Sunday, September 30, 2007

Browns 27, Ravens 13
My built-in cynicism usually causes me to pick against my hometown team. But as the week wore on, I got a strange (in Cleveland sports, strange means good) feeling about the Browns-Ravens game.

It wasn't enough to make me take the Browns, but I had an inkling the team would fare better than it did last week.

The Ravens dominated a number of statistics, but the Browns dominated the game from the opening kickoff. The Ravens offense could move the ball, but had trouble scoring touchdowns (or anything, really).

Most of the pregame chatter surrounded Ravens' Ray Lewis, and Browns running back Jamal Lewis. Ray Lewis is still looked at as one of the best defenders in the league.

The problem is he's not.

Ray may be the emotional leader, and he still may be an effective player, but his days of scaring offenses are gone. After all the talk going in, the Ravens' linebacker was quiet Sunday. It's possible the injuries and his age are catching up with him.

Regardless, the Ravens defense couldn't keep the Browns from scoring, and didn't force a punt until the fourth quarter.

Derek Anderson was effective. Jamal Lewis was effective. But the Browns won this game because two turnovers became 10 points, and because the defense manned up in the red zone.

The Ravens reached the end zone with 7 minutes left. But the drive took 6 1/2 minutes to complete. The Browns secondary was not beat over the top. The linebackers contained Willis McGahee, who broke a few big runs but didn't dominate. The Browns didn't get much of a rush on Steve McNair -- and when they did, it usually came from Kamerion Wimbley -- but McNair just couldn't convert from up close.

This win is more satisfying than the Bengals game, because it didn't feel like a fluke. The Browns won because they deserved to. They played with more energy than the Ravens, and played like winners, instead of like a team hoping to pull an upset.

Of course, the Browns will need an upset against New England next week. A big one.

But that's for another post. Hold the orange helmets high.


The Panel: Week 4
Aaron: Jets over Bills
Andy: SD over KC
Nihar: Cowboys over Rams
Phil: Cowboys over Rams
Curtis A. Cowboys over Rams
Zach: Cowboys over Rams


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Phil's Picks, week 4
Texans (2-1) @ Falcons (3-0)
You have to wonder how badly Atlanta wants to have Matt Schaub back right about now.
Zach's Thought: Why would anyone want to see this game? Texans

Jets (1-2) @ Bills (0-3)
Buffalo already has seven players on the injured reserve list.
Zach's thought: The Bills are probably the worst team in the league right now. Jets.

Ravens (2-1) @ Browns (1-2)
Cleveland is a blocked field goal from being 2-1.
The Raven are a few plays away from 3-0. Or 0-3. Ravens

Rams (0-3) @ Cowboys (3-0)
One of the worst teams in the NFC against one of the best teams in the NFC.
Zach's thought: I hate Fox for making this the national game. Cowboys

Bears (1-2) @ Lions (2-1)
The problems in the Windy City run far deeper than benched QB Rex Grossman.
Zach's thought: Yeah, but the Lions? Bears.

Raiders (1-2) @ Dolphins (0-3)
The last two games for Oakland have been decided on the last play.
Zach's thought: I betcha Steve Beuerlein gets this game. Raiders.

Packers (3-0) @ Vikings (1-2)
Maybe heading into the season with Kelly Holcomb as the backup QB wasn't the best idea after all.
Zach's thought: The Packers emergence as a power shows just how mediocre the NFC really is.

Seahawks (2-1) @ 49ers (2-1)
So far, Alex Smith and Vernon Davis have not lived up to their first round billings.
Zach's thought: Wait. Who is Vernon Davis? 49ers.

Buccaneers (2-1) @ Panthers (2-1)
Steve Smith has had four games 100-yard receiving games against Tampa Bay.
Zach's thought: Neither of these teams are worthy of an above .500 record. Panthers

Denver (2-1) @ Colts (3-0)
Fast Fact: Indianapolis is 3-0 for the third year in a row.
Zach's thought: Fast Fact--Denver blows.

Steelers (3-0) @ Cardinals (1-2)
Upset Special: Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt has had this game in his sights ever since being passed for the Pittsburgh job.
Zach's thought: Arizona is still not as good as the Packers.

Chiefs (1-2) @ Chargers (1-2)
Golden opportunity for San Diego to start getting their passing game into gear.
Zach's thought: The Chiefs are the worst team in the AFC... but only the 17th worst team overall. Chargers

Eagles (1-2) @ Giants (1-2)
It's official. Philadelphia has the worst throwback uniforms ever in the history of pro sports.
Zach's thought: I was just thinking that we hadn't seen enough of these teams in prime time. Giants.

Patriots (3-0) @ Bengals (1-2)
Any chance Cincinnati had for an upset was lost when they learned Rudi Johnson won't be able to play due to an injury.
Zach's thought: This is almost an upset. But New England is too good. Patriots.


Jaguars (2-1)
As always, they will go as far as the defense will carry them

Redskins (2-1)
Get an extra week to fume over that second half meltdown against New York in week 3.

Saints (0-3)
Were they a one year wonder in 2006? Losing Deuce McAllister for the season may be a fatal blow.

Titans (2-1)
Might be one of the most under-rated teams in the NFL right now.

LAST WEEK: 10-6 (Z:10-6)
OVERALL: 33-15 (Z: 28-20)


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Borowski Factor
Skip Bayless once said that the Indians made "a deal with the devil" by using Fausto Carmona and depending on him. Carmona picked up his 19th win of the season Wednesday, the most by an Indian since Burt Blyleven in 1984. Wonder if Skip will write or say anything about Fausto tomorrow?

But if the Indians did make a deal with he devil, it has been with closer Joe Borowski.

Borowski is an oddity of greatness and mediocrity. For much of the season, he has been flirting with disaster, only to record a remarkable 43 saves.

We've heard all year that a closer is a final result position. But it's difficult to ignore that Borowski came into Wednesday's double header with a 5.17 earned run average.

Borowski failed to save a game Wednesday, his second blown save in as many nights. He has eight this season, but this is the first time I remember him failing to convert on consecutive opportunities.

Games now aren't meaningless, but they're close to meaningless. Still, if Borowski blows another save this week, it has to be a cause for concern. Everything has been set up fairly nicely up to this point in regard to the bullpen.

But what if Borowski struggles? Does Eric Wedge (slow to make most changes) entrust the closer's role to Rafael Betancourt? And what does that do to the setup roles?

More likely, saving games will fall to Borowski, as it has all season. For better or worse.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Oh, right, Indians
As a season-long skeptic of this particular version of the Indians, it's been strange to see them do what great teams do: Get hot at the right time and coast into the playoffs.

The Indians sure seemed inconsistent to me until August, but the fact is they were better than I thought. Yet even at its worst, this team was dangerous, or rather, would be dangerous, in the postseason.

And here's the scary part.

I loved the 1995 Indians; was practically obsessed with the 1997 version, and was crazy about all the teams up until 2001.

It took me a really long time to warm up to this organization. Up until the Tigers' series last week, I was convinced the team would find a way to choke, like it did in 2005.

But Eric Wedge did a great job this year. He stuck with Casey Blake, took Trot Nixon out, and gave time to Rafael Perez and Jensen Lewis.

He finally ditched the dead weight named Mike Rouse, and brought in the much better Chris Gomez.

Wedge (and GM Mark Shapiro) also didn't simply accept that the "team is fine the way it is." The Indians brought in Kenny Lofton and demoted Cliff Lee when he didn't get results.

Here's the scary part: Part 2.

This team is better equipped for the playoffs than any of the Tribe's squads of the last decade.

C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona (who did not implode in the second half like ESPN expert/pompous ass Skip Bayless predicted)are legit Cy Young candidates, and the bullpen is strong. The only chink in the armour of the pitching staff is closer Joe Borowski, who has more than 40 saves.

Put it this way: This version of the Indians has the best chance -- on paper, to win the World Series.

Which means ... nothing. The Indians could just as easily go into a patented cold streak, and the season could be over four days after it begins.

But those concerns are for later. Go Indians.


The Andy Barch NFL Interview
One of this blog's NFL experts, Andy Barch, and I talked some football Tuesday night. ESPN has guys like Stephen A. Smith. Vitamin Z has Andy Barch. I'll take what we have, and not just because Stephen A. Smith is a synonym for annoying.

Zach: Which team is the most disappointing so far?

AB: It's a toss up in the AFC between the Bengals and the Chargers. How in the world San Diego is 1-2 after three games I really don't know. Their offense is atrocious and their defense has been average at best, so much for being the best team on paper. We all knew Cincy was bad on defense, but I had no idea they were this bad. How do you beat Baltimore on MNF, then lose to the Browns and Seahawks??? Thats really bad. They cant get their running game going at all.

AB:In the NFC, hands down its the Saints. The Bears to me aren't disappointing, as I mentioned on my blog (NFL Preview edition) I picked them to finish third, as long as Grossman is their QB, I'll never take them seriously. The Saints have been a trainwreck on offense. They've got the same problems as the Bengals, we knew the defense was bad, but I had no idea it was this bad.

Zach: Is Green Bay for real?

AB: Their defense is for real, their offense I still worry about. Their d-line is so incredibly deep, their linebackers are athletic, fast and have a nose for the football and that secondary is full of ballhawks who have benefited from a nice pass rush.

On offense, they need to get that running game going or teams just wont respect it, and Favre's INT's will go up. That, and Greg Jennings has to stay healthy; he's the only guy on that offense who is a vertical threat that can stretch a defense.

Zach: What is going on with Larry Johnson and Ladanian Tomlinson?

AB: Larry Johnson's offensive line is terrible. When you lose two pro bowl linemen in consecutive years (Will Shields and Willie Roaf), there will be a significant drop off in the entire unit's production. That, and nobody respects their passing game.

Zach: Nor should they. They have to long for the consistency of Trent Green

AB: LT has been a victim of Phillip Rivers. I was never high on Rivers, even after his terrific combine workouts before the draft. Did you know that his QB rating was way down in the second half last season? Teams eventually figured him out, and it seems as though they've figured him out this season. LT is still a great player, and he always starts out slowly, I think he'll emerge ... not to mention their schedule hasnt been to kind, Chicago, good run defense, Green Bay, good run defense and of course New England.

Zach: After watching the Raiders, I can't help but think they have improved more than anyone wants to admit.Am I wrong?

AB: They have been competitive this year, I still don't see many signs of improvement in their passing game. They need to stick with a QB, playing musical QB's isnt good for the chemistry of the club. Their running game has looked a little better (or at least it did last week). Their defense as a bit overrated going into the season. I think they have improved a bit. But having said that, they couldn't have gotten any worse than they were a year ago.

Zach: OK, last one. Browns ... any hope?

AB: None whatsoever, new year, same story. They still have the worst luck in the league. What will really sting this year, is that they'll only win 5 or 6 games, and will not have anything to get excited about in the first round of next year's draft. You know how I feel on Brady Quinn, I really don't think he's going to provide the spark that people think he will. If I'm wrong there, then maybe there's hope, but I just don't see it. Teams are also stampeding through that paper thin run-defense, which is SCARY. They are a lot worse than I thought up there. If you can't stop the run, then you have no hope.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Raiders 26, Browns 24
It came down to a kick.

Yes, the Browns' defense was atrocious (for the third week in a row), Derek Anderson threw a pair of interceptions, receivers dropped passes and the team was called for six first quarter penalties.

No pass rush. No way to stop Lamont Jordan. Way too many mistakes.

And it all came down to a kick.

Phil Dawson's 40-yard field goal was blocked as time expired. He had made the same kick seconds earlier, but Oakland coach Lane Kiffin called a timeout just before that one was kicked.

Dawson's second kick never had a chance. It wasn't all his fault. The kick appeared low, but Oakland got a tremendous push on the Browns' line.

Yes, the Browns didn't play well. But if Dawson makes the kick, as he has done so many times before, we're all happy.

If that kick goes through, the Browns have won two straight. Anderson has a fourth-quarter comeback and the Browns will leave week 5's sure loss against New England with no worse than a 2-3 record.

But the kick was blocked, and so the whole discussion changes. People will complain about the coaching. But it wasn't coaching today. It was execution. The Browns executed very well for the last four minutes. The last play of the game was much like the first 56 minutes -- poor execution.

- Josh Cribbs is the best returner in the NFL. Period.

- If CBS analyst Steve Beurlein might be the worst NFL commentator I have ever heard. He just repeats the same phrases over and over again. After a while, the audience should be able to pick up that some player is doing a "great job" or that a quarterback would like to "have that one back."

- I know unloading on an announcer is cheap, but Cleveland fans have had to listen to this guy for two straight games.

- Third and 21 should never be converted. Some Browns players need to learn how to tackle.

- In the interest of ending on a positive note, how many Browns' offenses since 1999 would have been able to drive from their own 9 to an opponents 23 in less than a minute with no timeouts? This offense is developing, but it's not good enough to survive two turnovers and a pathetic defensive showing.


The Panel: Week 3
Aaron Rund: Eagles over Lions
Andy Barch: Patriots over Bills
Phil Prusa: Patriots over Bills
Nihar Vasavada: Patriots over Bills
Curtis A.: Steelers over 49ers
Zach: Patriots over Bills


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Phil's NFL Picks
Chargers (1-1) @ Packers (2-0)
San Diego's offense has been practically non-existent the first two games this season.
Zach's thought: At some point, the Chargers have to turn it on, don't they? SD.

Vikings (1-1) @ Chiefs (0-2)
Fast Fact: The Chiefs are averaging 6.5 points per game on offense
Zach's thought: Fast fact: The Chiefs blow. But even they will win at least once. KC.

Bills (0-2) @ Patriots (2-0)
Is it too early to give the AFC East title to New England?
Zach's thought: Easiest game on the schedule to pick. NE.

Dolphins (0-2) @ Jets (0-2)
Jets are better than the 0-2 record. Miami is not.
Zach's thought: The Jets should have won last week. They will win this week. NYJ

Lions (2-0) @ Eagles (0-2)
Major test for Detroit to win in a hostile Philadelphia environment. Eagles need the win more.
Zach's thought: The Lions could be a playoff team; the Eagles should be a playoff team. Philly.

49ers (2-0) @ Steelers (2-0)
The loss of Manny Lawson for the season is a big blow to San Francisco's defense.
Zach's thought: Everyone is so busy blabbing about New England, Dallas and Indianapolis that they are overlooking one of the best teams in the league. Hint: It's not S.F. Pittsburgh.

Rams (0-2) @ Buccaneers (1-1)
After losing two fumbles last week, Steven Jackson may want to invest in some stickum
Zach's thought: Remember when we used to flip a coin? Maybe I should bring that back. TB.

Cardinals (1-1) @ Ravens (1-1)
Upset Special: Who starts at QB for Baltimore this week is still unknown due to Steve McNair's injury.
Zach's thought: I'm still not sold on the Cards. BAL.

Colts (2-0) @ Texans (2-0)
Houston is 2-0 for the first time in franchise history. Indianapolis is 2-0 for the first time since last year.
Zach's thought: The Texans are the 2001 Browns in disguise. Indy.

Jaguars (1-1) @ Broncos (2-0)
How long can Denver rely on last second field goals to win games?
Zach's thought: How long can they rely on BS timeouts? Broncos.

Browns (1-1) @ Raiders (0-2)
Will the real Cleveland offense please stand up?
Zach's thought: I imagine we'll know less about the Browns after this game. Raiders.

Bengals (1-1) @ Seahawks (1-1)
At this rate, Cincinnati's defense projects to surrender 568 points for the season.
Zach's thought: My upset of the week. Cincy.

Panthers (1-1) @ Falcons (0-2)
Signing Byron Leftwich is the beginning of the end of Joey Harrington's run as the starting QB in Atlanta.
Zach's thought: Wait, there was a beginning? Panthers.

Giants (0-2) @ Redskins (2-0)
Washington QB Jason Campbell could have a big game against a weak New York defense.
Zach's thought: The Giants are the Bengals East. Redskins

Cowboys (2-0) @ Bears (1-1)
This is the first real defense Dallas has had to face this season.
Zach's thought: One of these days, Dallas won't be shoved down our throat on national TV every other week. Bears.

Titans (1-1) @ Saints (0-2)
New Orleans has looked awful the first two games of the season.
Zach's thought: Remember when MNF was the high point of football? Saints.


Last Week: 7-9
Overall: 18-14


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Eating Crow
Everyone who reads this blog knows my feelings on Indians third baseman Casey Blake.

At various times, I have referred to Blake as overrated, overappreciated, a manager's favorite and a bad defensive player.

But mostly, my argument about Blake was his inability to come through in the clutch. Throughout his career, Blake's runners in scoring position average has often been among the worst in the league.

Last week, I was writing about how Blake's lack of power in the second half was reducing him to below average. Going into Friday's game with Kansas City, Blake had not homered in more than a month and had just one since the All Star break.

But Blake's performance over the last week has left me with no leg to stand on. He has hit game-ending homers twice in the last week, helping the Indians inch closer to their first division title since 2001.

So, Blake came through in the clutch, at the most important part of the season. So for the rest of the regular season, I'm done bashing him. He's done his part.

Should the Indians reach the playoffs, it's another story.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Browns 51, Bengals 45
When we all sat down to watch this game, we had no idea we would get this.

That lede could have been used after last week's loss. But this week, the Browns shocked us -- and in a good way. During the past week, I talked to a number of Browns fans, some of whom are optimistic by nature.

But not one of them told me they expected the Browns to win -- let alone put up 51 points against the Bengals.

For my part, I tried to preach patience. But I couldn't envision a scenerio where the Browns would win. They might keep it close into the fourth quarter, but that was it.

No one's ready to call Derek Anderson a long term starter. But for one day, he looked like one. He made a few bad passes, and was intercepted on the first play of the second half.

But he was more effective than he has ever been in his life. The numbers are amazing. He threw for 328 yards. He threw five touchdowns. He didn't get sacked.

Anderson played very well, but the Browns would have lost if Jamal Lewis doesn't provide a Lewis-vs.-Browns defense type day.

He got the ball 27 times, and ran for more than 200 yards. The offensive line pushed effectively for the first time since 2002, and Lewis rewarded their effort.

Now go back and read that paragraph.

Nihar Vasavada (who somehow survived the picks this week thanks to a late Denver timeout) asked me if I'm concerned about the defense.

Of course.

But this is what the Bengals do. They force you into shootouts with a high octane offense and hope to wear you out.

It was strikingly similar to Butch Davis' last game as Browns coach -- a 58-48 Bengals win in Cincinnati. The Browns survived this game because they turned the ball over once, and Carson Palmer was picked twice. The Bengals also lost a fumble.

Romeo Crennel has his first win over the Bengals. Here's one thing that can be said for Crennel: His teams always show up when it appears they are destructing.

-In 2005, Phil Savage was rumored to be fired after one season as general manager. No one knew who was leading the Browns, and for how long. The Browns responded by winning their last game of the season, a tight victory over the Ravens.

- Last season, the Browns lost a game in the final seconds at home against Pittsburgh, then were blown out by Cincinnati. A frustrated Braylon Edwards and Charlie Frye appeared to almost get into a fight on the sidelines. Phil Savage said Crennel's job was safe, but most were skeptical. Cleveland responded by rallying to beat the Chiefs in overtime.

- Then, this past week. A radio personality referred to Crennel as "Head Coach Walking." The Browns traded their week one starting quarterback to Seattle. Fans and media speculated the organization was a mess. The Browns responded by beating the Bengals for the first time since 2004.

Now another test. Oakland has been surprisingly competitive in its first two games. The Browns haven't won consecutive games in Crennel's tenure. Next week would be a good time to change that.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Panel: Week II
Aaron Rund: Ravens over Jets
Andy Barch: Cowboys over Dolphins
Joel Hammond: Bengals over Browns
Nihar Vasavada: Broncos over Raiders
Phil Prusa: Bears over Chiefs
Curtis A.: Ravens over Jets.
Zach: Steelers over Bills


Phil's NFL picks, Week 2
Bengals (1-0) @ Browns (0-1)
With Charlie Frye traded, is the Brady Quinn era closing in?
Zach: So which comes first. The Quinn Era or a Browns win? Bengals

Colts (1-0) @ Titans (1-0)
Before calling this a gimmie for Indianapolis, remember the Colts swept the Titans last year by a total of 4 points.
Zach:The Colts are going to be difficult to pick against this season. Colts.

49ers (1-0) @ Rams (1-0)
Orlando Pace out for the year is a horrible break for St Louis.
Zach: Not as bad as the break for people who have to watch this game. St. Louis.

Packers (1-0) @ Giants (0-1)
There are serious question marks regarding Eli Manning's shoulder.
Zach: I have no reason to believe either of thses teams are any good. Giants.

Bills (0-1) @ Steelers (1-0)
Was Pittsburgh as good as their 34-7 win over the Browns, or is Cleveland really that bad?
Zach: Ben Roethlisberger is not great, but he's not bad. And he has the pieces around him to be successful.

Saints (0-1) @ Buccaneers (0-1)
Been a long week for New Orleans to think about that egg they laid on the NFL opener.
Zach:Could this be the year Jon Gruden gets fired?

Texans (1-0) @ Panthers (1-0)
If that defense is for real, Carolina may threaten in the NFC South this year.
Zach:It's probably not, but they're still better than the Texans.

Falcons (0-1) @ Jaguars (0-1)
No Michael Vick to watch, no Bryon Leftwich to watch, no point to watch the game.
Zach: This game is like voting for an Ohio congressman, and the two choices are Dennis Kucinich and Dennis Kucinich. Jags.

Vikings (1-0) @ Lions (1-0)
Upset Special: Calvin Johnson vs Adrian Peterson figures to be a fun rookie match up.
Zach: Imagine what will happen if Detroit wins, and manages to full everyone into thinking it is halfway decent. Vikings.

Cowboys (1-0) @ Dolphins (0-1)
Dallas should have few issues manhandling Miami's pathetic offense.
Zach:For some reason I took the Dolphins over at . Better be consistent. Dolphins.

Seahawks (1-0) @ Cardinals (0-1)
Arizona better hope last week's pitiful passing offense was an aberration to the rest of the season.
Zach: Seattle's not that great, but Arizona has reached Browns-like futility.

Chiefs (0-1) @ Bears (0-1)
For the fourth straight year, Mike Brown will be unable to finish a season due to injury.
Zach: But he somehow coached the Cavs to the NBA Finals. Bears.

Raiders (0-1) @ Broncos (1-0)
The JaMarcus Russell signing came so late that it's hard to see him making any meaningful contribution to Oakland in 2007.
Zach: The Raiders are bloody awful. Broncos.

Jets (0-1) @ Ravens (0-1)
Bizarre stat of Week 1: Baltimore commits 6 turnovers, yet only lose by 7 points.
Zach: No one seems to have any faith in the Jets. Least of all me. Ravens.

Chargers (1-0) @ Patriots (1-0)
Coach takes HGH for a medical condition and gets a five game suspension. Other coach cheats, going against a direct order not to videotape opponents and gets no suspension. I'm getting dizzy.
Zach: Game of the week. Patriots.

Redskins (1-0) @ Eagles (0-1)
Must win is a tad extreme, but can Philly really afford an 0-2 start?
Zach: Seriously. This is the Monday Night Game? Eagles.

Zach: Uh, I think I went 14-2 in one of the polls I was in. But I was 11-5 here.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Message for Cleveland sports fans
To Indians fans: The season's not over yet. There are 16 games left and the Indians are up in the AL Central by 5 1/2. Do the math. It's not over.

To Browns fans: The season's not over yet. The game against Pittsburgh seems to have sapped any optimism from the media. But we're Browns fans; we've been here before. To be a Browns fan is to be optimistic. If we weren't we'd have stopped watching years ago. There's no reason to cash in the season after one week.

To Buckeyes fans: Stop stressing because your team only scored 20 against Akron. You should know by now that Jim Tressel's teams don't blow opponents out, but they do usually beat them.

To Cavs fans: Enjoy the offseason, because the exhibition season goes until April.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Panel: Eliminators
Who's In

Aaron Rund (Can't use Seattle)
Andy Barch (Can't use Washington)
Nihar Vasavada (Can't use Seattle)
Joel Hammond (Can't use Detroit)
Phil Prusa (Can't use San Diego)
Curtis A. (Can't use Detroit)
Zach: (Can't use Seattle)

Who's out
Vivek Vasavada: Picked the Browns last week. Only he can say why.


Indians Playoff Run
Indians Magic Number to Clinch AL Central: 11
Wednesday's Results: White Sox 7, Indians 4; Tigers 5, Blue Jays 1

Notes: I have been extremely skeptical of the Indians this season, but they keep winning, and with every passing day it looks less and less like there will be a nail-biting conclusion.

The Tigers picked up a game Wednesday, but they seem resigned to the Wild Card race (even their own website used a headline about "keeping pace" with the Yankees.

So even after the Indians loss today, there's not too much cause for concern. Asdrubal Cabrera looks more and more like a star every day, the pitching has been solid, and the offense is showing signs of life.

Still, the division has not been clinched. So why Eric Wedge rested Travis Hafner (who's a DH. What does he need aa day off for?) and Jhonny Peralta is anyone's guess.

But really, that's nitpicking. The Indians went 7-3 on a diffucult road trip. Can't complain. Too much.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Never forget.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Steelers 34, Browns 7
This was just awful, made worse by the optimism which seemed to engulf the region over the past few days.

The Steelers, as they usually do, kicked the Browns all over the field. And again, they were laughing by the end.

This may have been Charlie Frye's final NFL start. Frye looked overmatched physically and mentally by Pittsburgh. He was pulled some 23 minutes into the first game of the season, a feat not even Ty Detmer can claim.

And yet, it seemed like coach Romeo Crennel waited forever to pull the plug on Frye, a signal of just how bad the Willard product was.

I give Crennel credit for not going with Brady Quinn in the first game, and I think there is some value in holding off on the rookie.

But after the Browns are demolished next week -- which they will be -- I'd think seriously about going with Quinn against Oakland.

Yes, the team owes things to its future, and things to Quinn himself. But it also owes things to the other 52 guys on the roster. The Browns owe it to their receivers, and to the fans to put their best quarterback out there.

I don't want to rush Quinn; I don't want another Tim Couch situation. But Romeo Crennel's job is to win. And I've lost all confidence in Frye's ability to do it.

- Did anyone else see Kellen Winslow talking to Lawrence Vickers after the the back's touchdown catch? Vickers was dancing, and Winslow seemed to tell him to cool it.

At least that was my first thought. After watching the replay, I (and everyone else I was watching the game with) concluded Winslow may have been scolding Vickers for stepping in front of a pass that was likely intended for the tight end. Personally, I'm in no mood to criticize Winslow for anything, since his play was the only thing that could even qualify as a bright spot Sunday.

- I really think Hines Ward should be fined for his cheap shot on Daven Holly, which resulted in the latter's injury. I'm equally disappointed in CBS's Rich Gannon, who seemed to condone the meaningless hit, saying Ward is a guy who plays "through the whistle."

I just hope the Browns remember that play. I also hope that by the time the teams meet again this season, the Browns will be in a better position to respond.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Phil's NFL Picks: Week 1
Eagles @ Packers
Green Bay won their final four games of 2006, but can Brett Farve carry the load by himself?
Zach's Thought: Can the Packers overcome the age of Brett Favre? I take Philly.

Broncos @ Bills
This could be a make or break season for JP Losman.
Zach's thought: It's difficult to remember a time when the Bills weren't 6-10/7-9. I take Denver.

Chiefs @ Texans
The Matt Schaub era begins for Houston.
Zach's thought: And a miserable season begins for the Chiefs.

Steelers @ Browns
Fast Fact: Cleveland is 1-11 against AFC North teams in the past two years.
Zach's thought: Nice to see Josh Cribbs giving Pittsburgh more motivation. Steelers

Titans @ Jaguars
Most curious move of the 2007 preseason was Jacksonville cutting Bryon Leftwich after the final exhibition game.
Zach's thought: That and the Steelers challenging that interception tackle in that preseason game. Jags.

Falcons @ Vikings
Joey Harrington as the starting QB just doesn't give me that warm and fuzzy feeling toward Atlanta.
Zach's thought:Warm and fuzzy? I think that's the turf in the Metrodome. Vikings.

Patriots @ Jets
Tom Brady actually has NFL worthy receivers to throw to? Surely you jest!
Zach's thought: I'm tempted to say the Jets will have a disappointing season. Patriots

Panthers @ Rams
Are we far from the Jake Delhomme days coming to an end in Carolina?
Zach's thought: No. Rams

Dolphins @ Redskins
Good: Miami found a successor for Dan Marino. Bad: It is Trent Green and they signed him 10 years too late.
Zach's thought: Mediocre teams. Mediocre game. Dolphins.

Lions @ Raiders
At least Detroit got all of their draft picks signed, which is more than I can say for Oakland at the time of this writing.
Zach's thought: The 2007 Raiders make the 1999 Browns look organized. Lions.

Buccaneers @ Seahawks
Healthy again, Seattle needs to avoid the injury bug that plagued them last season.
Zach's thought: This is the most comfortable game for me to pick. Seahawks.

Bears @ Chargers
Rookie TE Greg Olson may not play due to an injury. That would be a big blow to Chicago's offense.
Zach's thought: The AFC beats the NFC every time.

Giants @ Cowboys
Can't wait to see how much Tiki Barber rips his old team.
Zach's thought: I can't wait to see Terrell Owens throw Wade Wilson under the bus. Cowboys.

Ravens @ Bengals
Mind upset as Cincinnati's offense exposes a old Ravens defense.
Zach's thought: I HATE the Bengals. Bengals.

Cardinals @ 49ers
"The Bears were who we THOUGHT they were!" Arizona on Monday night always equals fun.
Zach's Thought: Somebody has to win. 49ers.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Phil's NFL Picks
Indianapolis over New Orleans
Is this a preview of Super Bowl XLII?
Zach's thought: This may not be a very good game. I am taking Indianapolis.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Eliminators: Week One
Aaron Rund: Seattle over Tampa Bay
Andy Barch: Washington over Miami
Vivek Vasavada: Cleveland over Pittsburgh
Nihar Vasavada: Seattle over Tampa Bay
Joel Hammond: Detroit over Oakland
Phil Prusa: San Diego over Chicago
Curtis A.: Detroit over Oakland
Zach: Seattle over Tampa Bay


BG Football Week One: A win to build on

Going into this season, Bowling Green State University football fans had reason for skepticism.

Last season was a disappointment, with a loss to a winless Temple team and a near-loss to Buffalo. The Falcons finished 4-8, 3-5 in the Mid-American Conference. For those of us who went to the school during the short Urban Meyer tenure, and stuck around for the first two seasons of Gregg Brandon, last season was puzzling.

Was this the end of an era? Was Bowling Green back to being just an average mid-major, like it was during the final years of former coach Gary Blackney?

I don't know if Saturday's overtime win over Minnesota answered those questions. But the win did provide many of us with a sigh of relief - and plenty of jubilation.

Though it was far from the day's biggest upset (I heard something about Appalachian State?), it gave Falcon fans hope that this year could be a step forward, and not a step back.

BG's quarterback, a 19-year old sophomore named Tyler Sheehan, is a long way from deserving the praise once given to Josh Harris and Omar Jacobs. But for one game, Sheehan was fantastic.

He threw for 388 yards and two touchdowns against a Big Ten defense, in its opener. He completed a 9-yard TD pass in overtime to Marques Parks, then found Freddie Barnes for a game-winning 2-point conversion.

In some ways, the ending was similar to another game against a Big Ten team - Northwestern. That was during one of the last games of 2001, which convinced many BG fans something special was happening.

In that game, a BG touchdown with 59 seconds left in regulation brought the Falcons to within a point of the Wildcats. Meyer, in his first season as BG coach, opted to go for the win. A rush by Cole Magner secured the 43-42 win, and gave the team, the coach, and the program a major boost. By the next season, the Falcons were ranked in the top 25.

I'm not saying the same thing will happen in 2007, but Brandon (BG's offensive coordinator and assistant head coach in 2001) was willing to take a major risk, and it paid off. The Falcon players should have a ton of confidence - and they'll need it, with games against Michigan State and Boston College on the horizon, not to mention a typically tough Mid-American Conference schedule.

Some critics may point out that Minnesota was 6-7 last season, or that BG led 21-0 over the Gophers before rallying.

But a win over a Big Ten team is a win over a Big Ten team. It's a victory any mid-major should savor.

It's also one to build on.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

The Indians are how many games up?
Heading into tonight's game against the Twins, the Indians have a six game lead on the Tigers in the Central Division.

As person who has been skeptical of this team since day one, there is this sense of confusion I can't get rid of. It's gotten to the point where the Indians will have to really choke to lose this thing. I'm not saying it can't happen, or that part of me isn't expecting it to happen.

But I have to admit: This has been a strange year. The Cavaliers made the NBA Finals. The Browns actually have been making moves that are logical. So anything can happen. Except for the Browns making the playoffs, of course.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Tim Couch deserved better
Tim Couch was not supposed to be a savior for the Cleveland Browns’ franchise. Tim Couch was supposed to be the franchise.

For a football-starved city with outrageous expectations, the Kentucky quarterback was a symbol of resurrection for a team that had been gone for three years. Given all of that, maybe it’s not surprising that eight years later, he is seen as a bust. That’s got to be a hard thing for a player, particularly a No. 1 draft pick overall, to accept.

Couch had a chance (albeit a small one) at redemption earlier this summer, when he signed a contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. But he was cut just a few weeks after signing.

Couch hasn’t taken a snap in an NFL regular season game since 2003. But he found himself in the news Tuesday when it was reported that he used a training regimen that involved human growth hormone and anabolic steroids. Couch, for his part, has admitted to taking HGH – under doctor’s supervision – to recover from a shoulder surgery. In one day, fair or not, Couch went from a draft bust to a drug-using draft bust.

Couch’s legacy could be forever tarnished by this information, and his legacy wasn’t all that positive (on the field, anyway) to begin with. I’ll hold off on his off-the-field issue for the moment, because I’m not a steroid expert or a drug-law expert. All I know is that no matter what happens from this point on, Couch will be seen by many as not just a draft bust, but as someone who cheated in an ill-fated attempt to get back in the show.

I’ll choose to remember Couch as a player who tried hard to live up to ridiculous expectations, but never had the chance to because the players around him weren’t good enough.

Couch actually wanted to come to Cleveland. (Why do players want to go to expansion teams? Oh, right, money.) He got his wish. But I wonder now how much better Couch’s career could have been had he been drafted by the Eagles, Bears, or Saints. Those teams weren’t great at the time, but at least they had complete organizations in place. He might not have been a Hall of Famer; he might not have had the career Donavan McNabb has. But he certainly would have had a better chance than with the Browns.

In his first season, Couch got smacked around in his 14 starts, finally being forced out due to injuries in Week 15. The Browns went 2-12 in those starts.

In his four seasons as the Browns primary starter, he only had one healthy season – 2001. It was not a great season, but Couch did throw for more than 3,000 yards. In 2002, Couch started all but two regular season games, and went 8-6. It was the only season the Browns have went to the playoffs since coming back.

But Couch missed the team’s playoff appearance, and thus was on the sidelines when Kelly Holcomb – his backup – threw for 429 yards in a 36-33 loss to Pittsburgh. With that game, the Couch era in Cleveland was essentially over. Browns’ coach Butch Davis decided to go with Holcomb as the starter. Couch started a few games for the team after that, but didn’t do well enough to convince Davis to keep him.

Couch signed with the Packers, and some optimistic folks saw him as a possible successor to Bret Favre. Instead, he was released before taking a regular season snap.

I have heard some analysts say Couch wasn’t tough enough for the NFL. I don’t see how anyone could play behind that Browns offensive line in 1999 and not be tough. What I do know is Couch was in a miserable situation. Since Couch was drafted in 1999, the Browns have had four head coaches, eight losing seasons, and 10 starting quarterbacks. A lot was expected of Couch, and he didn’t deliver. After almost a decade of general incompetence from the Browns’ organization, it’s hard to see how he could have.You just hope people remember that before they criticize him, at least for his play on the field.

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