Friday, September 7, 2012

Only the final score is different

Predicting the outcome of the first game of the National Football League season is always more difficult than any other.

Why? Simple. The speed and quickness of the game changes dramatically between the last exhibition game and the first one where money is on the line.

Rookies are told about the change, but until they see it, they have no idea what to expect. Or how to handle it. The game is fast enough to begin with. For those who get it and know what to expect, it eventually slows down.

We watch players go through the motions during the exhibition season. All of which proves absolutely nothing. No way can we tell based on those performances how a team is going do in the regular season.

How many times have we seen teams go unbeaten in the exhibition season only to stagger in with a 5-11 or 6-10 record and maybe worse? And how many times have we seen a team fail to win a practice game and yet make the postseason with no trouble?

We’ve seen the Browns play four exhibitions, winning the first two on the road and dropping the final two at home.

One of the road victories was in Green Bay against one of the best teams in the National Football League. And that proves what? Nothing. Doesn’t mean the Browns are better than the Packers.

Green Bay most likely will win its division, while the Browns most likely will once again bring up the back end of their division.

But that first game of the season is always a mystery until you can record concrete evidence by playing it. Especially if the team you root for has 15 rookies and another dozen who have played only one season.

But when it comes to opening the season at home, picking the Browns to lose is a no-brainer. This Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium, it will be no different when the Philadelphia Eagles invade.

Since returning to the NFL in 1999, the Browns have opened up at home every season but one. That includes the first 11 seasons before hitting the road for the opener in Tampa in 2010.

Their record in those 13 lid lifters? How about 1-12. The lone victory was a 20-3 pasting (relatively speaking) of the Baltimore Ravens in 2004. The Browns finished 4-12 that season, which proved to be the last under coach Butch Davis.

So it’s not difficult to predict the outcome of the first game when it comes to the Browns. The only problem is deciding just how badly they are going to get beaten.

The schedule maker couldn’t have picked a worse rival for the Browns in this one. The Eagles, everyone’s Dream Team last season, got off to a miserable start before finishing strong to check in with an 8-8 record.

They underachieved on just about every level, placing coach Andy Reid’s job on the line this season. Reid is a players’ coach and the theme this year should be retribution, if it already isn’t.

The Eagles are an abundantly talented team and should have no problem handling the Browns. They did so with relative ease just a few weeks ago in the third exhibition game of the season.

In that one, you’ll recall, the Eagles’ pass rush dropped Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden three times and introduced him to the strip sack, NFL style.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Eagles this week welcomed back defensive end Jason Babin, who sat out the exhibition season with an injury. Handling Babin, coming off an 18-sack season, will be rookie offensive right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.

The reality is Browns coach Pat Shurmur has no idea what to expect from his troops. Weeden hasn’t taken a snap since the first half of the Eagles exhibition on Aug. 24. And since he did not play the final exhibition game, that’s 16 days between games.

A lot of rust can build in that period of time, especially for a quarterback who relies on timing. Never mind that he’s been practicing during that period. He’s been practicing against his teammates.

On the plus side, it looks as though top draft pick Trent Richardson will see the field for the first time since undergoing knee surgery a month ago. How much he can give, or how effective he’ll be, is another mystery.

Scott Fujita’s return after winning his appeal in the NFL Bounty scandal is also plus. The Browns are hurting at linebacker and Fujita’s appearance can’t hurt.

Overall, however, this one promises to be a rout as Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, also back from an injury, plays pitch and catch with his receivers, and LeSean McCoy chews up chunks of yardage. Rookie quarterback Nick Foles picked the Browns apart in the exhibition game, so you can only imagine what the veteran Vick will do.

It will not be pretty as the Browns disappoint new owner Jimmy Haslam III and a sold-out CBS as the Eagles undress the Cleveland defense in a game that will be a laugher by halftime. Only Reid’s compassion for his pals with the Browns in the second half will make the final score look relatively decent. Make it:

Eagles 31, Browns 9


  1. So did you write this to please the Philly fans? I mean Babin is coming off a calf injury, you know the kind of injury that sideline Hardesty. He also has been limited in practice so how much he can do is a legit question. The difficulty I recognize for the Browns is that Philly DL has depth. So it will depend on T-Rich
    and the Browns OLs run-blocking. You recall they did manage to do that effectively and if (and I think he will be) is good to go then Philly is gonna get hurt from the run attack and that will open up play action for Weeden and the Browns pass attack. Yea, the odds don't favor the Browns but the least you could have done is point out all positives for the Browns because no game is hopeless, else why play the game.

  2. I'll ignore your first remark for the pure ignorance of it. I write for anyone who chooses to read this blog. And I write what I believe, whether you or anyone else likes it or not.

    I'm a Browns fans, but I'm also a realistic Browns fan. You obviously are not. You paint a nice rosy picture based on what? Certainly not what we saw during the exhibition season.

    There is no way the Browns match up talent-wise with the Eagles. If you think the Eagles were quick in the exhibition game, what you see Sunday will make it look as though they played in slow motion.

    Babin might not play the whole game, but when he does, Mitchell Schwartz will be welcomed rudely to the NFL.

    And don't be surprised if the Cleveland secondary is picked clean, The Browns have a very ordinary pass rush and Michael Vick, given time, will have a big day.

    I don't write for the Philadelphia fans or Cincinnati fans or Pittsburgh fans or Baltimore fans. Hopefully, you get my point. I write for those people who choose to come to this site.

    I pull no punches. I don't deal in pabulum. Some people can handle it. Others can't. Those who can't go to other sites where the company line is delivered and never return.

    They are called sycophants. I'm not one. Are you?

    And next time, pls sign your name.