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Life as a Cleveland Sports Fan

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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Browns stumble on transition from crawling to walking

browns lose ravens“Crawl, walk, then run.” – State Sen. Clay Davis

There was plenty of blame to around on Sunday as the Cleveland Browns saw their modest one-game winning streak come to an end at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.

From miscues on offense that left points on the field, to lapses by the defense that led to big plays from Baltimore, to continued misplays by the special teams, this was a team loss in every sense of the phrase. Even head coach Mike Pettine got in on the fun, saying after the game that “we didn’t coach well enough to win today.”

So what went wrong? Let’s start with the offense, which for the better part of three quarters looked as good as it has all season long. The Browns put up three touchdowns – all in the red zone – against a Baltimore defense that had only given up one touchdown (none in the red zone) in the first two games of the season. In addition, quarterback Brian Hoyer had a stretch where he completed 14 passes in a row and avoided turning the ball over.

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Browns vs. Ravens – 3 things to watch in Week 3

browns ravens previewThe Cleveland Browns return to action today feeling about as good as any 1-1 team in the NFL can.

The Browns are fresh off their first win in a home opener in 10 years after defeating New Orleans last weekend thanks to a timely play from linebacker Karlos Dansby and a game-winning drive from quarterback Brian Hoyer.

After heading into halftime of the Pittsburgh game down by 24 points, the Browns have looked relatively good over their last six quarters of play. So what could possibly go wrong today?

Oh, yeah, they are facing the Baltimore Ravens.

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A year later, much has changed for the Browns

browns change a yearThe NFL season is only two games old, but what a difference for the Cleveland Browns as compared to just a year ago.

At this time 12 months ago, the Browns were sitting at 0-2 after dropping games to Miami and Baltimore. Quarterback Brandon Weeden was hurt, and with the team realizing that Jason Campbell was not the answer no matter how many times they rephrased the question, the coaches turned to an unproven Brian Hoyer.

Wide receiver Josh Gordon had missed the first two games because of a league-mandated suspension, and both the offense and defense were working to learn new systems. (OK, it’s Cleveland; some things stay the same.)

The bombshell dropped during the week between the second and third game, however, when then-team President Joe Banner traded away starting running back Trent Richardson, turning the Browns running game into what statistically would be the worst in franchise history and effectively punting on the 2013 season.

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A day of firsts as the Browns defeat the Saints

browns sack saintsIt was a day of firsts on Sunday for the Cleveland Browns.

The first win as a head coach for Mike Pettine; Brian Hoyer’s first win as starting quarterback since his ACL injury; the first win in a home opener since 2004.

The most import first was the fact that, for the first time in a long time, the Browns looked like a real NFL team, providing hope that this year just may be different.

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Browns vs. Saints – 5 things to watch in Week 2

browns saints previewThe Cleveland Browns take the field today in their home opener, taking on the New Orleans Saints.

Both teams enter on a negative streak after losing their respective opening games. The Saints have lost four consecutive road games and were just 2-4 last season in games not played in a dome.

As for the Browns, they are currently riding an eight-game losing streak dating back to last season, haven’t won a home opener since 2004, and have started 0-2 in five of the past six seasons. And while they lead the overall series against the Saints, 12-4, the Browns have lost two of the last three times the teams have met.

Let’s take a look at five storylines to keep an eye on today.

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