It’s been another dismal year by the lake, at least as far as professional football is concerned.
Twelve games deep into the NFL season, the Cleveland Browns have yet to notch a win. Two seasons ago the organization rebooted the staff, bringing in Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta, and Hue Jackson. A couple days ago, the first of the three men – general ma was sent packing.
It’s hard to sell optimism to the Browns’ faithful anymore – it’s been tried far too many times in recent memory. New general manager John Dorsey may be able to save the franchise, but they’ll believe it when they see it. That’s fair. In the past ten years, the Browns have exceeded five wins in a season exactly one time (7-9 in 2014). Three 5-11 finishes, three other 4-12 finishes. In the remaining years (the past three), the Browns have four wins combined.
This isn’t news to followers of the team, but it’s such a staggering display of ineptitude that it merits repeating.
For the moment, the prevailing impression is that Hue Jackson won an internal battle with Brown, hence Brown’s departure. With Dorsey now in, Jackson should have at least four more games to prove his competence as the team’s coach. If he can win even one game – maybe two, but let’s not get crazy – that would help his case substantially.
Could that win come as soon as this week, against the Packers? It’s certainly possible. These aren’t exactly your older brother’s Packers. They aren’t the 2012 Packers, or the 2016 Packers, or even the 2017 Week 1 Packers. They’re Brett Hundley’s Packers. They’re a strikingly mortal group in the uniform of a perennial contender, and the Browns are still a professional team.
If the Browns win, it would be discussed nationally as an upset regardless of the opponent. That isn’t the reality of this matchup.
DOUBTFUL: S Jabrill Peppers
QUESTIONABLE: CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun, WR Sammie Coates, TE Seth DeValve, DE Tyrone Holmes, DT Danny Shelton
Also listed: WR Kenny Britt, OT Shon Coleman, TE David Njoku
OUT: CB Demetri Goodson
DOUBTFUL: CB Davon House
QUESTIONABLE: DT Quinton Dial, OG Lucas Patrick, LB Nick Perry
Also listed: LB Ahmad Brooks, DT Kenny Clark, LB Jake Ryan
OddsShark Predicted Score: Cleveland 21.9, Green Bay 20.2
Spread Consensus: Green Bay -3
Wait, is that right? OddsShark thinks Cleveland will win a game?
Absolutely. Let’s take a brief look at Cleveland’s offense, starting at the top with receiver Josh Gordon.
Gordon has been the undisputed best skill position player on Cleveland’s offense since approximately a week ago (sorry, Duke Johnson). Against the Los Angeles Chargers last week, Gordon had the honor of lining up across from cornerback Casey Heyward. Heyward, a former Packer, is the highest-ranked cornerback this season on Pro Football Focus despite mostly shadowing elite receivers.
Per PFF, Casey Hayward allowed 76 yards in coverage against Josh Gordon. That’s the 7th-most yardage Hayward has allowed in a single game from 2015-17. Unreal.
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) December 4, 2017
Gordon wasn’t necessarily dominant in the box score, but he’d been in practice for one week. Aside from probably being behind in conditioning (although he held up fine in-game) he’s hardly worked with DeShone Kizer. The rookie quarterback had a handful of errant deep throws to Gordon that, completed, would’ve monumentally boosted the receiver’s numbers.
Where this is going: this is an exhibit from Gordon’s first game in years, without a proper rapport with Kizer. On the road, on the west coast, against as elite of a traveling cover man that the league can offer. This is a home game, against a team that’ll likely bring Damarious Randall and Josh Hawkins as their starting duo.
This compliments Duke Johnson well as the second fiddle of the offense. Green Bay’s linebackers aren’t known for covering receiving backs, and the team frequently uses multiple safety sets to compensate. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough safeties to account for Johnson, Seth DeValve, and David Njoku, if all are healthy. Those are matchups that Jackson will likely attempt to exploit – if none are available, Gordon is more than likely open.
As for the other side of the ball? Cleveland’s defense ranks 10th in yardage allowed; Green Bay’s defense ranks 24th. Green Bay allows 23.4 points per game to Cleveland’s 25.7, a margin of only 2.2 points despite nine place differences. It’s a closer margin than Green Bay has to New Orleans (20.2) four places in front of them. More relevantly, Green Bay has allowed 24.3 points per game in their six full games since losing Rodgers.
As far as matchups, Green Bay’s skill players are less fearsome than Cleveland’s. Davante Adams is effectively the top receiver – his 59 receptions rank 19th in the NFL while his 744 receiving yards rank 18th. Adams has been productive, especially considering his quarterback play, but he doesn’t physically dominate the game like an elite receiver. If Jason McCourty shows up to play as he sometimes has this season, Adams isn’t someone who will scare him.
Browns 24, Packers 20