Sunday, December 31, 2006

Browns v. Texans

The 4-11 Cleveland Browns take on the 5-10 Houston Texans today, and if you still care, I truly pity you. Sure, I'm going to watch today's game, but only because it's a habit. The good news is that Season From Hell VIII really is all over after this week, and you don't have to watch them any more until next season.

When I looked around the Stadium last week, I couldn't believe that there were at least 50,000 fans who decided to spend their hard-earned money and their entire Christmas Eve afternoon on this truly awful football team. I don't want to get all Boston Red-socky on you, but you guys really deserve a lot better than this group of clowns, and Joe Jurevicius as much as said that after last Sunday's disaster. Still, we've all got to remember that William Munny was dead-on when he told Little Bill that "deserve's got nothin' to do with it" right before he blew his head off.

I honestly don't know what to say about this game. Texans' MLB DeMeco Ryans, who has 3.5 sacks and ranks second in the league with 145 tackles, should be a lock for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. There might be some entertainment value in watching him eat Jerome Harrison. I also suppose it might be kind of fun to watch Ron Dayne (no, seriously, Ron Dayne) slam into the Browns makeshift defensive line. Dayne, who underachieved for several seasons in New York, has apparently found a home in Houston. He rushed for a career high 153 yards last week against the pathetic Colts' defense and is currently serving as an inspiration to fat men everywhere.

When you're looking at the Browns, you'll probably get a chance to see several guys you've never seen before and may never see again. Obviously, there's Ken Dorsey, but he's far from the only backup who will see substantial playing time today. Who would have thought we'd see the day when both Babatunde Oshinowo and Travis Wilson were active for the same game? Rob Smith is likely to start ahead of the always banged-up Joe Andruzzi, which means that Isaac Sowells is only one tweaked knee away from hitting the playing field.

You know, it would be the perfect capper on this season if this collection of has beens and never wasses went out and won this game, thus dropping the Browns from third to fourth in the draft. However, Houston's operating under the delusion that they've actually got a promising future, so my guess is that they'll get the job done.

Texans 27, Browns 14.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Why Can't the Buckeyes Figure Out the Rules?

What is it about the Buckeyes and the NCAA? It seems that they can't get through a season without at least one dust-up involving members of the football team and the NCAA rule book. Saturday's benefit dinner for the families of Antonio Pittman, Chris Wells, Lawrence Wilson and De'Angelo Haslam is the latest incident to suggest that there's an ongoing problem with Ohio State's compliance progam.

Of course, before we come down too hard on the Buckeyes for this latest faux pas, let's remember that the spectacle of some of the nation's top college football players running away from their own benefit dinner like they were at a crack house that was about to be raided is something that could only happen in the hypocritical madhouse created by the NCAA's rule book.

When it comes to the money made from big time college athletics, the NCAA's guiding principle is that everybody gets to feed at the trough except the guys who make it possible. As far as the NCAA is concerned, it's okay for Ohio State, the Big Ten, and the television networks to make hundreds of millions off of what these players do on a Saturday afternoon, but when it comes to an $8 a plate fund raiser for the financially hard-pressed families of Buckeye players, well, it's time to investigate this scandalous conduct.

By the way, just how many #10 Ohio State jerseys do you think were sold this Christmas? I don't know about you guys, but my youngest son received two as gifts. Now, of course, he only wanted that jersey because it was Troy Smith's number, but in the crazy world of the NCAA, Troy Smith gets bupkis for those jersey sales. Why? Well, it would taint the pristine amateurism of college sports to let Troy get compensated for his success and popularity. It's okay for everybody else to make money off of him, just not Troy himself.

And they wonder why these kids take money from boosters?

Anyway, enough about that. Regardless of how stupid and immoral the NCAA's rules are, Ohio State has to abide by them. That's why I can't imagine how something like this could happen in the first place. How can an event like this get so far along without somebody wondering whether it raised any compliance issues? If Chris Wells' mom didn't have the presence of mind to call Ohio State assistant coach Jim Bollman last Saturday, how much do you want to bet that the NCAA would figure out a way to deprive the Buckeyes of both of their tailbacks for the BCS Championship Game?

Ohio State has been able to blame some of its previous compliance troubles on out-of-control boosters and kids who made bad decisions. This is different. This event suggests that players and parents aren't sufficiently educated about NCAA rules, and that compliance procedures are lacking at Ohio State. Sure, they talk the talk down in Columbus, but a dropped ball like this shows that they still haven't figured out how to walk the walk.

It seems to me that Athletic Director Gene Smith and Coach Jim Tressel are the guys who should take the heat for this latest misstep. My guess is that Ohio State will dodge the bullet on this one, and walk away with a slap on the wrist, if anything. But it ought to be a wake up call to the Athletic Department. You guys better fix what's wrong with your compliance program before the NCAA's brown shirts fix you.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Just when you thought the Browns couldn't get worse, they surpass expectations. They really looked like crap today against a really bad team.

The good news is that, if the season ended right now, they'd get that top five pick I predicted on day one.

Don't telephone the Rhino to wish him a merry anything. He was at the game today. Don't be surprised if he tries hari kari with one of Mrs. Rhino's cheese spreaders.

Tampa Bay is Comin' to Town

While the rest of the world sips egg nog and tracks the Jolly Ol' Elf's progress, I'll be spending my Christmas Eve at Cleveland Browns Stadium, watching the four or five Browns who aren't on injured reserve take on the mighty Tampa Bay Suckaneers. Shapes up to be the merriest Christmas ever, doesn't it? On second thought, I guess it has to be better than last Christmas Eve.

You know, it wasn't always like this. Christmas Eve has a special place in Browns' history. In fact, the Cleveland Browns won their very first NFL championship on December 24, 1950, when Lou Groza kicked a game winning 16 yard field goal with 28 seconds left to beat the Los Angeles Rams 30-28. That game is still regarded as one of the greatest post-season games in NFL history, and put the finishing touches on one of the most remarkable seasons in the history of pro sports.

But anyway, today we get Tampa.

As bad as this season has been for the Browns, it's been even worse for Tampa Bay. The Bucs are 3-11, have lost four games in a row and seven out of their last eight. Whatever you think of Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson, they both still have their spleens. The same can't be said for Tampa's starting QB Chris Simms, who lost his against Carolina last September. Since Simms went down, the Bucs have managed to put together an offense that's among the very worst in the league. Tampa Bay is averaging only 262 yards per game, which means that for the first time since the Browns' faced Oakland, they're actually playing somebody with an offense that's worse than their own.

The Bucs will also play today without their leading rusher, Carnell Williams, who has a bruised foot and didn't make the trip to Cleveland. They're pinning their hopes on QB Tim Rattay, who took over for rookie Bruce Gradkowski last week against the Bears. Rattay did seem to revive the sputtering Tampa offense last week, when he threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns in the Bucs' 34-31 overtime loss. Rattay will look for help from WR Joey Galloway, who is probably Tampa's biggest offensive threat at this point. Despite the Bucs' offensive woes, Galloway still has a shot at his second straight season with 1,000 yards in receptions.

Tampa Bay's defense is terrible. Not as terrible as Cleveland's defense, which has finally collapsed under the weight of countless injuries, but still pretty pathetic. I'm not going to waste my breath and your time saying anything more about that side of the ball.

Mercifully, today brings the Browns' home campaign to an end, and so the team's having "Thank You Cleveland Day" at the Stadium. They're giving away a truck, Super Bowl tickets and other items of "trinkets and trash." Big whoop. After eight years of this crap, you owe us a lot more than that, guys. If you really want to thank fans appropriately, then pick up our kids' college tuition--and none of this "okay, but only to an in-state school" nonsense.

I guess if you've read this far, you deserve a prediction. Do the Browns come away with a win today? Of course, because as my buddy Vinny suggests, that will hurt them a lot more than a loss. Browns 23, Tampa 17. Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Nut cutting time

Okay. The Browns have stunk up the joint for the entire season. They've made season ticket holders and PSL payors feel like chumps. They've driven the local sports guys to indifference. They've even embittered the long-time, sentimental fans who actually wake up every day believing that that elusive Super Bowl is just around the corner.

Well, now they get to piss off the stat-freaks and draft-niks. They also get to make me wrong. In my first post for this season, I predicted that they'd earn a top five pick in next year's draft. The current standings show the Browns (4-10) with one of the worst six records in the NFL. So, they're right about where I thought they would be, but here's where they could really screw things up for a top five pick. Their final two games are against fellow doormats, Tampa Bay (3-11) and Houston (4-10). In true Cleveland tradition, they'll probably beat one or both in meaningless games.

Rest assured that the offensive tackle, shut down corner or quarterback that you pray the Browns will take, won't be there when they pick 8th.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Controversy? Nope. Distraction? Yes.

According to many (and I mean many) media reports, the Cleveland Browns find themselves in the midst of another QB controversy. All I can say about this seemingly annual event is, are you kidding me?

The Cleveland Browns are 4-10. The team's offense has spent most of the year looking like a bad junior varsity team, and their coach is so dumbfounded by the incompetence on display each week that all he can think to do is pace the sidelines and absentmindedly throw his challenge flag at random plays. So, in the midst of this mess, we're supposed to have a "controversy" over whether the team should go with the NFL's 25th rated passer or a guy who's gone 0-2 in the games he's started? If you ask me, the only guy in the print media who has it right is Jeff Schudel of the News Herald, who pretty much sums up the situation in his column today, when he says that the Browns may have a dilemma at the QB position, but there isn't much to choose from.

The Browns seem to generate an uncanny number of quarterback controversies. First they had the Couch and Holcomb soap opera, then Garcia and "please, God, anybody but Garcia," then Dilfer and Frye, and now Frye and Anderson. Now, while the Browns' brain trust has spent the better part of four seasons agonizing about who deserved to be first in line to place his hands underneath another man's crotch, the team's managed to compile a record of 19 wins and 43 losses.

That record tells you all you need to know about this--and every other--QB controversy that's been ginned up in this town over the past decade. When a team has gaping holes at multiple positions, the identity of the team's quarterback just doesn't matter that much in terms of wins and losses. Sure, it's interesting in the abstract to speculate about who might be a better player, but until the Browns get an offensive line that can keep the defense from sacking him six times (like the Ravens did on Sunday), whoever they choose as their starter isn't going to get a whole lot done.

Right now, for what it's worth, I think the offensive line's incompetence plays into Anderson's strengths, which are a strong arm and the ability to make quick decisions. If the Browns call a three step drop, you can bet that if Anderson's back there, he'll select a receiver and get into his throwing motion as soon as he plants that third step. Charlie Frye doesn't seem to be able to do that, perhaps because he doesn't have the cannon that Anderson has, and so isn't willing to try to rifle the ball to a receiver who is only going to be open for a step. When you couple this with Frye's injured wrist, it seems to be a no brainer to go with Anderson this week and probably next week as well.

Still, I wouldn't call what the Browns have going on a "QB controversy." I would reserve that description for situations involving proven players who unquestionably bring a high level of skill to the position. To my way of thinking, Joe Montana v. Steve Young, Phil Simms v. Jeff Hostetler, Roger Staubach v. Craig Morton, and Billy Kilmer v. Sonny Jurgensen all involved bona fide QB controversies. What the Browns have going on simply doesn't rise to that level.

This isn't a controversy, it's just the latest sideshow to distract fans from the real problem that's confronted the team for the past eight seasons--the lack of a legitimate offensive line. Until they address that problem, the outcome of this latest tempest in a teapot won't matter a damn.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Call the damn doctor.

Why is it that Browns' players keeping getting staph infections? Can't the club clean up the damn facility?

It's been whispered that LeCharles Bentley may not be ready for '07 due to damage his tendon suffered from the staph infection he contracted.

The Browns haven't released any news about this yet, but I think we can safely expect the worst.

The Browns...

...will lose big time. It won't be a fun game to watch. They'll look ugly, disoriented, and ill-prepared.

No one gets out alive.

Browns v. Ravens

The Browns travel to Baltimore today to take on the Ravens. Baltimore can clinch a playoff spot (and possibly the AFC North) with the win they're extremely likely to get, while a Cleveland loss will mean that the Browns will have posted a perfect 0-6 record against divisional foes this season.

Is there anything more infuriating to the average Browns fan than the success that the Baltimore Ravens have enjoyed? To me, the sight of Art Modell hoisting the Lombardi Trophy is even more crushing than Edgar Renteria's World Series winning 11th inning single off of Charles Nagy in 1997. After all, Edgar Renteria was just doing his job. Modell was an incompetent ass who was hell bent on passing on his franchise to his pathetic son, David "Honey" Modell. Fortunately, he failed miserably at that, just like he's failing with the efforts at revisionist history intended to get him into the Hall of Fame.

Anyway, that's all in the past, but what isn't in the past is the fact that the Baltimore Ravens continue to absolutely own the Browns. They're 10-5 against Cleveland since the team returned, including last September's heartbreaker at the Stadium. The Ravens have won six of their last seven games, and over that same stretch, Steve McNair has completed over 68% of his passes and thrown for eight touchdowns and only two interceptions. McNair spreads the ball around pretty well, as shown by the fact that Todd Heap has 59 catches, Derrick Mason has 59 catches, and Mark Clayton has 57 catches.

Baltimore's running game is nothing special. Overall, the Ravens rank near the bottom of the AFC in rushing, ahead of only Oakland and guess who? Jamaal Lewis has scored seven TDs and, with 877 yards so far, has a shot at another 1,000 yard season. But Lewis is only averaging 3.5 yards per carry and has rushed for more than 100 yards only once this season.

As always with Baltimore, the story of their success isn't the offense, it's the defense. Once again the Ravens boast the NFL's most stifling defense. In addition to leading the league in total defense, the Ravens have just about lapped the rest of the AFC when it comes to turnovers. They've created a total of 32 turnovers, nine more than the next best team in the conference, and lead the entire NFL in turnover margin with +16. (I'll give you three guesses to figure out who has the worst turnover margin in the league.)

There's nothing like playing a hot team with a great defense on their own field with your second string quarterback after a humiliating loss, is there? You know what, though? These are exactly the kind of games that the Pumpkin Helmets usually show up for. Just when the wheels appear to have come off, they throw together something that looks like a professional performance. With what Baltimore has on the line this week, I can't imagine they'll play as badly as they did the last time these two teams met. I don't think it will be particularly close, but I doubt that the Browns will be as atrocious as they were last week.

I'm going to say Baltimore 27, Cleveland 13.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Resurrecting CSU Basketball

As a loyal Cleveland sports fan, anger and frustration are my stock in trade, but as mad as I get at the shortcomings of the Browns, Indians and Cavs, I always make sure to save a little bile for Cleveland State University, and the wasteland that its basketball program has become.

It only takes a glimpse of the Wolstein Center -- the kind of facility most mid-major programs can only dream of-- to remind me of the potential that's been squandered by CSU over the years. In 1986, when Kevin Mackey's team went 27-3, and then knocked off #3 seed Indiana in what some regard as the biggest first round upset in NCAA tournament history, the future appeared to be pretty bright for CSU basketball. In fact, for the next several years, the Vikings were on a roll. They followed up their tournament success by going 25-8 in 1986-87 and 22-8 in 1987-88. The team's success allowed them to move their games from tiny Woodling Gym to the newly constructed 13,600 seat Convocation Center.

Then Kevin Mackey stumbled out of a crack house in 1990, and with the exception of a 20 win season in 1991-92, the next 15 years were pretty much all downhill. It's hard to say exactly when the program hit bottom. In addition to not having a winning season since 2000-2001, not winning a game in the Horizon League tournament ever, and not scoring a single point during the first eight minutes of last year's season-ending humiliation at the hands of Detroit Mercy, CSU fans have witnessed off the court antics like Jamaal Harris and Damon Stringer's comic opera robbery of CC Sabathia, and the fiasco surrounding Mike Garland's firing/resignation after last season.

At first glance, you've got to wonder if former Kent State coach Gary Waters knew what he was getting himself into when he accepted the Cleveland State job last April, although if you're a Viking fan, it's hard to imagine a better choice. Waters took a Kent State team that posted only one winning season in the seven years before his arrival and turned it into a powerhouse. Waters' Kent State teams posted eight straight 20 win seasons and two NCAA tournament appearances before he left for Rutgers in 2001. Although the Scarlet Knights bought out his contract at the end of last season, Waters had some notable successes in turning that program around as well.

Waters wasted little time making his mark on CSU's basketball program. Within a month of being hired, Waters signed Warrensville Heights star Joe Davis, who has averaged almost 10 points per game and ranks second on the team with 11 steals so far this year. What's probably most impressive is that Davis has done this while only averaging 20 minutes per game. Waters made several other coaching changes and roster moves after arriving at Cleveland State and has emphasized a disciplined approach on and off the court.

It's early, but the Vikings appear to be responding favorably to Waters. The team is currently 5-6 despite a brutal schedule that's included both #4 Ohio State and #18 Butler. The Vikings were crushed by both of those teams, but they have managed to upset Miami 78-67 for the school's second ever win over an ACC team, and in what may turn out to be the team's most important statement this season, Cleveland State also managed to beat Kent State 66-59.

Wins and losses aside, Cleveland State is simply playing better basketball than it has in the past, and it's showing up in the statistics. The Vikings lead the Horizon League in offensive rebounding and rank third in rebounding margin. The team ranks second in the league in free throw percentage. While the team has been getting some notable contributions off the bench from people like Joe Davis, there's not the revolving door approach to the starting lineup that plagued last year's team. In contrast to last season, when the team used 13 different starting fives, Waters has started the same five players in each of the Vikings' 11 games.

But maybe the biggest reason for optimism is that there appears to be some real talent on this team, and it's pretty young. In addition to Davis, the Vikings have sophomore forwards J'Nathan Bullock (who leads the team in scoring and was a preseason second team All-Horizon League selection) and Tristan Crawford (a former Pennsylvania AAA player of the year who had to sit out last season in order to meet eligibility requirements).

The fact that Cleveland State is in the midst of an ugly three game losing streak during which they've lost games by an average of 25 points shows that it's going to take some time to clean up the train wreck that the Vikings' basketball program has become, but for the first time in a long time, it looks like there's reason for some hope.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Today's Good News

The Browns don't play today.

They're still licking their wounds and searching for their collective manhood after Thursday's game against the Steelers.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Derek Anderson

Derek Anderson's performance was the lone bright spot in last night's embarrassment. Terry Pluto was impressed enough with what he's seen from Anderson to suggest in this morning's column that Anderson be given the chance to start next weekend against the Ravens. I couldn't agree more. Like Pluto, I'm not looking to hang a savior of the franchise tag on the guy, but Anderson's got a strong arm and a quick release, so what the hell--let's see how he does on the road against one of the NFL's best defenses. If he passes that test, maybe they've got something there.

I'm not a member of the "Charlie Frye sucks!" crowd, but let's face it, the hometown boy hasn't exactly shown enough to be viewed as a sacred cow on a team that's 4-9. So, let's see what Sideshow Bob's got.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Toast!

Here's to another three hours of my life that I'll never get back.
Here's to another humiliating defeat at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Here's to another regime that talks the talk but can't figure out how to walk the walk.
Here's to another head coach with that deer in the headlights gaze.
Here's to another season with no accomplishments and little reason for hope.
Here's to the Cleveland Browns, a team you can always count on.

Why Beating Pittsburgh Matters

I was on my way to work earlier in the week and saw a guy in a Steelers jacket wandering down Broadway in the City of Cleveland. Twenty years ago, I'd have thought he was either a bad ass or just a really brave guy. Now, I just note that his coat is a different style from the other Steelers jackets I've seen some people wearing around downtown lately.

I know several people from Northeast Ohio who are going to tonight's game. They're Steelers season ticket holders. When I drive down my street during football season, I see houses with Steelers flags flying proudly right next to Ohio State flags. A guy I play hockey with has started to wear a Troy Polamalu jersey over his pads. I don't know how it is in Cuyahoga County, but you can't walk into a sporting goods store in Summit County without being overwhelmed by the selection of Steelers merchandise. The Stow-Hudson Giant Eagle had black and yellow cupcakes on special last playoff season (Perfect for Playoff Parties!). Even Terry Pluto, who used to write books about the glories of the Cleveland Browns, told us all that we should root for the Steelers during last year's Super Bowl.

The bottom line is that for a town that's supposed to bleed brown and orange, there's sure a lot of yellow and black wandering around. I guess this is what a generation of incompetence, deceit and even outright treachery on the part of the Cleveland Browns' ownership has produced. The fans who went to war with the NFL to get their team back are now alienated, indifferent, and in some cases drifting away. How far they've drifted is embodied in the fact that Hines Ward calls Cleveland Stadium the Steelers' "home away from home."

It's up to the current group of Browns to take the first step in putting a stop to this. If they need to know why beating Pittsburgh matters, all they have to do is take a look around and see how popular their once hated rival has become in their own backyard.

As for the game itself, I simply can't figure this team out (that's hardly news to you if you've been reading my horrible predictions week in and week out). The Browns are coming off a big win, which probably means we should expect a big letdown that will be blamed on a combination of a short week and a backup QB being thrown into the teeth of the Pittsburgh blitz.

On the other hand, I think that this group of players wants to beat Pittsburgh so bad they can taste it, and I haven't thought that about a Browns team in quite some time. The Steelers weren't a juggernaut three weeks ago, and tonight it looks like they'll be without both starting safeties and both starting wide receivers. Yes, that means that the Browns won't have to contend with either Troy Polamalu or Hines Ward, both of whom have absolutely killed them over the years.

The Browns defense has actually done a decent job against the rush in recent games, and held Willie Parker to under 50 yards the last time the two teams met. To me, the keys to tonight's game are keeping Parker hemmed in, getting pressure on Roethlisberger, and keeping pressure off Derek Anderson and his Sideshow Bob sized feet. Pittsburgh's going to blitz, but without Polamalu in the lineup, they've got to be at least a little more worried than usual about the risk of giving up a big play, so Anderson may get more of a chance to throw than most people think. It would also be nice to discover that last week's running game wasn't a complete mirage, especially since it's supposed to snow tonight.

Tonight the Browns have a chance to take a big step on the long road to respectability. Was the Kansas City game the start of something for this team, or was it just the proverbial dead cat bounce? Can this team put together two solid performances in a row?

I want to think they can make this game interesting, but I don't think they're going to win it. The glass is still half empty. Steelers 21, Browns 14.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

They did it again.

The Youngstown State University Penguins won again by beating the Illinois State Redbirds 28-21. YSU's QB, Tom Zetts, threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, but the defense sealed the win. The Redbirds took possession of the ball with two minutes left to play and were driving downfield, when YSU closed it out with an interception.

YSU advances to play perennial powerhouse and this year's number 1 seed, Appalachian State, at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Appy State is looking to repeat as champion. The team features a powerful offense and a rugged, stifling defense. Plus, the Mountaineers are 26-0 at home.

The Penguins are decided underdogs, and on paper, they shouldn't be in the same game as Appy State.

Browns v. Chiefs

This week, the NFL's answer to a slow motion train wreck takes on the Kansas City Chiefs. Before I brighten your Sunday morning with my witty banter about how the Browns will get their heads handed to them yet again this week, I think we've reached a point in the season where a digression into something that's bothered me all year is appropriate.

That something is the Browns' schedule. The Browns were 6-10 last season, a record they shared with the Baltimore Ravens. Since both teams are in the same division, how is it that the Browns ended up with a schedule that is so much more difficult than the one the Ravens were handed?

Here's what I'm talking about. The teams that the Ravens have faced have a combined record of 57-65, and six of those teams (Tampa Bay, Oakland, Cleveland, Tennessee, Atlanta and Pittsburgh) are below .500. In contrast, the Browns' opponents have a 69-54 record, and only three of those teams are below .500. Do I think the disparity in schedules is part of a big conspiracy? As much as I'd love to suggest otherwise, I don't think so. It's just another illustration of the fact that while the Browns have made plenty of bad decisions over the years since their return, bad luck has also seemed to dog every step that they've taken. That's a hell of a combination, isn't it?

Anyway, today's dose of bad luck comes in the form of the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are a team that fortune has smiled upon this year. Lose Trent Green? Not a problem-- Damon Huard will come in and keep you in playoff contention until Green returns. Lose Priest Holmes for the season? Ever since Larry Johnson arrived, it's been "Priest who?" in KC anyway. Oh, and Tony Gonzalez's shoulder is healed as well. His pride, however, still appears to be smarting from some of Mr. Winslow's ill-considered early season remarks, and I expect that Gonzalez will make the Browns pay a price for those this afternoon.

Looking at the numbers, this appears to be a particularly bad matchup for the Browns. First of all, the Chiefs are on a 5-1 run, so they are coming into this game on a high note, while the Browns are still licking the wounds from their 30-0 shellacking at the hands of the Bengals. Larry Johnson leads the NFL in rushing, and the Chiefs rank third overall in the AFC in that offensive category. Unfortunately, the Browns have yet to figure out a way to stop the run, and their defense ranks a pitiful 24th in the league against the rush.

While things don't look so good for the Browns' defense this week, I'm actually guardedly optimistic when it comes to the offensive side of the ball. Sure, Cleveland's offense ranks 31st in the league, but I truly believe that if Charlie Frye plays within himself, the team will usually be successful in getting the football into the hands of Cleveland's most potent offensive weapon, punter Dave Zastudil. I will also go way out on a limb and predict that because the team will be fired up to help save their beloved head coach Romeo Crennel's job, they will, in fact, score an offensive touchdown this week.

But they'll miss the extra point. Kansas City 24, Cleveland 9.