Good morning, Cleveland Browns fans, and welcome to gameday! Be sure to check out our game preview and prediction for the Browns' Week 14 matchup today against the New England Patriots. In this week's edition of "The Sunday Five," I talk about the Browns keeping extra blockers in to help Mitchell Schwartz, a couple of roster changes that were made this week, crazy playoff scenarios for Cleveland, and more.
Staying in to help: TEs with most pass-blocking snaps: 127 G.Barnidge CLE 98 B.Pettigrew DET 95 M.Hooma. NE 92 J.Gresham CIN 87 J.Thomas DEN— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) December 4, 2013
Staying in to help: RBs with most pass-blocking snaps: 119 C.Ogbannaya CLE 119 F.Gore SF 115 M.Forte CHI 103 L.Miller MIA 98 A.Peterson MIN— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) December 4, 2013
Wow -- that's incredible that we lead the league in pass-blocking snaps for both the tight end and running back positions. If we were looking for an indicator that the Browns are going to look to upgrade the right tackle or offensive guard position next year, this is it. Having to keep those extra guys in to block prevents some of the more creative playcalls that we could be making with our running backs in the receiving game, or with TE Gary Barnidge as a receiver. If you recall, Barnidge was supposed to be more of a receiver when we signed him, but we've been forced to keep him in as a blocker out of necessity.
The Browns made several roster moves this week, placing CB Chris Owens and LB Brandon Magee on injured reserve, and placing DE Desmond Bryant on the non-football injury list. Cleveland filled those roster spots with DB Julian Posey, QB Caleb Hanie, and WR Brian Tyms. Posey and Tyms were promoted from the practice squad, and the team also released LB Justin Staples from the practice squad. That meant there were three spots open on the practice squad, so Cleveland added these players to that unit:
- DL Cam Henderson - 6-4, 270 lbs. - An undrafted free agent from Central Florida, Henderson spent training camp with the Falcons as a defensive end, where he finished with 2 tackles.
- LB Jonathan Stewart - 6-3, 242 lbs. - No, this is not the Panthers' running back, but rather an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M who plays linebacker. Stewart spent camp with the St. Louis Rams and made the team's Week 1 roster before being waived. Stewart had 9 tackles (2 for a loss) and 1 fumble recovery during the preseason. He recently spent two weeks on the Buccaneers' practice squad before being released again.
- CB T.J. Heath - 6-0, 190 lbs. - Heath is the most veteran player of the group, so-to-speak. He was an undrafted free agent back in 2011, where he spent some time in the offseason with the Jaguars. In 2012, he spent training camp with the Bengals and then spent all year on the Bills' practice squad. He didn't make the Bills' final roster in 2013, and has been idle until now.
For those of you who still want to keep the thought of a playoff run alive, here are the games that matter to the Browns today (the underlined teams are who we want to win):
- Raiders vs. Jets: We still need the Jets to get into a tiebreaker type of situation with the Dolphins, so they can prevent Miami from winning a head-to-head tiebreaker over Cleveland. Also, this helps take the Raiders out of the playoff hunt even more.
- Dolphins vs. Steelers: The Dolphins currently have six wins, and my original goal was for Cleveland to get to eight wins. Ideally, that means we'd prefer it if the Dolphins go 1-3 at best for the rest of the year. They finish with softer games against the Bills and the Jets, so it's more important that they lose now. It gives the Steelers a temporary advantage, but then they have tougher games against Cincinnati and Green Bay, before facing Cleveland in a possible control-your-destiny game.
- Vikings vs. Ravens: The Ravens hold divisional tiebreakers over Cleveland, so it's a bonus if they can lose every week, especially when it's against an NFC team.
- Titans vs. Broncos: This seems like an automatic win, but the more wildcard teams that can be taken out early (Tennessee), the better.
- Giants vs. Chargers: If Cleveland can't make the playoffs, I said I'd prefer the Chargers to get that last wildcard spot. Still, if a miracle happened for Cleveland, it is beneficial for the Chargers to fall behind in the wildcard race.
Believe it or not, if all of the above came true, Cleveland would still actually have a legitimate shot at the wildcard spot if they lost to the Patriots, but finished the season at 7-9. Crazy talk, eh?
The Colts vs. Bengals game also matters for draft position -- we want the Bengals to win because it helps prevent the Colts from getting a first-round bye. The Browns are still mathematically alive in the division race, but would have to win all four games + the Bengals losing all four games + the Ravens/Steelers both finishing worse than 8-8.
Who is ready for an early morning game in the NFL in 2014? This past week, it was announced that the Week 8 game in London, featuring the Atlanta Falcons against the Detroit Lions, will take place at 9:30 AM EST on that Sunday. The announcement also says, there will be "live national coverage in the United States on FOX," and that the new start time, "will give U.S. fans a fourth game window on an NFL Sunday for the first time while allowing a global audience to tune in at a new, earlier time."
This will be the first time that the Cleveland area will have the opportunity to see a London game -- every London game that has aired so far has not been shown locally due to the Browns game taking place at the same time. If the Falcons rebound next year, it might actually be a half-way decent game to watch, too. As far as the new time window goes, I am all for the unique opportunity of watching an NFL game on Sunday before all of the action starts. I'd prefer it as a once-a-season type of thing, though -- there needs to be some breathing room for fans on Sunday, considering the entire day (at least for me) from noon onwards is nothing but watching football already.
It's time to predict the inactives for today's game. Here are my guesses for the Browns' gameday inactives against the Patriots (there are seven inactives required): QB Brandon Weeden, WR Bryan Tyms, TE Keavon Milton, OT Martin Wallace, OG Garrett Gilkey, OT Reid Fragel, and DB Julian Posey.
My guess is that we'll have three quarterbacks active -- both Alex Tanney and Caleb Hanie -- in case something happens to Campbell. The rest of the inactives beyond the usual offensive linemen are hard to project. I have Ishmaa'ily Kitchen being active since Desmond Bryant is down for the year, and both Craig Robertson and Tank Carder available.