The NFL never ceases to amaze me. What other professional sports league could produce so much drama this early in the season for a game between two 0-2 franchises? Well hello Cleveland! The Browns have been in the basement. In fact, they have been there for a LONG time. Since 1990 (my freshman year at Notre Dame) the Browns have had a grand total of three winning seasons, one playoff berth and one playoff win (yes, I know there were no “Browns” from 1996 to 1998). So when the Browns decided to trade Trent Richardson to the Colts for a 2014 1st-round pick, why wouldn’t we balk? Why wouldn’t we look at a team that has been unable to draft its way out of the basement for nearly 25 years and say “What the?” I guess a team that has been dwelling on hope just got more of it…
That aside, let’s turn our attention to what matters – the Vikings beating the Browns.
Will this have an effect on Sunday? I say yes, but not for the obvious reasons. Unless Mr. Richardson was disliked in the locker room or was universally looked at as a bust or had untold off the field issues, this may kill morale. The trade sends this message to players: “Thank you for 2013 but we really need to focus on the future. We need a quarterback now so we will address that issue eight months from now in the draft. And, oh by the way, we hope that you will be around to see it and will be with the club long enough to see the rookie mature and eventually prosper!” Now Browns Head Coach Rob Chudzinski could play the old “us” vs. the “front office” card and that we still have a job to do but that will only take a team so far. Winning in the NFL is EXTREMELY hard and it has been my experience that when a team is given an excuse to lose, they will do just that.
A win is a win so please do not put an asterisk on it. The Vikings can’t possibly win by enough to satisfy some rubes. So if it is by one point or 50, a Vikings win is what we need. ‘Nuff said.
Here is a chance for the Vikings defense to get healthy in a hurry. With or without Richardson, the Browns offense leaves a lot to be desired: a soft o-line with the exception of LT Joe Thomas, a run game that has averages 56 yds per game (Vikings give up 120 on average), a passing game that averages 219 yds (Vikings give up 319 on average) and 5.5 sacks per game. Now it is up to Brian Hoyer and Bobby Rainey to change all of that…the Browns do have some talent at WR. Davone Bess and Greg Little can hurt you if you aren’t careful.
This is where the Vikings need to be careful. As bad as it may seem for the Browns, they do have a talented and physical defense. NT Phil Taylor (pictured) is a load and RE Desmond Bryant is fast and physical. Former Baltimore sack master Paul Kruger was added in free agency. First-round Rookie LB Barkevious Mingo garnered a sack on his first NFL snap. They play a mix of 3-4, so be ready for tons of pressure to stop
So just like in the Rob Reiner classic film Spinal Tap! where an aging metal band looks to revitalize their struggling tour, the Vikings will look to revitalize their season by saying “hello and goodbye” to Cleveland.