Good morning, Cleveland Browns fans, and welcome to gameday! Be sure to check out our game preview and prediction for the Browns' Week 15 matchup today against the Chicago Bears. In this week's edition of "The Sunday Five," I talk about whether the Browns can get a 100+ yard rusher against the Bears, the addition of RB Edwin Baker, our possible opponents in 2014, and more.
The Browns can be a part of history today against the Bears. Last week, Chicago tied an NFL record by allowing a 100+ yard rusher for the sixth straight game. If Cleveland can make it seven straight games, the Bears will go into the history books for a statistic that Mel Tucker will want to forget about when he wakes up every morning. If teams can run the ball at will against the Bears, what chance do they really have even if they make the postseason?
I don't think Cleveland will have a 100+ yard rusher. As a team, they only average 84.3 yards rushing per game, and a lot of the big plays to inflate that number have come via a wide receiver reverse. The Browns haven't had a running back reach 100+ yards all season; the most came in Week 5, when Willis McGahee had 72 yards against the Bills. Even if the Browns have success running the ball, 100+ yards would likely be dispersed over a committee of backs, not one breakout rusher.
One of the players to add to that committee of backs is Edwin Baker (5-8, 210 lbs), who was signed off the Houston Texans' practice squad this week since McGahee is out with a concussion. Baker was a seventh-round draft pick by the Chargers in 2012, and the reason Cleveland brought him in is because he has familiarity with Norv Turner's system. Baker and RB Fozzy Whittaker were actually teammates with the Chargers back in training camp.
When speaking about Baker this week, Turner said, "I’m sure he’ll get an opportunity to play a little bit." Here are some more quotes from Turner and Baker:
"He’s got good feet," Turner said. "He’s got good quickness. He was a very productive player in college. He’s not a big man. But he was a powerful runner in college, and a very productive runner. We kept him on the practice squad [in San Diego] because we thought he might become a guy that could play in the league."
"[I’m] explosive, hard to bring down, and I got breakaway speed," Baker said. "So give me a crease and I am planning to take it."
The Bears have been known for giving up big runs, so if Baker does get a few carries, maybe he actually could have the best opportunity to be that guy who gets over the century mark.
The Browns are almost officially eliminated from playoff contention. The only way Cleveland gets in is if they win their final three games, the Jets go 1-2 over the final three games, and the Ravens, Chargers, and Dolphins all lose their remaining games. Because of that, the debate as to whether it's worth it or not for the Browns to win because of the implications it has on draft position. For next season, though, there might be a more important element than draft position: the two opponents you are going to draw on your schedule in 2014.
Building off the previous bullet point, the Browns will be facing every team in the AFC South next season (Colts, Titans, Jaguars, and Texans). When it comes to the AFC East and the AFC West, though, those opponents will depend on whether Cleveland finishes third or fourth in the division. Cleveland is just one game behind the Steelers, so it's conceivable that we could swap spots with them by the end of the season. If the other divisions stayed the same, here is who Cleveland would be facing next season, depending on if they are in third or fourth place:
3rd Place in AFC North: vs. San Diego, at New York
4th Place in AFC North: vs. Oakland, at Buffalo
The fourth place schedule sure sounds a bit softer, doesn't it? Between that and the draft, though, I still can never bring myself to rooting for a loss: if the Browns upset the Bears today, I'll be one happy camper.
It's time to predict the inactives for today's game. Here are my guesses for the Browns' gameday inactives against the Bears (there are seven inactives required): QB Alex Tanney, RB Willis McGahee, WR Josh Cooper, TE Andre Smith, OT Martin Wallace, OG John Greco, and OT Reid Fragel.
This week, my projections are all for offensive players. Greco, Smith, and McGahee are already ruled out, so I really only needed to make four projections. With QB Brandon Weeden cleared to play again, I don't think we'll have three quarterbacks active. I projected for OG Garrett Gilkey to be active as a backup guard.