of Gio Bernard and bizarre fixation on five yard under patterns for AJ Green. How a team can have Gresham, Eifert, Green, Sanu matched up against the shortest secondary and not go up top is .. it’s a poser, I’ll tell ya. If I do the Bengals’ blame pie, I’m settling in of equal parts Gruden weak OC, Dalton-bag-o-suck, and Browns defense that good.
Wait a sec, let me kick up the Browns’ defense credit from 33% to 50%. Because Joe Haden’s performance on AJ Green a COUPLED WITH just the right amount of smack talk was so money. I can’t think of a cornerback I’d rather have. Revis? Peterson? Sherman? Nope, I’m good with Haden thanks.
And Hoyer, yes you can be quarterback. You executed the best (only?) screen pass by the Browns in the last 20 years. I actually don’t think that’s an exaggeration. Hoyer is proof that ‘good’ QB is meaningless in the face of ‘smart’ QB or at least ‘competent enough to remember he has a tall tight end who can win jump balls’ QB. Jordan Cameron… didn’t see that one coming either.
3. The Indians.
Like many of you, I lost interest after that Tigers series in August and in particular after that brutal blown
save shutout in the first game. (Cripes, it’s painful even to look at that boxscore.) The responsible blogger/journo in me wants to remind you of some stat on how the Tribe does against good teams. But the fan in me won’t even google it and says in boldface: NINETY-TWO WINS. 15-2 to close the season. Yessir, good things can happen when try to win now and that’s nuf ‘ced on that for now too.
Salazar is a revelation. In fact, the rotation looks like a real rotation with Ubaldo-Kazmir-Kluber-Salazar and what’s up with Masterson? Is he our closer now? See? I really haven’t been paying attention closely enough. The games are on in the background and my ears perk when personal fave Michael Brantley does something awesome.
#1: ^^Far and away the best highlight of yesterday’s home opener.
We’ll return to salty observations on sports soon.
But today, can’t help but be struck by the overwhelming evidence supporting our working theory that Cleveland is tops.
#1: Dad muffs foul ball; Clevelander rights potential disturbance in The Force.
In the clip above, Dad and seven year old brought their gloves to the stadium and why not? Seats on the third base line, prime foul ball spot. In fact, we can’t rule out that Dad and son snuck down to open seats on the line late in the blow-out game explicitly for just such opportunity as they would meet.
But with the miracle of a slicing foul ball coming straight at Dad — lifetime memories on the line — .. we have to score it: E-Dad. Patrons a couple rows away reflexively raise hands in exasperation at Dad’s gag. Adjacent fan contributes obligatory and deserved “Boooo.”
But thanks to being in Cleveland with Clevelanders around him, all was made right.
Lifetime memories? Oh yes, this story will be retold by one person in this picture for 60-70 years if all goes well.
#2: Terry Francona confirms the difference between Cleveland and Boston.
“Cleveland is officially the nicest people I’ve ever met,” he said. “Everybody I did walk by said, ‘Hello.’ That’s a little different than I’m used to.”
In fairness, it is confusing to walk from the Residence Inn to the Jake/Q complex. Hopefully the lesson was learned and our manager remembers to use his modified Rascal for his next commute to the field. And anyway, we want Francona-on-scooter to become another thread in Cleveland’s fabric.