"The Sunday Five" is a loosely-titled piece where I talk about five NFL- or Browns-related topics related to this past week. You know how I said last week might be the final edition of this on Sunday during the regular season? Well...I lied. For the moment, I'll use this to touch briefly on the Browns' game, and also some of the other games taking place during that week.
The Bengals vs. Browns game will be the third football game I've attended in my life, and the first time I will have attended one on a Sunday (the other two were Monday Night Football games in 2008 and 2009). I've gotten so used to "decorating" my room, having my computer up with all my fantasy information and all the NFL box scores, the game on the television, and all the snacks you could ask for by my side. It already feels a bit weird knowing that this week, the first of the season no less, will see me deviate from my regular path. I am definitely a Browns fan all the way, but I'm also an NFL-fanatic in general -- I'm used to following every game by the minute, and typically hate just seeing what the final scores were and then learning the details later. I'll get over it though the second I see Peyton Hillis plow into the end zone against Cincinnati. Hopefully the rain holds off until after the game.
This is an important week for the Browns because it is a divisional opponent. This week, it's Cincinnati vs. Cleveland and Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore. The Browns' next division game is in Week 12, again against Cincinnati. For Cincinnati, their next division game is in Week 10 against Pittsburgh. The Steelers' next division game is Week 9 against the Ravens. Even though they play sooner than Cleveland, it won't be until the half-way point of the season until more division games are played. And, if the Browns lose against Cincinnati and keep ending up with a tied record with teams in the division, they'll have to wait until Week 12 just to have a chance at breaking that tie. Being division leaders can give a team more confidence, so it's important that Cleveland quickly try to dispel the trend of the Steelers and Ravens being the top "dawgs" in the division.
We joke about wanting the "meteor" to win in the Steelers vs. Ravens game, but that's another game I'd really like to see. They had some great battles last year, and the game should be a great defensive complement to the Thursday Night opener between the Saints and the Packers. I'm interested in seeing if Joe Flacco steps his game up after supposedly having a great group of receivers and a talented running back at his disposal a year ago. I can't help but think that Ben Roethlisberger will find a way to lead Pittsburgh to victory though, so I'm taking the Steelers right now.
When a play call doesn't work on offense, they always "called the wrong play" or "made a bad decision." It is in these situations that I think the defense is often overlooked. Granted, the Packers' defense didn't dominate the game on Thursday by any means, but where is the credit for them coming up with two big stops in the red zone? Personally, I would have preferred to see New Orleans pass the ball on the final play, but at the same time I think it is fine to show confidence in your running game. After all, a running game is what elevated the Packers to the Super Bowl a year ago; I don't think they would've gotten there had James Starks and company not provided a boost.
I'm particular interested in the Jaguars vs. Titans game this week because I'm unsure of how each team will do with new quarterbacks (Luke McCown vs. Matt Hasselbeck), and one of those teams could be in the hunt with the Texans for a division title. Of course, that assumes the Colts will fall without Peyton Manning, which isn't a given considering the Colts having the ability to step things up defensively whenever they need to. The Texans probably have the edge since they have Lawrence Vickers at fullback. /sarc. Derek Anderson will be the backup to Cameron Newton when the Panthers face the Cardinals, Anderson's former team. I can't help but feel that Anderson will get involved in the game. The Sunday Night game, which I'll definitely be home for, features the Ryan brothers doing battle again. This time, Rob Ryan is with the Cowboys instead of the Browns. It'll be interesting to see a few former Browns, such as Kenyon Coleman and Abram Elam, playing in a different uniform.