1. Which team struggles more with the changes from the offseason? This year will mark the fifth head coach and tenth quarterback to begin Opening Day for Cleveland and the Bengals lost both Palmer and OchoCinco while adding a new OC.
Sadly, the Browns are used to offseason changes. If there’s one thing the Browns have more experience at than any other team, it’s starting over. Of course, I kid, but there is some truth to that.
As a fan, seeing this perpetual renewal of the team has gotten old. I may say this every year (especially at this point in the season), but I think they’re finally on the right track. I like that Holmgren came in last year and didn’t make any big changes right off the bat. He used the 2010 season to assess what he was dealing with in Cleveland, and then made his moves after the season.
I’m happy with the direction the team has taken and I’m thrilled that for once we’re starting a season without a QB controversy.
Palmer and OchoCinco have been a solid duo for years in Cincy. Both are gone, replaced by rookies. I’m not just saying this because I’m a Browns fan, but I think the Bengals will struggle more with the changes.
Both teams were dealt a huge disadvantage during the lockout – the Bengals rookie QB and WR couldn’t learn the team’s system, the Browns rookie head coach couldn’t teach his team the new system. I don’t put a lot of stock in the preseason, but I liked what I saw from Colt McCoy and the offense … it doesn’t look like your typical Browns offense and that’s a good thing.
2. Who is the best current Browns player most Bengal fans have never heard of?
Greg Little. The second round draft pick was one of the suspended UNC players last season, so he hasn’t played in a game in over a year. Nevertheless, the WR has shown a lot of promise during the preseason. He improved steadily after an inconsistent start to training camp, but will be the 3rd or 4th receiver and a big target in the end zone for McCoy.
3. Injuries to Steinbach and Pashos are leaving holes in Cleveland’s front, are the Browns going to be able to field an O-Line?
Losing Steinbach and Pashos is definitely a big blow. For once, it seemed the Browns strength was its O-Line. Typically, this has been a huge weakness. But, Joe Thomas and Alex Mack are two very solid Pro-Bowlers and what made the O-Line so strong this year was its depth. With two crucial injuries, they may not have the depth they had before, but I still believe they’ll be strong up front.
4. Are the Browns going to be able to stop Benson and Scott with a banged up LB core?
I hope so. Benson has averaged close to 100 yards in his five games against the Browns … that’s got to stop. If the Browns are going to compete, they must stop the run. You know as well as I do that stopping the run is critical in the AFC North. I don’t believe the LBs are as banged up as you might think. D’Qwell Jackson has come back stronger than ever this year after his injury and looks solid. Chris Gocong has started practicing this week, and hopefully will be able to return Sunday, even if in a limited role.
5. Will Hillis suffer the Madden curse?
No. Hillis doesn’t fear the Madden curse … the Madden curse fears Hillis. Hillis is no flash in the pan and teams know who he is now. Of course, he’s not going to have the kind of season he did last year unless the Browns get him some help. If Montario Hardesty stays healthy, he could provide the help Hillis needs in the backfield. We can’t count on Hillis to carry the team this year, or he won’t last another two seasons. He might not put up the big numbers he put up last year, but I don’t believe he’ll suffer and kind of a curse. I expect him to have another 1,000+ yard season with at least 10 TDs.
6. Who wins and what is the score?
This will be a battle. It won’t be a cakewalk for either team … despite what each team’s fan base thinks, these two teams are a pretty good match this season. Sunday’s game will say a lot about how the rest of the season will go. Browns win, 24-17.