Red Right 88

Life as a Cleveland Sports Fan

Browns vs. Steelers – What to watch for in Week 6

browns steelers previewThe Cleveland Browns return home today to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in what may me the most important game so far of the season.

After rallying last week against Tennessee to pull out the win, the Browns are looking to post consecutive victories for the first time in more than a year. Just as importantly, they are already 0-2 in the AFC North Division, so another divisional loss would make things exceedingly more difficult.

Today’s game also represents the second game in a five-game stretch where the Browns, while maybe not being favored, will at least be taking on a group of teams that are beatable.

“This is as big of a game in Cleveland in probably a while, just because of their record, our record, the rivalry that’s there,” Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said earlier this week. “I anticipate it being a hostile environment, maybe like nothing I’ve ever seen up there before.”

But before they can start thinking about Jacksonville, Oakland and Tampa Bay, the Browns need to get by the Steelers, which is never an easy task for this squad.

Here are a few things to keep an eye on today as the Browns look to improve to get on the right side of .500 for the first time this season.

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About those alternate uniforms for the Cavs

cavs navy uniformThe Cleveland Cavaliers announced today that they will be wearing a navy blue alternate uniform this year that features wine and gold letters, numbers and trim.

According to the team’s website, the uniforms will be worn for the team’s season-opening game on Oct. 30 against New York and will rotate with what the team refers to as its gold uniform (c’mon, it’s really yellow) as the official alternates for the 2014-15 season.

“With so much excitement and positive momentum going into this season, this special time called for a brand new uniform to match the energy and mojo of the 2014-15 team,” Tracy Marek, Cavaliers CMO, said on the team’s website.

The jersey is OK for what it is, we’ve always liked navy blue as a complimentary color to burgundy, but it’s not as good as it could have been.

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From the editor’s notebook …

antonio brown steelersWith the Pittsburgh Steelers coming to town on Sunday for what has turned into a rather important divisional game, the Cleveland Browns are facing the usual litany of problems when it comes to the Steelers.

One of those problems may be getting worse with the uncertainty surrounding the availability of cornerback Joe Haden, who may miss the game after injuring his hip in the win against Tennessee. (Defensive tackle Phil Taylor is also out now for several weeks after injuring his knee, which doesn’t help matters, either.)

Even with Haden in the lineup the Browns have had problems with Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown, who has career highs in receptions (37), receiving yards (610) and touchdowns (four) against the Browns. In the opening game of the season, Brown had five catches for 116 yards and a touchdown.

See what we mean?

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Fun with numbers – Browns vs. Steelers edition

Browns Hoyer Graphic

The legend of Brian Hoyer continues to grow

browns beat titansThe Cleveland Browns were back at it again on Sunday in Tennessee, turning the improbable into the probable in beating the Titans in what has quickly turned into the most entertaining and unexpected season since 2007.

And with the victory, the legend of Brian Hoyer continues to grow.

There is plenty of love to go around after the Browns pulled off what was not only the biggest comeback in franchise history (surpassing a 1966 win against the New York Giants), but also the biggest road comeback in NFL history.

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Browns vs. Titans – 3 things to watch for in Week 5

browns titans preview mainThe Cleveland Browns return to action today as they travel to Tennessee to take on the Titans.

This is the beginning of an important stretch as the schedule takes a decidedly favorable turn for the Browns. While it is never a safe bet to mark down any game as a win at this point, during the next five weeks the Browns face the Titans, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Oakland and Tampa Bay – all winnable games if the Browns can keep their act together.

The Browns have had two weeks to stew in the disappointment of a last-second loss to Baltimore, and the game against Tennessee offers a prime opportunity to reclaim the momentum. The Titans come into the contest riding a three-game losing streak where they have been outscored by a combined 66 points, giving the Titans the third-worst point differential in the AFC. (Jacksonville and Oakland are first and second, respectively, not that we’re looking ahead.)

“We can’t think about our schedule or look at our next opponent beyond Tennessee,” Browns head coach Mike Pettine said earlier this week. “That’s just not how we operate. I think it is a dangerous thing. I talked about being confident at 1-2, but it is so hard to win in this league. There’s so much talent parity-wise that your mindset, to me, is equally important or more important than how you are physically.”

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From the editor’s notebook …

cavs crazyWe’re only one week into training camp for the Cleveland Cavaliers and things are already getting crazy.

From a standing-room-only crowd at media day, to more than 16,000 fans attending a team scrimmage on Wednesday night, to a planned protest by a political group during Sunday’s preseason game against Maccabi Tel Aviv, it is anything but business as usual for the wine and gold.

Things are so hot that other teams are starting to take notice, most notably Washington’s Bradley Beal, who has engaged Cleveland guard Dion Waiters in an ongoing war of words over who has the best back court in the NBA. After Waiters challenged Beal’s claim that Beal and John Wall are the league’s best, Beal decided to fire back.

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Tribe’s problems easy to spot, but solutions may not be

Kansas City Royals v Cleveland IndiansThe Cleveland Indians closed out what ultimately will go down as a disappointing season on Sunday with a 7-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Tribe came into the season with high hopes and looking to build on the momentum of making the Wild Card play-in game in 2013. But the team came up short of a return trip to the playoffs, meaning the Tribe hasn’t had consecutive playoff appearances since the last millennium (1998 and 1999). They did the season at 85-77, in the process managing to post consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 2001 and 2001, so at least they can hang their hat on that.

It was readily apparent, even just from watching a handful of games, what was wrong with the team this season. The Tribe’s defense had a major-league leading 116 errors; the bullpen was inconsistent; and the offense had a major drop off in the second half of the season, especially in September, which helped to stall any thoughts of repeating last September’s 21-6 record.

Diagnosing the problem is only half the battle, however, as finding a cure could prove to be more difficult.

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Browns offense sharing space with some good company

browns offense three gamesWhile fans of the Cleveland Browns deal with the frustration of the team’s 1-2 start, they can take solace in the fact that we’re witnessing a side of the offense not seen in these parts for a long, long time.

Through the season’s first three games, the Browns are fourth in the AFC in scoring with an average of 24.7 points per game, only one point behind the Denver Broncos, who have Peyton Manning at quarterback. (The fact that the defense has given up more points than just three teams in the AFC helps explain, at least in part, the 1-2 record.)

To put the offensive output into perspective, only once since 2004 has a Browns offense scored more points on a per game basis – the 2007 team with an average of 25.1 points, the only offense in the past decade that has broken the 20-point barrier for a season average.

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Numbers can often confirm what we are already seeing

joe haden numbersIn his autobiography, Mark Twain famously wrote that “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

Twain wasn’t talking about sports when he wrote that, but he certainly could have been. It is very easy to manipulate statistics and numbers to support any argument you are making, especially if you worship at the ideal of analytics and some of the newer categories of statistics that have come into circulation in the past few decades. (For the record, we are not anti-analytics; we just don’t believe they are the be-all, end-all that some people make them out to be.)

But that doesn’t mean that statistics don’t provide a valuable tool when it comes to sports, especially when they reinforce what you see on a weekly or nightly basis.

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