SOBs: Same Old Browns.
The Cleveland Browns entered the Bye on November 4 after having defeated the Baltimore Ravens, with divisional contests versus the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers looming ahead, and knowing that a Wild Card berth was very much so attainable. Now, eight quarters later, Cleveland is limping into the holiday season losers of five of the team's past six games, having neither a quarterback nor a chance at making the postseason.
How quickly it all fell apart.
Steelers beat Browns: Wait a second
Just as against Cincinnati, Cleveland was downed by Pittsburgh largely because of a disastrous second quarter. The game undeniably changed when quarterback Jason Campbell, still nursing bruised ribs, was banged up with roughly five minutes left in the first half. Brandon Weeden, who continues to remain on the roster for reasons that defy logic, came on in relief, and those wearing brown and orange out on the field immediately hung their heads.
Pittsburgh noticed. Ben Roethlisberger took a home run swing two plays after Weeden threw an incomplete pass on third down, and Big Ben connected with Antonio Brown for a 41-yard touchdown pass. That one play put a massive spotlight on something that anybody who has watched the 2013 Browns has known since September: Cleveland cannot win with Weeden leading the offense.
Steelers beat Browns: Now what?
Continuing on from the last point, the Browns now face a serious dilemma. The team's playoff hopes, which are, at best, flickering, are not all that is on the line in the next month. Cleveland has five games left on the schedule. Two of those will be played at home.
The Browns don't have a starting NFL quarterback. That is not an opinion. The Weeden experiment ended weeks ago, and Cleveland not signing a real backup QB at any point in the past month came back to bite the team in a big way against the Steelers. Several names – yes, Tim Tebow is one of them – are going to be floated out there by fans and analysts alike over the next 72 hours.
Anybody would be an improvement over Campbell, who probably won't be 100 percent until 2014, or Weeden.
Steelers beat Browns: Stuck on replay
Cleveland wide receiver Josh Gordon is a star. He reeled in 14 passes for a franchise-record 237 yards, and he also found the end zone for what was ultimately a meaningless touchdown. That aside, Cleveland's latest loss showed just how important it is to have a competent rushing attack for these cold weather AFC North showdowns.
Chris Ogbonnaya simply cannot be trusted with the football. He was guilty of a costly fumble for the second straight Sunday, one that ensured that the Browns would take zero momentum into the halftime break. Neither Fozzy Whitaker nor Willis McGahee are the answer.
Fans of the Browns have, since Brian Hoyer was injured, speculated about what advertised franchise QB the team will take in the 2014 NFL Draft. Cleveland absolutely needs a quality quarterback, but establishing what is at least a respectable run game is just as important. Otherwise, the Browns will continue to drop games in the second halves of seasons.
Steelers beat Browns: Familiar spot
Just like that, the Browns are right back in the basement of the AFC North standings. That is right where they belong. It turns out that when a side is but one injury away from being a dumpster fire of a mess, it really isn't anything other than a pretty “meh” team.
The makings of a contender are there, especially when it comes to the Cleveland defense. The Browns are right now not ready for prime time, and they've got a ways to go before that changes. It's going to be another December of playing for pride for this team.
I repeat: Cleveland fans deserve better.