Nov 2, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer (6) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports
Get ready Cleveland Browns fans, Thursday Night Football is here, and the Dawg Pound better travel well because this is the biggest contest the franchise has played since returning to the NFL in 1999.
Here’s my list.
1) Browns @ Bengals, 2014: They have a quarterback who has a knack for pulling out games in the end, no matter how ugly they are. Brian Hoyer is the mid-season MVP and possesses the late game magic to make the fans and players believe anything is possible. In 10 games started and finished by Hoyer, the Browns are 7-3
2) Falcons @ Browns, 2002: Nobody had the Browns going to the Super Bowl, but this is as good as it’s gotten for Browns fans since the return. As Jim Donovan said, “RUN WILLIAM, RUN!”
3) Browns @ Bengals, 2007: On a windy day in the Nati, Browns’ offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski decided to throw the ball a lot on the wings of Derek Anderson. We all know how it ended.
• The New York Times examined why the AFC North is the best division in football.
Oct 26, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (16) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Here’s what was written about the Browns:
"“With a 5-3 record, the Browns are one of the surprise stories of the season. Brian Hoyer ranks eighth among all quarterbacks in adjusted net yards per attempt, thanks in part to a league-leading 13.8 yards per completion average. There are seven players in the NFL with at least 200 receiving yards who have averaged 18 yards per reception, and three of them (Travis Benjamin, Jordan Cameron and Taylor Gabriel) play for the Browns. Already boasting one of the league’s most vertical offenses, Cleveland should be bolstered when Josh Gordon (the NFL leader in receiving yards in 2013) returns from his suspension in Week 12. Meanwhile, safety Tashaun Gipson has a league-leading six interceptions, while the off-season acquisitions Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner are leading a resurgent Cleveland defense.”"
• Bovada lists the Bengals as 7-point favorites.
• We all know about the the injury woes hitting the Browns, especially at center with Alex Mack. Don’t forget that injuries are a two-way street, and the Bengals have their own problems, as four starters are expected to miss tonight’s contest.
• And finally, when was the last time the Browns and Bengals were THIS good, THIS late in the season? Try Dec. 14, 1986. Both squads were over. 500 as Bernie Kosar, Webster Slaughter and Ozzie Newsome cruised to a 34-3 win.
While you were sleeping, Gordon Hayward‘s buzz-beater lifted the Utah Jazz over the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night, in what turned out to be the third loss in four games for Wine and Gold to open the season.
And remember when many scoffed at Hayward signing a max extension over the summer? Well, let’s just say he didn’t do anything to hurt his argument with this defensive stop of LeBron James.
• The Cavs need to go to a basketball island for about eight months to practice, because the team’s lack of cohesion is evident.
Fox Sports’ Sam Amico wrote:
"“The Cavs have zero chemistry right now. They are still learning to play off LeBron. And LeBron is still learning to play off them. As hard as James is trying to get others involved, the Cavs still don’t really have a chance unless he takes over.” Nov 5, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard Gordon Hayward (20) and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson (13) and Jazz fans react to Hayward hitting the game-winning shot during the second half at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz won 102-100. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports"
To validate Amico’s point, Hayward had seven assists last night. The entire Cavs’ team has six!
• James may not be in the best basketball shape, but he’s still the best player on the planet who can take over a game any moment he chooses. No further proof is needed than the six points he scored in the final minute of last night’s contest. He tallied 36 points for the night.
But James seems intent on teaching his team a new leadership style, and the future of this basketball season depends on it.
• No secret here, I’d be brining Dion Waiters off the bench. I’m a Dion fan and a believer in his game, but there just aren’t enough touches in the starting lineup for the former Syracuse star.
Amico disagrees, because benching Waiters at this point seems like David Blatt is trying to teach him a lesson.
"“I don’t like the idea of bringing Waiters off the bench. Why? Was it some sort of punishment? The Cavs had played three games. Give the starting lineup a chance. This is a long, long season.”"