It is amazing how, in the span of three hours, all the positive feelings and excitement surrounding the Cleveland Browns evaporated.
Wins over the Steelers, Raiders and Chiefs suddenly seemed worthless.
The Browns were out-coached and out-classed by the Washington Redskins last Sunday in the season’s home finale.
Making things even more difficult to digest, in seasons’ past in which the Browns laid an egg in the home finale, it was either the final game of the season or second-to-last game.
The Browns have two more road games at the Denver Broncos and at a Ben Roethlisberger-quartebacked Pittsburgh Steelers.
We’ll worry about the Steelers after the Christmas cheer dies down. For now, the Broncos await.
Peyton Manning has bounced back from his year away from the game and appears to be the Manning of old. Since starting 2-3, the Broncos are 11-3 and Manning has thrown for 4,016 yards with 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
“He’s clearly headed for the Hall of Fame,” Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said. “He’s one of the best that has ever played the game. He’s very smart. He studies, prepares himself well. It’s difficult and about everything has been tried, that’s for sure. He doesn’t win every one of them so we’ll prepare and we’ll go out there and try to play our best game.”
The Browns pass defense is coming off a game in which Kirk Cousins, who was making his first NFL start, shredded them to the tune of 26-for-37 passing for 329 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
The Browns have allowed 247.4 yards passing per game, which ranks them 24th in the league. Meanwhile, the Broncos are sixth in passing yards per game at 277.1.
The news doesn’t get much more promising.
The Broncos defense is fifth in points allowed per game (19.6), fourth in total yards allowed per game (307.1), second in rushing yards allowed per game (91.0) and eighth in passing yards allowed per game (216.8). Linebacker Von Miller and defensive end Elvis Dumervil have 16 and nine sacks, respectively.
“It’s tough to say definitively, ‘Yes, they are the best (pair of pass rushers),’” Browns left tackle Joe Thomas said. “They’re certainly in the top couple of tandems. But when you’re talking about 3-4 outside linebacker, get after the quarterback on third down guys, it’s hard to find anybody who’s better.”
Speaking of the Browns offense, their quarterback and running back are coming off difficult games. Sure, Trent Richardson rushed for two touchdowns setting a rookie record, but he only had 28 yards on only 11 carries. Weeden had his worst outing since the opener against Philadelphia.
A week later, Weeden is facing the league’s best pass rush and Richardson is facing a stout run defense.
It is also hard to argue the Browns can win this game. Looking back through the Browns’ 2012 schedule, it appears this Broncos team will be their toughest opponent. Moreover, only one of the Browns five victories is against a team with a winning record (Cincinnati Bengals).
“Obviously now were not in the playoff hunt anymore, now it’s just going out, playing well and getting better,” Weeden said. “We have eight quarters of football to play so it’s just finishing strong and leaving it all on the line.”