Once again we bear witness to another great week of titillating NFL upsets and unpredictable outcomes. Why discuss the losers when the Impact Performer of the Week is all about the winners?
There isn’t a much happier place on Earth than Cleveland, Ohio right now. Yes, I said “Cleveland.” The Browns are tied atop the AFC North with the best record in the division and the Indians sizzled in September to earn the top wild-card spot in the American league. Things might even get a little sweeter before it all turns sour, so let’s capitalize on this momentous occasion of Cleveland being the Impact City of the Week.
So, how did the Browns do it? It started with a couple of bold moves. The first was kicking everyone off the ship who hasn’t bought into the system. It’s an “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” mentality. This is a dangerous move because it can polarize and divide an organization, particularly players against coaches. If the players don’t buy in and perform, the coach is going to get fired. As a result, the coach is attempting to get rid of those who don’t get with the program. It can easily pit the two sides against each other. Smells a bit like the Richardson trade to me.
The next bold move is to start the former St. Ignatius High School (Cleveland) star at quarterback. Brian Hoyer, the hometown kid, is entering his fifth NFL season. Hoyer is 2-0 with for the Browns and has thrown for 590 yards and five touchdowns. Hoyer was at one point the third-string quarterback, but today he gives the Browns the best chance to win and will get the starting nod on Thursday night, even though Brandon Weeden has been cleared to play. If it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it!
The greatest asset to this team is a staunch defense that is giving up 17.5 points per game. Led by its back seven we are seeing a transformation in the game as we know it. More teams than ever are passing to run and passing to control the ball. If you don’t have the right secondary and linebacking corps to keep up with all the offensive weapons in the game today, you’ll be left in the dust. Cornerback Joe Haden limited Pro Bowl wide receiver AJ Green to 53 receiving yards on Sunday. In Weeks 2 and 3, Cleveland’s defense held Adrian Peterson to 3.5 yards per carry and Joe Flacco to 211 passing yards.
Cleveland has faced its fair share of heartbreak with the Browns, Indians and The Decision. Since winning the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA lottery, the city of Cleveland has been on a roll. Looking ahead to Thursday night’s matchup against the Buffalo Bills, a win would put the Browns on top of the AFC North, even if just for a few days. This would be the same team that has been the doormats of the division for quite some time.
From my perspective, having played in the AFC North for five years, the Ravens rattled off 10 straight wins against the Browns. A Week 2 loss to the Ravens made it 11 straight L’s. Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh have never tasted defeat against their division rivals. I have a feeling the Nov. 3 matchup in Cleveland will be a greater challenge for the defending Super Bowl Champs. This will be one streak the Browns will be looking to take a bite out of.