Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lessons of 2014 can strengthen Manziel moving forward...we hope

If football falls through, at least Manziel has his SAG card. 
A year of Cleveland professional football is never complete until the third-string quarterback suits up for the final game. That enticing possibility hangs over the Browns this Sunday against Baltimore, a day that will likely end in defeat and yet another losing season for the lakefront bunch.

This off-season is already shaping up to be fun for pain-loving S&M types, as much talk will likely revolve around the man under center, whether it's Johnny Manziel, a veteran not named Hoyer, or blue-sky aspirations to trade two first-round picks for Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota

Monday, December 15, 2014

I found the crazy-ass way the Browns could still make the playoffs


After only fifteen minutes of tinkering, I found the roughly thirty insane things that need to happen, starting with Johnny Manziel looking like a capable NFL quarterback, for the Browns to sneak into the playoffs.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry, but when I saw the Browns weren't technically eliminated, I had to figure out what sorcery could sneak them in. Not that I think there's a chance in hell.

Here's the screenshot and scenario from ESPN's Playoff Machine.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What CST thinks about Browns-Bengals today

Browns 27, Bengals 20

Johnny Football lives! With a carefully mild unleashing of Manziel's talent by Shanahan and a stout home defense keeping the Bengals in check, the Browns keep their playoff hopes alive in the final home game of a season that was nothing if not exciting.

Bengals 24, Browns 14

Long day at the office for Johnny Football. He tries to do too much and win the game himself. There will be flashes of brilliance but many more WTF moments. But at least he will make the game interesting.

Browns 23, Bengals 20

Manziel will bring a much-needed energy to the Browns offense this week against the division leaders. FirstEnergy will be crazy, but it will be up to the Browns to rise to the challenge, something this franchise simply has not be able to do with any consistency since its return.
Browns 27, Bengals 10

Manziel Mania fires up not only the offense, but the defense as well. Playoff hopes still alive and well.

Browns 17, Bengals 16

If John Football rips off seven straight wins, culminating with the Super Bowl, I'm fairly certain he'll party himself to death or out of the NFL before his 23rd birthday. So, for young Master Manziel, I wish success in moderation. For the rest of us soul-selling Clevelanders, willing to trade years off our lives for a playoff birth, Garrett Hartley's chip shot clinches victory no. 8 for the 2014 Kardiac Kids.

Bengals 21, Browns 20

I'm back to being cynical…The Johnny era begins and somehow ends up resembling what we're used to...coming up a little "short".

Browns 28, Bengals 17

The glass-half-empty part of me (which is about 95%) warns all the Manziel gushers that Colt McCoy looked like we finally found our QB when he took over and beat the Patriots, Saints, and almost beat the Jets. In the NFL, once teams have film on you, it's a whole new ballgame. See Derek Anderson, Collin Kaepernick, Vince Young, and (possibly) RG3 as recent examples. Can Johnny last? I hope so, but I'm not going to declare him our football messiah because of 1, 2 or even 3 games.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Browns route to the playoffs is clear

For all the crappy results that Browns have had over the last four games, the road to the playoffs is still straight ahead.  Despite one offensive touchdown in Brian Hoyer's last 29 drives, it's a new day, and there's someone new in the drivers seat. Flat tire, gas station, sugar in the gas tank, turbocharger, snow tires, use any automotive metaphor you'd like. All we know is that if the Browns could have had even average play at the quarterback position over the past four games, they'd have another one or two wins under our belt, and it wouldn't be crunch time. But it is.

AP Photo/Don Wright
Now, hopefully, newly-minted 22-year-old starting QB Johnny Manziel can play at an average level, minimally. And the defense can step up. And the running game gets in line, unable to cheat up to stop the Browns rookie RBs.

Because it looks like if the Cleveland Browns win their last three games, they will very likely be in the playoffs. A quick playing around in the ESPN NFL Playoff Machine gave us a few scenarios, linked to in each.

I ran the Playoff Machine with automatic results based on ESPN Power Rankings as of December 11. That leaves the Browns at 8-8, losing to both the Bengals and Ravens, but beating the Panthers, and finishing dead last in the AFC North, with Pittsburgh as the 4th seed hosting Baltimore as the 5th seed.

If nothing else changes except the Browns win out, they finish at 10-6 and travel to Indy in the first round as the 6th seed. In that scenario Baltimore wins its other two games, finishes 10-6 but loses a tiebreaker to the Browns and the Chargers.

The Browns beating the Ravens means everything. I had trouble finding a way to sneak the Browns in with just 9 wins. If the Steelers lose out, the Bengals sneak in. If the Chargers lose out, the Chiefs sneak in. If some other crazy crap happens, the Browns' loss to the Texans really bites us in the ass, and Houston sneaks in at 9-7.

The other wild card (no pun intended) here is the Miami Dolphins. They don't have the toughest schedule, but their tiebreakers suck. If they can win in New England this weekend, then win home games against the Vikings and Jets, they will be 10-6 and will beat out the expected logjam at 9-7 and even the Browns at 10-6 due to the conference record tiebreaker.

Week 17 might be a doozy. That Chiefs-Chargers game could send one or both home, depending on the Dolphins. If the Browns and Ravens come in at 9-6, the winner could be the 4 seed and the loser could go home. Just so many scenarios out there--the Browns winning out would bring clarity to so much.

Just win, baby.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Browns offense failed the defense Sunday in a rare way

Everyboody watching the Browns lose an epic all-time (or maybe only for the last couple weeks) crappy game Sunday to the Indianapolis Colts know what a gut punch it was. The crowd was so electric, the defense was playing amazing, the special teams was letting Josh Cribbs he's no longer welcome in the Dawg Pound....

...and what did the offense do? Less than nothing. It's clear to everyone not named Brian Hoyer that something is drastically wrong with the quarterback position, and a change is necessary now. Everybody knows that. Even the sportswriters who last week weren't sure. Even the Hall of Fame Browns lineman who vouched for Hoyer last year. Even the haters who are all over Johnny Clipboard Football Manziel for showing up a mere two hours before kickoff Sunday. (Wait, what?? Johnny--get your ass to the stadium. What the hell?)

We decided to take a look on Pro Football Reference** at every game since the merger where one team had two or more return touchdowns, like Browns did Sunday. What did we find? Out of the 477 games since the AFL-NFL merger where one team had two touchdowns, the touchdown-returning team lost the game just 68 times, a mere 17% of games. Ya know what, this was actually more than I would have thought. But still rare, and tells you that when your defense or special teams scores two or more touchdowns, and you still lose--your offense must have really struggled. So who played quarterback for these disappointing offenses? We looked at the most recent games.

Kinda a random sample of quarterbacks, some better than average, some Hall of Famers. From Mark Sanchez to Matthew Stafford to Josh Johnson to Jason Campbell (remember this great game last year?) to Aaron Rodgers to Nick Foles this September. In fact, Foles' Eagles' defense/special teams scored three touchdowns, and they still lost.

So what does that tell us? It tells us not much. But in these games, the quarterback almost always had a terrible game. Rodgers was 15-26 for 142, Sanchez 11-35 for 119, Stafford was 10-25 for 151. Brian Hoyer Sunday? 14-31 for 140. I'm sorry Brian, we like you. We really do. And it might not be over. A good quarterback and offense can have a bad day. But in the Browns case, that's not what has happened. It's been a month-plus of bad days, where our QB's rating hasn't broken the speed limit. And the Browns desperately need a change in fortune.

**I pray I crunched the stats right...if not, someone let me know?)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Buckeyes sneak into College Football inaugural playoffs

It really was a tough call. I mean, conference champions Oregon and Alabama, as everyone has said, were automatic. It's basically impossible to rule out an undefeated defending champion in Florida State, even though it's pretty apparent they aren't that good and likely will get killed in the playoffs.

That left three teams. "Co-champions" of the Big 12, Baylor and TCU. And the undisputed champion of the Big Ten, Ohio State.

I could see if Ohio State was shut out. They lost to a truly shitty team, out of conference, at home. That said, it's obvious that they were playing with a whole new offensive line, a brand new freshman quarterback, and struggled. What happened after that? They landed a handful of dozen points on their next few teams and never looked back. Every week JT Barrett looked like more and more of a stud, and they beat a number of solid--but not great--teams to the Big Ten Championship.

But it was not to be. The committee did look at the body of work as well as current status--and chose Ohio State as the #4 seed, to play Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on the evening of January 1.

The easier call, to me, was been Baylor over TCU, which is how they ended up at #5 and #6. TCU beat NO top 25 teams. They lost heads up to Baylor, who beat two top-ten teams. But both teams played some soft teams as well.

Who has the ugliest loss? Undoubtedly the Buckeyes.
Who has the best win? Probably Baylor, with Ohio State close behind.
Who has the best body of work? Likely Baylor at first glance, but Ohio State actually had the tougher schedule. And again, we didn't play any Division I-AA (or whatever they are called) teams.

Who is the best team of the three right now? I'd bet my house on Ohio State. That Big Ten Championship game Saturday night was unbelievable. Ohio State trots out a third string QB, Cardale Jones out of Glenville, and dude starts flinging the ball around like he was throwing a golf ball. His two long touchdowns both seemed to be a bit off balance, and they were beautifully thrown. At 6'5" and 250 lbs, he can run over people. And apparently jump people at will as well. The committee couldn't discount Ohio State because their quarterback(s) are injured, as was the common theme before Saturday night's blowout.

Ohio State in the Superdome. Urban vs. Saban. This should be a good one.
(Photo via Michael Conroy/AP)

What CST thinks about Browns-Colts today

Colts 27, Browns 16

The Browns need 30 points to win this game. SCORE 30 POINTS DAMMIT! If that means putting in the Manziel package, put in the Manziel package. And, ahem, KEEP RUNNING THE DAMN BALL. I'll be rooting them on but not hopeful.

Browns 21, Colts 18

The Browns ride the train that brought them there and somehow pull off a win. Hoyer doesn't look great but pulls it out. The question is, how do you bench someone when you keep winning?

Colts 28, Browns 17 

Injuries on defense and questions over the starting QB will likely be what derails the Browns' 2014 playoff push. Just don't have confidence the Browns can put three or four TDs on the board this Sunday with Hoyer under center. Nor is the defense stout enough when it comes to stopping the Andrew Luck-led Colts attack.
Who knows?

I'm in the muni lot already.

Browns 24, Colts 23

Donovan from Keane in the first half. Keane from Donovan in the 2nd half. Galaxy win 2-1! Of course, I'm talking about MLS Cup. They were foolish enough to schedule their championship during the heart of an NFL Sunday. So much for attracting casual fans.

For the record, football fans in Cleveland make me physically ill. Let it be known that  I support Hoyer, John Football and the great Coach Pettine. And I say "Coach" with the requisite Mid-Atlantic-Pettine accent.

Colts 30, Browns 13

Finally the quarterback controversy is back, and I can fill up my Sundays with football the angst I've been accustomed to over the past fifteen years.

Browns 3, Colts 0.

Becuase that's the pick I texted in apparently.

Browns 20, Colts 0

As I said yesterday, all of my teams win by 20 this weekend.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

What CST thinks about Ohio State-Wisconsin today

Actual final: Ohio State 59, Wisconsin 0.

Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 27

Our new quarterback is roughly the size of JJ Watt. That rules. Defense bends quite a bit to Wisconsin's running game but Ohio State scores enough to win. Still going to get shut out of the playoffs due to that stinker against Virginia Tech.

Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 28

OSU pulls out the win despite the backup of the backup quarterback running the show. And OSU is playoff bound.

Ohio State 21, Wisconsin 17

The loss of JT Barrett will keep Ohio State out of the title picture, but Urban's system is strong enough for Cardale Jones to lead the Buckeyes in a close one over the Badgers.
Ohio State 34, Wisconsin 31

Let's hope it's the system and not the quarterback.

Wisconsin 41, Ohio State 37

Before the season started, John Cooper told a media member that Cardale Jones can play Quarterback. Say what you want about Coop, but he instinctively knows talent. The problem, however, is that OSU's defense is similar to just about every D-1 NCAA team: non-existant.

Ohio State 35, Wisconsin 30

I'm sure I'm making this pick based on wishful thinking, but Cardale channels his inner Kenny G, pulls out a game-winner, and becomes legendary.

Wisconsin 27, Ohio State 17

Can't overcome playing with a third string QB.  

Ohio State 20, Wisconsin 0

All of my teams win by 20 this weekend.