Breaking Down the Cleveland Browns 2012 Schedule:
Weeks 5 – 8:
Sunday, October 7 at New York Giants, 1 p.m. ET
Sunday, October 14 vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m. ET
Sunday, October 21 at Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m. ET
Sunday, October 28 vs. San Diego Chargers, 1 p.m. ET
Analysis: The Browns have karma on their side traveling to New Jersey to play the Giants in week five. In 2008 (Giants), 2009 (Steelers), and 2010 (Saints) the Browns defeated the reigning Super Bowl Champions (I left out the Packers in 2011 as it was preseason). I don’t know if whether the team gets fired up and has something to prove, or if the champs take Cleveland lightly, but it has become a perfect storm as of late. For that fact alone I can give the team a puncher’s chance against the Giants; actually winning the game is another story. I’m pretty certain if the rosters were placed side-by-side New York would have an overwhelming edge in many of the position groups. The offense will be challenged all day, especially up front, and could struggle mightily; the Browns must match their opponent’s physicality in order to stay competitive (I’m assuming this will be a running theme for 2012). In the upset in 2008, the secondary was able to intercept Eli Manning several times to escape with a win – the Browns will need a repeat performance to get the victory.
The rematch against the Bengals will pit two teams whose personalities will have likely changed since the previous meeting. Both young rosters include rookies who will then have a few games under their belt; depending on position, the coaching staff may give these athletes more freedom to display what they are made of. My hope is that the younger players on the Browns progress well, while the veterans continue to play at a solid level. This is another very winnable game, as I believe Cleveland’s new playmakers can give them an better opportunity to score almost anywhere on the field (it would be hard to argue that this was the case in 2011). To believe in a Browns victory here may not be all that crazy when it’s all said and done.
The first victory of the 2011 season for the Cleveland Browns was a triumph in Indianapolis; this year the rematch will occur in week seven. However, the Colts will now have Andrew Luck at quarterback – among many new faces on the roster. The makeup of the perennial AFC South winners has changed dramatically – I envision it will take a few seasons for the Colts to get their act together and be a power once again. For the game in 2012, it will be imperative for the defense of the Browns to disrupt the timing of Luck as he continues to get accustomed to the professional game. Like a majority of NFL contests this one can easily go either way; I feel the Browns actually have more talent overall and in a majority of units (which is not the norm). Taking advantage of this incidence will allow a mistake here or there and still earn a victory; too many though and an upset win could ensue for the home team. I would not be surprised to see a more conservative approach for the Browns’ offensive play calling (at least earlier on) and have the game dictate where they go from there.
Another team the Browns have struggled against, as of late, has been the San Diego Chargers. Historically, Cleveland will have one thing on their side that may help spring a victory for the team. The past few NFL seasons has included several games with teams who play primarily in the Pacific Time zone traveling to the Eastern Time zone for the early set of contests. Many dismiss this argument, but having these players’ bodies feel like 10 AM (instead of 1 PM) has proven to be more of an issue than you would expect; (from coldhardfootballfacts.com) Pacific time zone teams have had a .381 winning percentage on the road in the past five seasons. This is much lower than Eastern and Central time zone teams – who had .446 and .439 winning percentages in the same span respectively. Coupling this with the inconsistency of Chargers on a week-by-week basis (and the perceived uncertain status of head coach Norv Turner), and a loss is not guaranteed for the Browns here. Having said that, the game still has to be played and the Chargers will still be likely favored to win; at worst case scenario I expect the Browns to keep it close.