Readers Note: This column will self destruct around 4:00pm on Sunday.
Some fan bases are so downtrodden to the point that the tiniest events can trigger optimism. I’m talking about the kind of optimism that goes beyond laughable. Everything you are about to read is a standard example of just that.
Week 12 is the annual time when television networks display the AFC and NFC playoff pictures. After the division and wild card leaders they display a category of teams “In the Hunt.” The Cleveland Browns (4-6) are officially in the “In the Hunt” category of the AFC because they are mathematically alive. It hasn’t been a pleasant season for Browns fans, but because the Browns find themselves in that category I have to say that it’s actually been a pretty successful season so far. No, really. In the last seven seasons they’ve made it to Thanksgiving with a fighting playoff chance a mere 3 times. That’s all a Browns fan can really ask for though–that the team still has a chance, even if that chance is more unrealistic than the Forty Niners not winning the NFC West this year.
If you are reading this you are laughing at the thought of the Browns making the playoffs and the fact that I’m even bringing it up. But to understand where I’m coming from you must realize that the Browns just won their last game. Why does that matter you ask? Well, that means me–a Browns fan–is put in the position to believe that this team can win out and make the playoffs.
Rule #624 in the NFL: When you root for a historically bad team, the last game is the only thing you remember.
The Browns go to Cincinnati on Sunday coming off a victory at home over Jacksonville. Don’t bother telling me nor any other Browns fan that the Jaguars are 3-7, that their quarterback is Blaine Gabbert, that they’re probably one of the worst teams in the league playing in one of the worst divisions, and that it took a really dumb Jacksonville play call for the Browns to escape with a win. As a Browns fan, all of that goes in one ear and out the other. All that I know is that the Cleveland Browns beat the Jaguars and are now 4-6 and find themselves in the “In the Hunt” category of the playoff picture. Remembering that the Browns’ four victories have come against the Dolphins, Colts, Seahawks, and Jags isn’t going to stop me from thinking this team can win out and finish at 10-6 and make the playoffs.
A couple weeks ago I knew Colt McCoy wasn’t the guy. A 14-10 victory over the Jags has me singing a different tune. You know what else that victory told me? It told me that their receiving corps does have some potential. It told me that the offensive line isn’t that bad. It told me that we can go on without Peyton Hillis and ride Chris Ogbonnaya. After all, he did just rush for 115 yards. Can you say, franchise running back? By the way, the Browns defense made Blaine Gabbert look like a first round bust, that’s not easy to do. They even held MJD under 100 yards on the ground.
Of Cleveland’s remaining six games, five of them are against divisional opponents and four of those five are against the Steelers and Ravens. Normally I would chalk up five losses right there, but the Browns are coming off a win and still find themselves in the hunt and I’m seeing five wins in the next few weeks as a result.
The Browns lost to the Bengals in week 1 on a freak play where Bruce Gradkowski caught the Browns D in flux and hit AJ Green for a wide open touchdown. So who’s to say the Browns aren’t due for a little redemption this week? I think they are.
In a sick and twisted way the Browns control their destiny more than any other team who currently stands on the outside looking in. Over the next six weeks they will embark on a portion of their schedule in which no other team in the history of the NFL has–playing 5 divisional games. Sure those five game just happen to all be against opponents who, if things ended today, would make the playoffs…but not if the Browns can help it.
P.S. Everything you just read was written by the other party of my split personality. The part that ignores everything that happened to his team other than the last game (which just so happened to be a win), the part that is the most delusional sports fan in all of the land; the part that isn’t going to be a happy camper after Sundays loss to the Bengals.
Bengals 24 Browns 12