Saturday, October 22, 2011

How improbable

There’s something about the Browns playing at home that odds makers seem to like. Not sure exactly what it is, but installing them as three-point favorites over the Seattle Seahawks for Sunday’s game puzzles the rational mind.

Yes, we know those three points are awarded for home-field advantage, but the only advantage the Browns have at home is they don’t have to sleep the night before the game in a hotel room.

Other that that, there is no such thing as home-field advantage for the Browns, who bring a 35-64 record at Cleveland Browns Stadium into the game. That’s right, this is game No. 100 at CBS since the 1999 return and the Browns have crafted an ignominious .353 winning percentage there.

So much for home-field advantage.

Only once in the last 12-plus seasons have the Browns carved out a winning record at home. They rattled off seven straight victories in 2007 after dropping the season opener to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

This season, they sport a 1-2 mark, losing to Cincinnati and Tennessee. And, yes, those all-knowing odd makers favored Cleveland in those games, too.

Perhaps the guys who work the numbers in an effort to take your money figure the Seahawks are an awful team on the road. And that would be a correct assumption because the Seahawks have a problem especially when they play in the Eastern Time Zone.

When they throttled the New York Giants, 36-25, a couple of weeks ago, it shattered a 10-game losing streak in the East. So maybe that’s what went into the thinking when posting odds for this one.

The Browns and Seahawks have striking similarities. Both teams enter the game at 2-3. And both teams have trouble running the ball and putting points on the board. Neither team overwhelms when in possession of the ball. They have combined for just 185 points.

The Seahawks, however, have shown signs of coming around offensively with 64 points in the last two games, thanks to the installation of a no-huddle attack, after posting just 30 points in the first three. They’ve done most of their damage, as have the Browns, through the air.

This could turn out to be a game of attrition since both clubs have problems protecting the quarterback. The Seattle offensive line has surrendered 20 sacks in five games, while Browns quarterback Colt McCoy, even though sacked just nine times overall, has served as a piñata the last three games.

Charlie Whitehurst, who relieved the injured Tarvaris Jackson against the Giants and led the comeback victory, gets the call and will guide the Seahawks’ new up-tempo attack. However, he is a more of a pocket passer than Jackson and a stationary target for a strong pass rush.

Forget the ground game for Seattle. The Hawks average a meager 83 yards on the ground. Running back Marshawn Lynch has rushed only 58 times this season. He used to carry the ball that many times in two-plus games when he was with Buffalo.

The Browns, meanwhile, seem stuck in trying to kick-start an offense that has spun in neutral for the first five games. One problem, which coach Pat Shurmur stubbornly ignores, is the disproportionate ratio of the running game vs. the passing game.

Cleveland averages 24 runs a game. McCoy has thrown 43 passes a game. You put the ball up that many times, you should be averaging more than 240 yards a game. Shurmur has virtually ignored the infantry game.

I realize the west coast offense is a pass-first offense, but this is ridiculous. McCoy has no shot at fooling the opposition with a play fake because the Browns’ running game has been an extreme disappointment. It averages 82 yards a game.

Unfortunately, Shurmur might have to do the same against the Seahawks, one of the best teams in the National Football League against the run. Peyton Hillis is doubtful with a hamstring, so look for at least 43 passes from McCoy against a weak Seattle secondary.

Then there’s this little gem. One national pundit labeled the game “The I Can’t Believe the Winner Will Be 3-3" Bowl.

Two teams considered by many at the beginning of the season to be also-rans will play each other in a game Sunday that will elevate the winner to .500 status six games into the season.

Let that fact sink in. The Cleveland Browns at 3-3 with two of the victories at home? The Seattle Seahawks at 3-3 with two of the victories in the East? No one saw that coming.

Then again maybe it won’t happen because there is one other possibility. The most improbable outcome for this one? A tie! Make it:

Browns 23, Seahawks 23

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