Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The (sort of) importance of Browns-Steelers
For the first time since 2002, a midseason game between the Browns and Steelers has meaning.

The Steelers are 6-2, and the Browns are 5-3.
Should the Browns beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh (for the first time since 2003), they will stand tied for first place in the AFC North.

Some people have suggested the Browns are a playoff contender. It's really nice to hear that, although I have trouble believing the Browns will win more than nine games with its swiss cheese defense.

Still, if the Browns want to have a shot at the postseason, a win over the Steelers is a must. Pittsburgh dismantled the Browns in week 1, so another win would mean that they would own the tiebreaker over the Browns, not to mention a two-game advantage in the standings.

But can the Browns really beat the Steelers this week? I'm not sure it matters what the defense does. We have seen it give up points, points and more points, and the Browns are still 5-3.

The question is whether Derek Anderson can do to the Steelers what he has done to just about every other defense he has played against. For that to happen, the offensive line needs to be the force it has been for the last seven games. If Anderson gets protection and avoids the interceptions, he should be able to keep the Browns on the board.

Do I think the Browns can beat the Steelers? No. But they keep surprising me. Last week's game against Seattle was vital because it gave the Browns a 5-3 record with divisional road games looming. It wasn't easy, but the Browns prevailed.

A win over the Steelers would legitimize the Browns as a contender in the North. But it would also put them in a good position to make a run at the playoffs. Only two wild card teams make it, so it's difficult to see the Browns edging teams like the Jaguars or Titans with a 9-7 record. By the same token, a loss to the Steelers all but kills any hope of winning the division.

It's pretty important game. It's nice to be talking like this again. But talk is meaningless. A win could change the whole attitude and perception of this Browns team.

A loss isn't a killer, but it would make it harder to be taken seriously.



At 7:01 AM , Anonymous Erik said...

Working against the Browns plyaoff chances:

All their losses are in the AFC so far, and conference record is one of the tiebreaks. As it stands right now, the Jaguars would edge out the Browns for the final playoff spot based on the conference record tiebreak.

Working in the Browns favor:

There are lots of winnable games remaining. The tougher part of their schedule is past, and the Steelers game is the only game remaining against a team that is decidedly better than them.

I'm trying to muster the courage to believe that the Browns can win this game, but the defense is going to have to play much better, or Ben Roethlisberger is going to drop five TD passes on them the way he did against the Ravens.

Knowing that the Browns possess a minimal chance of actually winning this game, I am just hoping that A) it's not a soul-crushing 40-point blowout and B) it's not a soul-crushing loss on the last play of the game.

A quasi-competitive 31-21 defeat, I can live with. Something similar to what happened against New England.


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