The Final Game of the 2015 Season – Browns vs. Steelers
It’s finally here; after many months of bad football the Browns will finally end the campaign at home against the black and yellow. I have (painfully) witnessed fifteen contests for this franchise over the past few months, so I will fight though one more. Can they win? Sure. Will they compete and actually come out ahead of a playoff-hopeful team? We will discuss below.
Quarterback – Since the last time Johnny Manziel faced the Steelers, the quarterback has had some highs and lows (both on and off the field) – but more importantly he has gained vital experience. He reverted more to running last game, but I anticipate he will stick primarily in the pocket and tossing passes to his targets. He will find the end zone in this game, and I do not see a bad interception like his past two contests.
Running Back – Both backs have continued to improve this season; why can’t this continue against the black and yellow? Isaiah Crowell will not get more than seventy-yards on the ground, but should be able to get into the end zone. I would like to think that Duke Johnson could both help in the passing game (as a receiver) as well as providing a decoy on designed runs for Manziel. Hopefully the rookie can do his job exceptionally this week.
Wide Receiver – Once again, I do not foresee a tremendous amount of output from Travis Benjamin, Taylor Gabriel, and company, as that appears to be the norm since Brian Hartline’s injury. The wide outs should be able to haul in passes and move the chains – but that’s all one should anticipate. A score would be icing on the cake in this matchup, but don’t hold your breath.
Tight End – Gary Barnidge continues to display an ability to be a reliable weapon for this offense. However staying on nine touchdowns should give him (and the team as a whole) a desire to break the franchise’s single season record for touchdowns caught by a tight end. I would be disappointed if he was unable to score a touchdown, but the defense he will face is a stingy one. Perhaps Jim Dray can possibly get involved and help this offense as well.
Offensive Line – The guys upfront continue to look respectable, despite looking lost early and succumbing to injuries late. Even Cam Erving was not terrible last game – I would like to believe he is working through rookie issues but this game will be a tremendous test for the guard. Will this be Alex Mack’s final game as a Cleveland Brown? This would not surprise me, and I hope he goes out a winner and does a fine job during this contest.
Defensive Line – Can the Browns make it two games in a row, in terms of limiting opposing running backs from rushing for a great deal of yards? The way things are going; the odds are against this from happening. Danny Shelton is making a play or two but still is not consistent enough to be a force in the middle of the defensive line. Perhaps Desmond Bryant can fill gaps on the edge and meet DeAngelo Williams in the hole – prompting to shorter running plays.
Linebacker – As usual both Chris Kirksey and Karlos Dansby will be able to provide their services in run support, however struggle in pass coverage. On the outside, I have no idea what to expect from any of the guys. Paul Kruger can still rush the quarterback well, but he is asked to do that only a portion of the time. Rookie Nate Orchard is coming along; maybe he can be the wildcard if the Browns want to score the upset. Getting sacks and securing turnovers would be a reason why the team can earn this victory.
Secondary – Hopefully K’Waun Williams and Charles Gaines can take their next step improving as professional cornerbacks. They (along with Tramon Williams) had their issues at Heinz Field, but were able to keep up with receivers over the past few games. I really hope both can keep it up, as the opposition will try its hardest to embarrass the secondary. I would be all for Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner being active in this matchup and making an impact – but do not envision this occurring yet again.
Special Teams: I look for fakes on punts; onsides kicks, and changes to blocking in the field goal unit for the Browns this week. This could actually be a part of the game that the Browns can win in – however they must be smart when punting to Antonio Brown. A winning kick would be a great way to end the season, but many other positives must occur first.
Coaching: I hope John DeFilippo continues to call plays they way he has been the last few games. The offense has not been clicking on all cylinders, but they have been executing more as of late (especially via the running game). Defensively, the Browns pitched a shut out in the second half last week. Whatever Jim O’Neil did needs to be replicated for all four quarters in this game.
Prediction (My Record: 10 – 5): The Browns keep this contest close in the first half, but the Steelers blow it wide open in the third quarter. That leads to a defeat of 30 – 14 and the end to this bad year of Cleveland Browns football.