Hump Game

Tomorrow the Browns welcome the New York Jets to Cleveland Stadium.  It will be a crucial hump game for the 3-5 Browns, who are trying to claw their way back into contention.  If the Browns win, they will be 4-5 and will have completed a three-game winning streak against three of the best teams in the NFL.  If the Browns lose, they will fall to 3-6 and have a very tough time working their way back to respectability.

Ahtyba Rubin and the Browns' defensive line will be tested by the Jets running attack

The Jets clearly are one of the best teams in the AFC.  They are 6-2 and tied with New England for the top spot in the AFC East.  Offensively, the Jets have lots of weapons.  LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene are their two excellent featured backs, and their efforts have put the Jets fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game.  Mark Sanchez is their celebrity quarterback, and he throws to Braylon Edwards — the cocky ex-Brown — and Dustin Keller.  This is a solid offense that will pose a huge challenge for Rob Ryan and the Browns’ quirky defense.  The Jets’ running game will test the Browns’ defensive line and linebackers, who have played extremely well in recent weeks, and Sanchez and Edwards will target the Browns’ secondary — and probably specifically Eric Wright, who has struggled at times this season.  This is another game where the ball-hawking Browns will be hoping to force turnovers to stub out Jets’ drives.

The Browns will be hoping that Colt McCoy doesn't need to do too much tomorrow

The Jets’ defense also is good.  It has been especially stout against the run, and this is where tomorrow’s game should get interesting.  The Browns have been very successful running the ball of late; last week Peyton Hillis ran through, over, and around New England for more than 180 yards.  With rookie Colt McCoy probably starting at quarterback, the Browns will want to establish a running game to take the pressure off McCoy.  If the Browns can’t move the ball on the ground and the offense has to move the ball exclusively through the air, it likely will be a long game for Cleveland.  I would expect the Browns to continue to pound at the Jets, even if they aren’t having much initial success, unless and until the score requires them to focus on the passing attack.  I also expect that the inventive play-calling that has been so successful in the past two games will be seen in tomorrow’s game, too.

The Browns’ excellent play in the last two weeks has Cleveland fans everywhere getting their hopes up.  This will be the biggest home game for the Browns in years.  I expect Cleveland Stadium and the Browns fans to be loud and proud tomorrow, at their boisterous and bellicose best, hoping that their cheering and rooting and jeering of the Jets can bring their team to victory in a vital game.

The Penny Chronicles

My name is Penny.

My window, where I watch for the leader's return

There are four of us in my pack.  The leader is my best, best friend in the whole world.  I follow her everywhere.  She has the best smell in the whole world.  I sit with her whenever I can.  When she leaves, I try to find something with her smell.  I will drag it down and put my head on it, so I can smell her smell the whole day long.  Then I will sit and look out my window, waiting for her to come home.  When she comes home, I am very happy again!  Of course, part of the reason I am so happy is that she feeds me when she gets home.  Hurray!

Then there is Young Master.  He is fun!  When he comes home, he wrestles with me and chases me.  Then I chase him.  He smells good, too.  Young Master understands me.  He knows I am hungry, and he gives me food.  Young Master lives in a cave up the hill.  Sometimes I can get in the cave, but usually I can’t.  If I can get in the cave it is always a good day, because there are lots of things to smell and usually food to eat, too!  I really, really like to eat.

Then there is the old boring guy.  Ugh.

How Good Are These Guys?

Today Ohio State returns to action after a bye week.  The Buckeyes have played nine games and won eight of them, are tied for the lead in the Big Ten, and are ranked ninth in the country.  And yet, somehow, they aren’t really well defined.  A lot of people are wondering:  how good are these guys?

This is the time of the season when you try to draw conclusions about a team’s relative quality by looking at its schedule.  For the Buckeyes, that indicator doesn’t tell us a whole lot.  Earlier wins that looking impressive — like at home against Miami, or on the road against Illinois — now don’t look quite as meaningful, as those teams have struggled since playing Ohio State.  Sure, the Buckeyes have soundly beaten teams they were expected to beat, but when they went on the road to play a conference foe now ranked in the top ten, they came up short.

You can certainly conclude that Ohio State is a good team.  Can it be great?  We’ll start to learn today, when Penn State comes to the Horseshoe.  We’ll learn still more in the next two weeks, when Ohio State travels to Iowa to play the Hawkeyes and then ends the season against Michigan.  Today’s opponent, the Nittany Lions, stand 3-2 in the Big Ten, having won three straight in the conference.  They have a good defense and an excellent running back in Evan Royster.  They also think they have found a quarterback in sophomore Matt McGloin.  McGloin has played in Penn State’s three conference wins and has thrown for seven touchdowns, including four last week against Northwestern.

In the Jim Tressel era, Ohio State’s matchups against Penn State have tended to be low-scoring defensive battles, so you would expect today’s game to be a good test for the Buckeyes.  Can the offense put up points against the traditionally tough Penn State defense?  Can the defense stop Royster and halt Penn State’s recent offensive resurgence in its tracks?  The answers to those questions will tell us more about how good the 2010 version of the Ohio State Buckeyes really is.