This weekend was a horrific mess of circumstances here in my little slice of Cleveland away from home. We had playdates and birthday parties and sleepovers and horses and dinner dates to contend with. When you toss in the biggest East Coast parade not located in New York City or Orlando, you have one massive conundrum of hoopla, sleep, running around, crying and did I mention sleep?
Okay..sleep deprivation is more like it.
As crazy as things were here in my own version of the North Coast Carolina, they were relatively silent back in Cleveland with regards to the Browns, the Indians and the Cavaliers.
Unless you throw in the fact that it’s Pittsburgh Steelers week, or the fact that the Indians made their first move of the offseason, or that the Cavs are in a spiral of struggle after getting rolled by San Antonio on Sunday night.
Yeah, it can only mean that it’s the holiday season, and with Thanksgiving and Michigan Week about to take over here, let’s get driving, before I fall asleep from the Turkey.
It’s Steelers’ week, and while that has generally meant a lot more to the Browns in recent years than the Steelers, it’s still the Browns’ top rival. I’ve been to many, many games at Cleveland Stadium involving these two teams, and I’ve seen some of the most amusing exchanges between fans. My favorite memory is of a ‘Terrible Towel’ waving fan sitting in front of me during halftime of a 1984 game between the two teams. The Steelers were up 7-0 at that point, and he was taking particular glee in waving the towel as though the Steelers had won the Super Bowl that very afternoon. Several minutes later, he was literally carried off by a contingent of pre-Dawg Pound Browns’ fans. He never returned. The Browns went on to win 20-10.
Both teams enter the game at 4-6, and have a lot at stake today. The Steelers enter the game having won four of their last six, and have regained a bit of footing after starting the year off at 0-4. This certainly isn’t the team that has been at the top of the AFC for the past decade, but they are playing much better football of late.
The Browns should still win this game, because I firmly believe they should be the better football team.
Watch out for Josh Gordon today. I’m not sure that there has ever been a more overrated cornerback in the history of the NFL than Ike Taylor. Taylor, the 33-year-old corner playing in his 11th seasons, was scorched by Calvin Johnson last week. He gave up 179 yards on six catches. He dropped what looked to be two interceptions. He gave the Lions a first down on a pass interference call in the end zone, and just looked terrible.
But…Megatron was held without a catch in the second half…so there’s that.
What will Josh Gordon do today against the elder, overrated corner in the Steelers’ secondary? Gordon is faster than Taylor. Gordon is bigger than Taylor. No, Gordon isn’t Megatron, but I think when it’s all said and done, Gordon will be an elite receiver.
Will that start today?
It’s the key to the Browns’ chances at winning. If Gordon can continue to dominate the way he has this year, it could give the Browns an incredible advantage offensively. This Steelers’ defense is a shell of its former self, and Gordon is the guy that can really set the tone, if they have a chance to win.
Then there’s Troy Polamalu, the great equalizer. Like Ike Taylor, Polamalu is in his eleventh year. The 32-year old isn’t the same player he was when he won the Defensive Player of the Year award, as he did in 2010, but he’s still an above average player, especially when playing the Browns.
There’s really no way to gauge what he does, or what the Browns can do to contain him. Jason Campbell‘s penchant for checking off receivers is the type of thing that Polamalu feeds off of, and if Campbell fails to track the Steelers’ safety today, it could cost him the game.
The Steelers defense won’t have to focus on the run all that much, so Polamalu becomes the key to the Steelers’ defense…as he always has been.
It should also be interesting to see what Jordan Cameron does against Polamalu today. Another key match-up to watch.
I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but the Browns really need to consider using Chris Ogbonnaya a bunch today. The Steelers D has given up the 24th most yards overall this year, and are 26th in the league, giving up 125 yards a game.
Like I said, this isn’t a typical Steelers’ defense.
The Browns need to utilize Ogbonnaya in a way that can keep the Steelers’ pass defense on edge a bit. If they do that, then Campbell can free up to do enough damage to win this game. Who knows, maybe Ogbonnaya can continue his progression this year as well.
What bodes well for the Browns? No AFC North team has won a divisional game on the road this season. The Browns have already beaten Cincinnati and Baltimore at home, and should be favored to beat the Steelers, even though the Steelers have won four of six, and the Browns have lost four of five.
What doesn’t bode well for the Browns? They have never beaten the Ravens and the Steelers in the same season, and the Steelers are 23-5 against the Browns since the Browns 1999 return. Tim Couch has three of those wins.
It hasn’t been pretty.
But, this is a different pair of teams, and a different set of circumstances. The Browns have a legitimate chance to win this game, and if they had a rushing game to speak of, I’d say it was a lock. The fact that they don’t tilts the game to a slobberknocker, and it should be a fun game to watch.
I’ve never been a fan of Ben Roethlisberger, and much of that has nothing to do with the fact that he’s the Steelers’ quarterback. With that said, he’s the type of quarterback that can make a team scream in frustration. There’s nothing about his game that screams superstar, but he’s insanely elusive in the pocket, and can make things happen out of nothing.
He’s 15-1 against the Browns, and will be the Steelers biggest weapon.
With that said, the Browns have to unleash the hounds. If they can get to Roethlisberger, the Browns could dominate this game. The Steelers line is still bad, and while Roeth has played better in recent weeks, the Steeler-like pressure could turn the tide in this game.
As far as the Steelers’ defense vs. the Browns’ defense, I honestly believe the Browns’ D is better in every facet of the game, if you go piece-by-piece. The Browns line is much better, especially with the Steelers’ Brett Keisel out, or at least injured. The Browns linebackers are much better, especially with Lamarr Woodley out, or at least injured. The Browns secondary is far superior over the Steelers, thanks to Haden’s pro bowl-likely season. Of course, Skrine is playing nearly as well, and T.J. Ward, who looks at Troy Polamalu as his model corner, is having the season of his life.
The Steelers offense, to be honest, past the quarterback, is nothing to shout about either. The rushing offenses are at least equal, and by that, I mean equally bad. The passing offenses likely balance out, with Roethlisberger superior to Jason Campbell, and the Browns’ receivers being at least equal to the Steelers, if not slightly better.
What is the ultimate key?
For the Steelers, it’s Ben Roethlisberger on offense, and Troy Polamalu on defense. Where that may have been true in the past as well, these two players have nothing else to depend on, when they used to have others. If Roethlisberger can make plays after the initial calls break down, and if Troy Polamalu can be a one-man wrecking crew, the Browns are in trouble
For the Browns, it will be both the offensive and defensive lines. If Jason Campbell has time, and if the front seven of the Browns can get after Roethlisberger, the Browns will win this game, and I think handily.
Let’s hope it’s a game worthy of a rivalry.
The Cavaliers are playing bad basketball now, and I’ll be interested to see how it all plays out by the season’s end. I keep saying to myself, “It’s early Jim…it’s early.” But there really are some major flaws right now with the Cavs, and that may be the understatement of the century.
Let’s start with the front office, and namely, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ general manager, Chris Grant. The biggest knocks on Chris Grant are that he’s made several questionable draft choices, combined with a roster that seems to have puzzle pieces from about 15 different puzzles.
The roster has the look of someone trying to put together a fantasy roster full of youth, upside and value. Of course, on a fantasy team, the players rarely play on the same team, and don’t have to learn how to play with each other.
Regarding the youth, of that, there is no doubt. I mentioned last week that the team was one of the youngest in the league, and that certainly plays a part in that. Anderson Varejao just isn’t the same player that he used to be, and that certainly plays a part in that as well. I could go on-and-on-and on with reasons why this team is struggling, but long before, you realize that this team truly is one that isn’t fitting very well together, or at the very least, has players that aren’t trying to fit together.
That’s the gasoline.
The match to that gasoline is Anthony Bennett, who has just been dreadful so far, other than garbage time on Saturday night against the Spurs.
Now, in fairness to Grant, Kyrie Irving was the right guy to pick in 2011. Who should he have taken with the fourth pick? I personally love Tristan Thompson, but there are legitimate concerns about his ceiling. That said, who else was there to take?
Jonas Valanciunas was the guy that most talked about, but he hasn’t been anything special, averaging nine points and six boards in a year of play with Toronto, who took him fifth. He didn’t join the Raptors until the year after the draft, because of contract disputes.
I could list other players, but Thompson is better than them all, and will likely be better than most of those guys as well.
Probably the one guy that stands out so far that would have been a solid get in that draft was Nikola Vucevic, from the Orlando Magic. Of course, he has only began performing this season, averaging less than six a game for the 76ers in 2011-2012.
So, Grant likely drafted the two best players in that draft in Irving and Thompson.
It just wasn’t a strong draft, unless you think the Cavs should have taken Kemba Walker as well, because, you know, you want two point guards, or two guards that are 6’2″ or less.
Perhaps Grant should have dealt the second pick for a future first rounder, or to drop in the draft, but you can’t fault him for the pieces he took in that season’s draft.
In 2012, Grant took Dion Waiters, and that’s where most folks start to point fingers.
I’ve talked in pods and in pieces about Waiters and his history with Syracuse, but that’s really been negligible up to this point. Obviously, in hindsight, perhaps Damian Lillard was a guy they should have looked at. Of course, he’s a 6’3″ point guard, and the Cavs needed a shooting guard. Now, you can argue about where Irving and Waiters should play, but the Lillard argument is more or less ridiculous. The Cavs didn’t need two point guards, and they aren’t moving Irving to two any time soon.
Maybe Harrison Barnes was a better fit. Maybe Andre Drummond was the better fit. At the end of the day though, was there really anyone better than Waiters that was a standout choice, not counting Lillard, who was clearly not a fit at the time.
Now, the Tyler Zeller pick is one that could prove to be the one that ultimately drives me mad, only because I was a big proponent of picking Jared Sullinger, or even Terrence Jones. There were some other guys there as well, but Zeller was a secondary choice at the end of the day.
Then, of course, there was the Anthony Bennett selection.
I don’t know what the Cavs will ultimately get from Bennett, but he certainly was a surprise. Of course, who should have been the #1 pick? I was a huge Victor Oladipo proponent for several reasons. Mike Brown was the new coach, and Oladipo was a defensive specialist at Indians, and had a massive amount of athleticism. I still like Porter and McLemore as well.
Of course, Oladipo is a guard, and so is McLemore. In Bennett, the Cavs got the forward that they needed.
But he’s been terrible.
But it’s early yet. Perhaps there’s some hope.
The real question here is whether or not Chris Grant could have done any different with the limitations that he had.
I’m not sure there is much more anyone could have done in his place. The drafts were just very, very limited.
So what about Mike Brown?
Mike Brown is a solid defensive coach. That’s pretty much fact. The Cavs are already showing a fair amount of improvement in that area as a team, although there are players that still are painful to watch.
Seriously, watch Kyrie play D against anyone that moves well with or without the ball. It looks like he’s getting pulled around by a string.
Here’s my point though.
Why can’t Mike Brown coach both offense and defense? Since when is a defensive specialist as an NBA head coach relegated to just that side of the ball.
Sure, Brown has spent 75% of practices working on the D. I get that.
But history has proven that he’s a shoddy offensive coach. That truly leads me to question him as a head coach. Yes, he has a head coaching personality. Yes, he produces solid defensive teams.
At the end of the day though, if he can’t produce an offense to match the D, should he be coach?
I don’t dislike Brown as a head coach, but what I’ve really struggled with since they re-signed him is the fear that the team would ultimately give up, as the Cavs did during the end of Brown’s tenure with the team.
I faulted LeBron with some of that, but after watching the Cavs just throw in the towel on more than one occasion this year, I’m starting to wonder.
The Cavs just bought into five years and 20 million dollars of Mike Brown though, so I don’t see him going anywhere.
That could put Grant into some trouble.
What about the players on this team? Are these players good enough to win a championship, or even make the playoffs?
I just don’t buy Kyrie Irving as a team leader. He’s a great hybrid guard, who I still think is more suited to the two, but he’s not the guy to lead this team. He’s just not that guy.
He’s more Iverson than anything else, as a player, and while he makes things happen, he doesn’t necessarily carry a team.
Tristan Thompson is more a leader than Kyrie, but again, it’s more of a “watch what I do” sorta leadership, as opposed to on the court fury. Then Thompson has games like he had last night, and it really makes you wonder how good he can really be. He looked lacks defensively, and was completely overmatched. Some of that was thanks to back-to-back games, but great players rarely disappear.
I would love to see Tristan and Kyrie be more physical players. They don’t do anything defensively to make the opposing players think twice. It’s horrid sometimes. Now Tristan, to be far, can body up and harass defenders, but it’s less physical and more athletic.
Andrew Bynum played in his first back-to-back games of the year, making me seem prophetic at this point. He’s clearly better than anyone has let on, and he scored 16 points and grabbed six boards in 21 minutes. He looked healthy.
But he really was about as ineffective as anyone could be defensively. In the beginning of the season, it’s all he could really do, and he did it with fervor. He clogged up the middle and forced other teams to shoot jumpers, or just stay out of the middle when he was in the game.
He seems to be lollygagging on defense, failing to protect the rim.
Of course, he scored 16 and 6, which is more than I may have thought he’d score all season.
If I’m Chris Grant, and I’m looking to make a deal right now for a player that could help, I’m calling the Philadelphia 76ers and asking about Evan Turner. For who, do you ask? Well, I don’t think I want to go there just yet, but Turner would be the small forward they’d need, unless you seriously think LeBron James is going to join this hot mess.
Joe Smith was a phenomenal reliever for the Indians. He just signed a three-year deal to pitch for the California Angels. Good for Joe Smith. I’m glad the Indians didn’t sign him to that length of a deal. I’m not saying that the Indians shouldn’t sign a reliever, but I’m never interested in a three-year deal for one.
They rarely pan out, especially for a guy like Smith who doesn’t have that elite arm.
The Indians will miss him, but he can be replaceable.
I’ve heard a lot of folks mention Jesse Crain, and I’m fine with that. Seriously, he’s an obvious choice, and not much of a stretch to scroll through a rankings of stats for free agent relievers and say, “Yeah, the Indians could go for Crain.”
Of course, there are health issues with the big righty, and at 32, that’s something that you really have to watch.
I can’t imagine that the Indians are going to give him anything buy a one-year deal, and at 32, I’m guessing he’s holding out for a two-year deal.
He’s going to come in at somewhere between four and five million a year. So, I ask you, would you spend eight-to-ten million over two years for a reliever?
If it’s a one-year deal, I’m all in, but in this market, I have to wonder.
Jon Heyman said that the Indians have been reported to be in the mix for Carlos Beltran. Am I the only one that finds this hilarious? He reported this on Friday, after the Indians had signed David Murphy to platoon in right with Ryan Raburn.
There are certainly other suitors that fit Beltran more than the Indians, but let’s, for the sake of it, say that the Indians are involved in talks to sign Beltran.
How would they do it?
He would need a position, and that would seemingly not be right field. Might the Indians trade Michael Brantley to make way for a guy like Beltran?
I doubt it, but they could. I’m not sure on the return you’d get for Brantley, and I would question dealing a 37-year old commanding $15 million a year for a 27-year old in his arbitration year.
There are other routes they could go, but a lot would have to happen to make him fit. The Indians seem to be focusing on pitching, and perhaps short and third.
I don’t see Beltran in their future.
In the Rearviewmirror:
Good ole Jhonny Peralta is heading to St. Louis. You have to love the irony. The Indians didn’t think he could play short, so they moved him to third to allow Asdrubal Cabrera, the better fielder, to take his place.
If you aren’t chuckling right now, you are certainly crying.
Now Peralta is moving to St. Louis to play short for a team that played in the World Series, and he would be considered an upgrade.
He was rumored to be heading to St. Louis last year, but now, is viewed as an inferior player to Peralta.
You have to love irony.
THE Ohio State Buckeyes have officially entered Michigan week. They are locked into the Big Ten playoff against Michigan St., and they are locked into the #3 spot in the BCS. We just need one team to falter.
- Oregon was whining about having to play in the Rose Bowl, and what a downer it would be. Well done whiners.