Good morning, Cleveland Browns fans, and welcome to gameday! Be sure to check out our game preview and prediction for the Browns' Week 13 matchup today against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In this week's edition of "The Sunday Five," I talk about the illegal hit on Jason Campbell last week, the Browns' playoff chances and remaining schedule, what should happen if Brandon Weeden plays well today, and more.
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback William Gay was fined $15,750 for the shot to the head he delivered to Browns quarterback Jason Campbell last Sunday, which means the NFL also acknowledged that it was a blown call by the officials. Hit on Campbell and the fine for the Steelers. Angle was wrong, replay review. Despite the Browns losing last week's game, it's the type of play that could have flipped the outcome of the game dramatically.
During my film review of the game, I pointed out that the official appeared to have a bad angle to see the shot to Campbell's head, which is somewhat of an excuse (after the game, the official said he thought it was a hit to the shoulder, which is what the replay from his angle appears like).
Nate Ulrich from the Akron Beacon Journal published an article with quotes from Norv Turner, Rob Chudzinski, Joe Thomas, and an official regarding their thoughts on a play like this being reviewable in the future. I think it should absolutely be reviewable -- when has a replay of a quarterback hit not been clear-cut? The decision should be easy upon review, and neither team would really have room to be upset.
Looking at the rest of the Browns' schedule, they have a pretty rough schedule after taking on Jacksonville. Three of their final four games are on the road, starting with a trip to New England. Have the Patriots looked a bit "off" at times this year? Yes, but they are also 6-0 at home, and Cleveland has struggled against the quick passing attack from all of the good quarterbacks this season. After that, the Browns face an above-500 Bears team at home at a time when they could be getting Jay Cutler back amidst a playoff race.
The final two games of the season come against the Jets and the Steelers. The Jets have been the definition of a hot-and-cold game, but are leaning more toward cold recently due to the struggles of Geno Smith under center. They are 4-1 at home, though. Finally, Cleveland closes out the season at Pittsburgh. If the Browns are going to have any shot at the playoffs, I will stick by my projection that 8-8 (with help) could get them there. The most likely path to that would be to beat Jacksonville, lose to New England, and then win the final three games of the season.
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:
- Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts - The Titans are a contender for a wildcard spot, but they also have a shot at the AFC South if they can pull off a win here. It's better for Cleveland if the Colts win, so that Tennessee can fall behind us. However, if we're not going to make the playoffs, it's actually better for the Titans to win to improve our draft pick from Indy (but that is a separate issue).
- Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets - Both of these teams lost last week, which helped Cleveland. Because Miami has defeated Cleveland already, we want a Jets win, because if we beat them later in the season, we can catch up in a tiebreaker situation better.
- Atlanta Falcons vs. Buffalo Bills - This game might actually matter a lot to Cleveland, but Buffalo would really need to get on a hot streak. I actually want a Bills win, because they, like the Jets, could also potentially help eliminate Miami from Cleveland in a crazy tiebreaker down the road.
- Cincinnati Bengals vs. San Diego Chargers - The Chargers got back into the wildcard race with a win over the Chiefs last week, so now we need them to collapse to. With the division title not in reach for us, we want a Bengals win here.
I think there is a curiosity factor of seeing what QB Alex Tanney has to offer under center, but let's look at a more realistic scenario: who starts at quarterback for the Browns when they travel to New England? Let me qualify that question with this: let's assume that Brandon Weeden plays one of the better games of his career against the Jaguars, with no turnovers and two or three touchdown passes in a convincing win. Let's also say that Jason Campbell is ready to practice at the start of next week.
If Weeden has a very solid performance in a win, I think you no doubt have to stick with him against the Patriots. If Weeden is mediocre against the Jaguars, whether it be a win or a loss, I think they will hand the reigns back over to Campbell. If they weren't interested in Campbell playing next week, I think they would have just placed him on injured reserve for the rest of the season, considering he's dealing with a rib injury and a concussion.
It's time to predict the inactives for today's game. Here are my guesses for the Browns' gameday inactives against the Jaguars (there are seven inactives required): QB Jason Campbell, TE Keavon Milton, OT Martin Wallace, OG Garrett Gilkey, OT Reid Fragel, ILB Tank Carder, and ILB Craig Robertson.
My scenario would have new TE Andre Smith available for blocking purposes over Milton, and it would also see the return of TE MarQueis Gray. DE Armonty Bryant is also questionable as he tries to return from an injury, but I think we'll see him back. The Browns will still be very thin at inside linebacker.