It's been an otherwise memorable year for the city of Cleveland outside the realm of professional football. LeBron James fulfilled his prophecy of bringing an NBA Championship to a city that had been allergic to titles since the 1950's. Even the Cleveland Indians made the World Series and were up 3-1 before falling in Game 7 to the Chicago Cubs who hadn't won the series since before the Titanic sank in the Atlantic ocean.
Think about how special it would have been for Cleveland to get two professional sports championships in one season? That would have been a marvelous feat but sadly Cleveland wasn't able to pull it off. Though the banners have just flown for the Cleveland Cavaliers, they just got their rings, and are off to a 5-0 start this season; make no mistake, Cleveland is a bit somber after the Indians blew their 3-1 lead and lost that series. As depressing as that could be, nothing would perk the city up more than a win over the surging 6-1 Dallas Cowboys by the winless Browns Sunday afternoon. Well, that just can't happen for the Dallas Cowboys. There is no reason to give the city of Cleveland any reason to smile this weekend. For Dallas, they need to beat this Browns team and do it convincingly.
Cleveland is building toward a return to prominence in the future with their coach Hue Jackson but this is simply a team that is void of star talent outside their All-Pro left tackle, Joe Thomas, and cornerback Joe Haden. Sure, they got Terrelle Pryor comfortable playing wide receiver and he's improving with each passing day and don't sleep on rookie Corey Coleman, who was the second-rated wide receiver on the Cowboys' draft board this past offseason. Even with some things to build on, the Cowboys just need to carve them up.
When the news broke that the Browns were going to see what they have in Cody Kessler, the Cowboys got even better news to work with. Say what you will about the wily veteran Josh McCown but he can sling the rock and he can win football games even at 37 years old. In fact, he probably gave the Browns the best chance to win this game on Sunday but that doesn't mean the sun can't still shine on Cleveland with Kessler at the helm. Nate Newton said it best, "it's the Cowboys versus the Cowboys." Dallas hiccuped against a great defensive effort by the Philadelphia Eagles but found a way to win an emotional overtime thriller. Now, they have to get themselves up for the lowly Browns and make sure they don't lay an egg.
It's a pretty simple game plan for Dallas, be yourself and run Cleveland out of their own " GPODAWUND". That, of course, is an homage to a few fans misspelling "DAWG POUND" last weekend. The Browns are 32nd in total defense, including 31st in rushing defense (143.8 YPG), and 24th in passing defense (277.8 YPG). Defensively speaking, they are giving up about five yards per carry in the running game and teams have broken some big ones on this defense. The Browns have allowed 10 scoring plays of 20+ yards or more this season, which is the worst in the league. They also have given up 41 plays of 20+ yards or more through eight games.
Bryan Broaddus pointed out that Cleveland has also been outscored in the second-half of games 115-51. That's just a mind-boggling statistic. They are giving up almost 30 points per game, 420+ yards per game, and are 26th in turnover differential. Dallas better make sure their offense is clicking and making the Browns' defense pay at every turn because there truly is no excuse for a lackadaisical effort.
Offensively, the Browns are nothing to write home about just yet although we mentioned they are going to get there with some young pieces in place. Cleveland is 16th in total offense but is plagued by mistakes. They have thrown nine interceptions and have fumbled 14 times but have thankfully only lost three of those. Though they can put forth a rushing effort, ranking 11th in the NFL in rushing, the Dallas Cowboys have yet to give up a 100-yard rusher. The Browns have averaged under 20 points per game (25th in NFL) and are 21st in passing offense. If they are planning on getting their receiving threats going that may be difficult as the Cowboys haven't allowed a single 100-yard receiver either.
On paper, this is a game that favors the Dallas Cowboys at every turn. Still, this is the National Football League and every team has a chance. These are games that can be "traps" if you're not careful. That's why the Cowboys have to dominate in the ground game so this one can be over rather quickly. They can not afford to let the Browns hang around with them and make this a game. Dallas showed earlier this year against the Bears that they can beat a bad team convincingly. Now, they need to show they can beat a bad team consistently.
You can't destroy the Bengals, throttle the Packers, and win a tough divisional match with the Eagles then fall asleep at the wheel against the winless Browns. That is unacceptable. The Cowboys must step it up at all levels and prove they are an NFL powerhouse. We said it at the beginning of this piece and we'll say it again, don't give the city of Cleveland anything to be happy about this weekend.