Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Browns v. The Bizarro Browns

For the second week in a row, the Browns play a team that's just snapped a three game losing streak by beating the New Orleans Saints. Pittsburgh beat the Saints 38-31 two weeks ago, while the Bengals beat New Orleans by a score of 31-16 last week. So what's the significance of this? Beats me, but I've got to be honest with you, after 10 weeks of generally lousy football, it's getting pretty hard to find anything interesting to say about a Browns game.

I suppose I could talk about Braylon Edwards' need to be the center of attention week after week after week. Braylon, you only get to talk like Chad Johnson when you play like Chad Johnson. For the record, you don't play like Johnson, which means that while Ocho Cinco's antics are colorful, yours are merely ridiculous.

Or I could discuss what a challenge events like this week's "Throwback Weekend" are to a team that wears basically the same uniform that it wore 50 years ago. Aside from the number on the helmet, it looks like each fan should probably be given a microscope so they have a fighting chance to pick out the differences between the Browns' current uniforms and the throwback version that the team will be wearing today.

Any of those topics would be more interesting than a matchup between the lousy Browns and the underachieving Bengals, but this is supposed to be a game preview, so guess I'd better preview the game.

At this point in the season, the Bengals have a very potent offense, but one that's surprisingly one dimensional. They can definitely pass the ball--Carson Palmer ranks second in the AFC in passing yardage and third in passer rating, and Chad Johnson leads the conference in receiving yards. However, the team as a whole ranks near the bottom of the AFC in rushing, even though Rudi Johnson's on pace to run for over 1,200 yards once again.

The problem is that the Bengals have literally gotten no contribution from anyone else on their roster. Johnson's rushed for 826 yards this season, while the team's second leading rusher, Kenny Watson, has only carried the ball nine times for 60 yards. Of course, it's important to keep the Bengals rushing woes in perspective -- they still are averaging almost 20 more yards per game on the ground than the pathetic Browns, who rank last in the AFC and 30th in the NFL in rushing offense.

The good news for Browns fans is that while the Bengals have a formidable offense, they are the worst defensive team in the NFL. Their real weakness is the passing game, where the Bengals have given up over 2,500 yards already this season.

With stats like these, it occurs to me that Paul Brown's bastard child looks like a Bizarro version of the Browns. Remember the Bizarro world from Superman comics? It was a place where everything was ass backwards. Well, that's what the Browns and the Bengals are like. Cleveland has no offense, but the Bizarro Browns are a juggernaut. Even after last week's 4th quarter melt-down, Cleveland ranks near the top of the AFC in pass defense, while the Bizarro Browns can't cover anybody. Come to think of it, maybe we ought to start calling Chad Johnson "Bizarro Braylon."

I think this all adds up to a pretty close game, and one that the Browns have a chance to win. Despite the Bengals' reliance on the passing attack, I think the key to the game is going to be stopping Rudi Johnson. If they make the Bengals rely solely on the pass, the Browns can stay in the game. If Cincinnati can run effectively, forget it.

I give the nod to the Bizarro Browns, 31-21.

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