"The Sunday Five" is a loosely-titled piece where I talk about five NFL- or Browns-related topics related to this past week. In today's edition, I take a look at how the 49ers are finally living up to their potential, what a win would mean for the Browns this week, and more.
When the Browns take on the 49ers, it is not like they will be facing an entirely new team in terms of style of play. In fact, I think you can pick and choose to make a lot of comparisons between the 49ers and the Bengals, Raiders, and Seahawks, three teams that Cleveland has already faced. San Francisco combines the efforts of those three teams to form a more "complete package" of sorts. This team has had a lot of potential for years but have never lived up to expectations until Jim Harbaugh came to town. The 49ers are showing a lot more consistency, and what has been more impressive is the fact that for being a non-threatening passing team, they have staged some nice comebacks against the Eagles and the Lions.
Here is something I have been wondering: what if there is a problem with Mohamed Massaquoi when it comes to the passing game? I think he has been having a fine season, coming up with several big receptions late in games. But, I also remember that he missed the entire preseason and training camp and was thrown into the starting lineup Week 1 with very little reps under his belt. What if things suddenly look a lot better at the receiver position when Joshua Cribbs and Carlton Mitchell are given more opportunities? Those are two guys who Colt McCoy was in rhythm with during the early part of training camp.
Taking a look at the division this week, as tough of a game that Cleveland has against the 49ers, this is a rare week where they can make up some ground. The Steelers are taking on the Patriots, arguably Pittsburgh's toughest opponent this season. The Cardinals take on the Ravens, and while the one-win Cardinals shouldn't pose a threat to Baltimore, after last week's egg laid by Joe Flacco, they need to prove themselves. The Bengals take on a Seahawks team that has a good defense, might be getting Tarvaris Jackson back under center, and should have running back Marshawn Lynch available. The best-case scenario for the Browns at the end of this week is that they could be a half game out of first place.
I have to pull an excerpt from Terry Pluto's column this morning, because it brings to light what could be another hole at the right tackle position in the coming weeks:
The Browns don't talk about it, but Tony Pashos has been playing on a very sore ankle. He missed the first three games with the injury. He blocked very well his first two games back, but sometimes struggled against Seattle. He plans to play Sunday, but the Browns have to wonder if he can make it through the season. He played the first six games last year, then the ankle injury caused him to miss the rest of the season.
Please, I beg of you, Pashos: stay healthy enough to play at a manageable level. I don't think McCoy or I can stand to see Oniel Cousins or Artis Hicks rotating on a right side of hopelessness again. Right tackle has to be a top priority next offseason, along with wide receiver. That's a shame, too, because we really need some help at the guard positions too.
Another interesting thought as to why Mitchell will play, which was brought up by Pluto: he says that Mitchell will play on special teams coverage in hopes that he can be a difference maker. I hope Mitchell receives the opportunity to play the receiver position too, but I also wouldn't be upset if Jordan Norwood received extended playing time as well. We'll officially see where Brian Robiskie stands on the roster depth chart after this week's game. If Mitchell or Norwood are seeing the field more often than him, then the Robiskie experiment is all but over.