Moving On From LeBron

Tonight, LeBron James makes his debut with the Los Angeles Lakers in a game that will be nationally broadcast.  No doubt you are already aware of that, because several networks have hyped it.

We don’t care.

You see, we are old school.  We’ve been a fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers since the day they were born back in 1970, and we are fans of the team, not any individual player.

Younger fans seems to follow players, they support LeBron James or Kobe Bryant or Stephen Curry, and that’s fine, that’s their right.

But James isn’t wearing wine and gold anymore, so our interest in all things LeBron has waned.

To be quite honest, we probably would have watched James’ new show on HBO, The Shop, if he was still a Cav, but since he’s joined the Lakers, the Yankees of the NBA, it’s not must see TV.

Sure, it will be cool when James starts nearing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all time scoring record, because a majority of those points were scored wearing a Cleveland uniform, but for the most part, our interest will be limited to keeping aware of what is happening in the league, just like we do any other team.

We will forever be thankful for the 2016 NBA title, something quite frankly, we never thought we would see.  James was primarily responsible for that, as well as the four consecutive Finals appearances.

It’s almost as though he retired.  His next glory moment here will probably be when his #23 jersey is retired by the Cavaliers, as the greatest player in franchise history.

And that event will be greeted warmly by fans in northeast Ohio, as it should be.  After all, we appreciate greatness.

As for the Cavs, last night was their first game without James, and we should allow the players and coaching staff a little transition period.

First, the wine and gold may have played the best team in the Eastern Conference in the Toronto Raptors, who have one of the top ten players (some might say top five) in Kawhi Leonard.

Losing to them at home is certainly no disgrace.

However, Tyronn Lue and the coaching staff need time before we make any conclusions as to this edition of the wine and gold is a playoff team, a post-season contender, or a squad that should be looking toward the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery in May.

Already, we heard criticism of Kevin Love, because he shot 5 for 18 last night.  This is the overreaction of one game.  Love will shoot the ball better, he’s too good of a shooter.

Remember, this is a new system for the coaches and the players.  And pretty much every guy on the roster has a new role, except for maybe Kyle Korver and Tristan Thompson.  You have to provide time to get used to the newness.

Even teams with championship aspirations have periods of adjustment when new players are added in, so a team that lost the best player in the game should and will be no exception.

Let’s see what the Cavaliers look like in two or three weeks before jumping to any conclusions.  After all, expectations are lower this season than the last four years.

JK

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Examining Tribe Free Agents & Other Stuff

It’s been a week since the Cleveland Indians’ season ended after getting swept in the American League Division Series by the Houston Astros.

Thus, the Tribe joins all but four major league teams in looking forward to the 2019 season.  Barring something drastic, the Indians will enter next season as the favorites for a fourth consecutive Central Division title.

However, there has the potential to have a pretty large roster turnover for Cleveland, and there probably will be.  What should the Indians do to improve next season?

First, the everyday lineup needs to be deeper.  The lineup was top heavy for most of the past season, and when Jose Ramirez slumped in the middle of August, there wasn’t enough hitting by everyone hitting after Edwin Encarnacion, and by that we mean consistent hitting.

The Indians have 11 free agents this winter, including Carlos Carrasco and Brandon Guyer, both of whom have club options for 2019.  The other nine are as follows–

Cody Allen
Michael Brantley
Melky Cabrera
Lonnie Chisenhall
Rajai Davis
Josh Donaldson
Andrew Miller
Oliver Perez
Josh Tomlin

We would exercise Carrasco’s option, but let Guyer walk.  Guyer was lethal against southpaws when he arrived in 2016, but although he had an 804 OPS vs. LHP in 2018, he hit just .233, which isn’t good enough.  And he’s 32 years old.

The qualifying offer for free agents will be around $17.5 million, and there is no doubt the Tribe will make the offer to Brantley.  They may also pick one of the two relief pitchers, Allen or Miller, as well.

That will get them draft pick compensation depending on the size of the contract they sign with other teams, should they go elsewhere.

Out of the two, we would pick Miller, because he didn’t pitch as much this season, and let’s face it, he’s the more dominant of the pair.  If he accepts it, and he might to rebuild his value, you have another back end of the bullpen reliever.

Allen seems to have shown the wear and tear of averaging 68 appearances per season in his seven seasons with the Indians.

As for Brantley, we would explore bringing him back, but only on a two year deal max.  The outfielder will be 32 years old next May, and we have seen the negatives of signing players over 30 to multiyear deals.

He hasn’t had a fall off in performance with the bat, but his defense has declined, and he had the injury issues in both 2016 and 2017.

The organization seems to have an issue with Chisenhall, who would seem to be an ideal candidate to bring back on an incentive laden one year deal.  The former first round pick has been limited to 320 at bats, batting .297 with 13 homers and 62 RBI in the past two injury plagued seasons.

He’s a solid offensive player, particularly against right handed pitching.

They have to make room for Yandy Diaz to play everyday.  It seems absurd to think the organization sent someone to the minors coming off a year at AAA where he slashed .350/454/460.

Diaz can hit, and he needs to be doing it at the major league level.

And the front office has to improve the batting attack by getting more consistent hitters.  We believe you need seven solid hitters to have a solid lineup.

We will look at the free agent list when it is complete to examine who is on the market.

Oh, and one last thing.  After Manny Machado and Bryce Harper sign, start working on a long term contract with Lindor.

This is a big, big off-season for the Tribe front office.  Simply put, they must improve this roster around the core of Lindor, Ramirez, and the starting rotation.

MW

Hopefully, A Learning Experience For Browns

For those fans who thought Baker Mayfield had by passed the growing pains that go along with being an NFL rookie quarterback, you were proven wrong today.

The fact is, Mayfield is a rookie, and there were going to be days like today, especially when defensive coordinators were able to review some tape on the first overall pick in the draft.

The question now is will Mayfield be able to make the adjustments needed to come out and do well next week against Tampa?  We believe he will learn from today and be better going forward.

But it was ugly to watch today, as Cleveland was dismantled by the Chargers, 38-14 at First Energy Stadium.

It was more disturbing to see what veteran QB Philip Rivers did to the Cleveland defense, which has played well in four out of the five games to date.

Make that four out of six.

The Chargers made big play after big play all afternoon, both in the running game and in the passing game.  It seemed the Browns were clueless about stopping them.

LA averaged almost eight yards per play! Gregg Williams’ defense allowed over 200 yards on the ground, getting almost seven yards per carry.

Without the ability to stop the run, it was difficult for the Browns to muster the pass rush we have seen all year long.

In the air, Rivers connected on two long touchdown passes to WR Tyrell Williams (45 and 29 yards), the first of which Cleveland outmanned the receivers with three defenders, and he caught the ball anyway.

It was a dominating effort.  Rivers was pulled in the middle of the fourth quarter,  threw only 20 passes for the game, and was sacked just once (combination of Larry Ogunjobi and Joe Schobert).

Again, how the defensive unit comes back from this performance (or lack of it) next week is what should be taken from this game.

Now back to Mayfield, who completed just 22 of 46 passes for 238 yards and two interceptions, as Cleveland lost the turnover battle for the second time this season.

The lack of quality wide receivers didn’t help either as there were a few dropped passes, but that really didn’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things.

With Rashard Higgins out of there, the Chargers basically took Jarvis Landry out of the game, as he caught just two balls for nine yards.

Veteran Rod Streater, (yes, we know he was picked up off waivers, but he’s still a veteran) got hurt early, and Cleveland dressed just four wide receivers.  That left them with only three.

Rookie Damion Ratley and TE David Njoku became Mayfield’s main targets.

And while the rookie held the ball too long at times, his offensive line didn’t have a great day either.  It appeared tackles Desmond Harrison and Chris Hubbard struggled all day against a Chargers’ defense missing Joey Bosa.

One bright spot was the special teams performance of Jabril Peppers, who returned three kickoffs for a 23.7 yard average and also had a 33 yard punt return.

Another was the use of Duke Johnson, which we hope Todd Haley remembers going forward.  Johnson had a 23 yard run and has a 33 yard reception as well.  He needs to touch to ball more often.

Also, it wouldn’t be an NFL game without a horrific call, or in this case a missed call, by the people who are supposed to be officiating the game.  On the Chargers last touchdown of the first half, LT Russell Okung came out of his stance at least a second before the ball was snapped, and wasn’t penalized for a false start.

The Browns looked a little like a team who started thinking they were better than they are after the overtime win over Baltimore last week.

Hopefully, the coaching staff will use today’s game to remind them that they still are one of the bottom feeders in the NFL, and they have to play much better to win games.

The best case scenario is to use this as a learning tool.  The game itself was total domination.

JD

 

Happy With Baker, But Let’s Ease Up A Bit

There is no question that fans of the Cleveland Browns are looking for things to be optimistic about.

After one win in the last two seasons, having a 2-2-1 record through five games certainly provides a glimmer of hope.  There is even talk about playoff contention, and heck, if the Browns can get to Thanksgiving still in the hunt, that would be outstanding.

The rookie class is exceeding everyone’s expectations, with Denzel Ward showing signs he can be a shutdown cornerback, Nick Chubb showing flashes of being a top flight running back, and Genard Avery doing very well as a pass rusher.

And then you have the first overall pick, QB Baker Mayfield, who has been pressed into service quicker than most figured after the acquisition of Tyrod Taylor, brought in so the team could ease the rookie into the job.

Mayfield has completed 58.9% of his passes and has a passer rating of just 81.4, but he is providing football fans in northeast Ohio a reason to tune in the Browns every Sunday.

He put up 42 points in a loss to the Raiders, even though he turned the ball over four times.

He ranks 10th in the NFL in yards per passing attempt, meaning he’s not a dink and dunk type of passer, he’s picking up yardage in chunks

We have heard people in the local media and also fans saying the Browns have found their “franchise” quarterback, the franchise’s first since Bernie Kosar.

We say let’s slow down a bit.

We believe you have to string a couple of very good seasons together to achieve the franchise moniker.  And while he like Mayfield a lot, let’s wait until NFL defense have seen the rookie and compiled a dossier on how to combat him.

Let’s look at the two quarterbacks taken with the first two picks of the 2015 NFL Draft, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.

Winston started all 16 games his rookie year, and after 12 games, the Buccaneers were 6-6.  In those first dozen contests, he threw 17 TD passes vs. 12 interceptions as Tampa looked much improved from a 2-14 season the year before.

He threw for at least 177 yards in every game, topping out with a 363 yard effort in a 31-23 loss to the Rams in the 14th game of the year.

Three years later, does anyone consider Winston one of the top 10 QBs in the NFL?

Mariota started 12 games his rookie year, with the Titans going 3-9 in his starts.  He completed 62% of his passes with 19 touchdowns, 10 picks, and a 91.5 passer rating.

His second year was even better–26 TDs, 9 interceptions and a 95.6 rating as Tennessee went 9-7 for the season.

They made the playoffs last season, but the quarterback’s performance declined.  He threw 13 scoring passes with 15 interceptions, and this year they are 1-2 in his starts and he has a TD to interception ratio of 2:4.

Again, he wouldn’t make anyone’s Top 10 either.

And that’s our definition of a franchise quarterback, a guy who is among the top players at the most important position in sports.

Don’t forget Dak Prescott in Dallas, who was hailed as a future All Pro after his rookie year, when the Cowboys went 13-3.  Now?  He’s showing he may just be average.

So, while we are very excited about the former Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, we aren’t ready to ordain him quite yet.  He is playing very well right now, but let’s evaluate him in late November or early December.

By then, we will make more of a sample size to evaluate him.  We do like what we’ve seen so far.

JD

 

A Tribe Post Mortem

The Cleveland Indians season came to a disappointing end in the American League Division Series for the second straight year, and this time they can’t even complain about blowing the series.

Giving up 21 runs in a three game series, while scoring only 6 doesn’t make anyone wistful about what might have been.

We were worried about the Tribe’s offense throughout the season, and our worst fears came true, as the Indians got just three hits in each of the first two games, and had only four yesterday until the Astros blew the game open off the Cleveland bullpen, which by the way, was another concern.

The offense was top heavy all year long, buoyed by excellent seasons by Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Michael Brantley.  When Ramirez’ bat went AWOL around the middle of August, the offense really sputtered.

One thing that is needed during the winter is the addition of some solid, consistent bats to pick up the slack with that trio, and Brantley may not be back, isn’t hot.

While we all look at statistics, particularly the new ones, the analytics people need to realize that going 4 for 5 on a given night, and following it up with a couple of 0 for 4s, makes you 4 for 13 (.308 batting average), but you didn’t do anything offensively on two of those nights.

This year’s Tribe had too many players (Yonder Alonso, Jason Kipnis, anyone playing centerfield and rightfield) who did nothing at the plate on a nightly basis.

Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff have a lot of spots in the lineup that need an upgrade.

And while the starting rotation is the cornerstone of the team, the bullpen will need a massive overhaul.  Brad Hand and Adam Cimber will return, but beyond that duo, who knows?

Cody Allen and Andrew Miller are free agents, and it is doubtful they will be back.

Terry Francona tried to force Trevor Bauer into the Miller 2016 role in the series, but Bauer is a starter, and being moved out of his normal role didn’t work.

He did it because he no longer trusted Allen and Miller to get big outs when needed.

And speaking of the skipper, he needs to do some internal auditing as well.

The patience vs. stubbornness fine line continues to be an issue.  He wanted Miller to be the ’16 edition when he brought him out of the bullpen in Game 2, and probably pulled Carlos Carrasco too early as a result.

But that Miller disappeared midway through last season.  Hoping he would come back didn’t help against Houston.

Perhaps there should be a dissenting voice on the staff.  The current staff has been with Tito for awhile, and they probably think a lot alike.  Sometimes, it’s good to look at things with a different slant.

The first order of business will be the free agents.  If Brantley wants to stay on a one or two year deal, we would welcome him back.  Let’s face it though, he’s declined defensively, and ideally should spend much of his time at DH.

However, the Tribe has Edwin Encarnacion for another season.

The contention window is not closing.  The Indians still have a strong rotation, and still have two of the top ten players in the sport in Lindor and Ramirez.  However, you can’t have below average players everywhere else and get to where you want to go.

That and rebuilding the bullpen are the biggest jobs the front office has this winter.

For Tribe fans, this loss with sting until spring training begins in mid-February.

MW

Browns Tough One Out To Get Back to .500.

It wasn’t artistic, but when you’ve won two games since the beginning of the 2016 season, beggars can’t be choosers.

When Greg Joseph’s line drive kick went through the uprights with under ten seconds remaining in overtime, it elevated the Cleveland Browns to a .500 record after five weeks of the NFL season, with a 12-9 win over Baltimore in overtime.

It was the third game (out of five) for the Browns that four quarters wasn’t enough to decide the game.

The Browns scored the game’s only touchdown in this defensive battle, a 19 yard touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield to Rashard Higgins late in the second quarter, which gave Cleveland a 6-3 lead after Joseph missed the extra point.

Baltimore took the lead after intercepting a Mayfield throw in Browns’ territory, besides that the Browns’ defense, rapidly becoming the strength of this team, allowed just two other field goals, and forced two more turnovers, to give them 15 on the season, topping last year’s squad’s total for the entire season of 13.

Denzel Ward’s interception at the goal line stopped a certain Baltimore score, and is there anyone out there who still thinks GM John Dorsey made a mistake by taking the former Buckeye standout at that spot?

Ward is quickly becoming a player that other quarterbacks avoid.

The other first round pick, the first overall pick, is also acquitting himself nicely too.

Baker Mayfield completed 25 of 43 passes for 342 yards, and directed the game winning drive that began with a reverse to WR Rod Streater, which lost 11 yards and put the team at 2nd and 21 from their own five.

From there, the rookie scrambled for 13 yards to get out of the shadow of their own goal line, and then on 3rd and 8, avoided a sack, and hit rookie Derrick Willies for 43 yards to move into Baltimore territory.

Then, a player who seems to get lost in the shuffle, Duke Johnson, took over, carrying three times for 24 yards to put the ball in position for Joseph.

Joe Flacco threw for 298 yards, but it took him 56 attempts to accumulate those yards, and he was also sacked twice, once by Jamie Collins, and the other on a combination of Myles Garrett and Trevon Coley.

But they didn’t allow the Ravens any big plays, keeping WR John Brown in control, with only 4 catches for 58 yards.

It seems last week’s secondary issues may have been due to Terrance Mitchell leaving the game with an injury, because today, with E.J. Gaines starting, the defensive backfield provided the same type of play as they have all year, save for the Oakland game.

The linebackers all had big days, with Collins getting 12 tackles, Christian Kirksey also had 12, and Joe Schobert forced a fumble.

The officiating was a factor again, as Baltimore didn’t pick up their first penalty until late in the fourth quarter.  In a sport where many of the penalties can be considered arbitrary, for one team to have 10 penalties (the Browns) and the other to have none is very, very strange.

It appears the zebra missed a pass interference call against Jarvis Landry by ruling the pass uncatchable (of course it is, Landry was tackled) and they should have call intentional grounding later in OT on Flacco.

To be fair, the roughing the passer call against Mayfield in the extra session, shouldn’t have been called either.

With the Chargers coming in next week, the Browns have survived a tough early schedule (Steelers, Saints, Ravens) with a 2-2-1 record.

And they seem to keep getting better each and every week.

JD

A Tough Series Ahead For Tribe

Tomorrow afternoon, the Cleveland Indians start their quest to end a 70 year drought without a World Series title.

To make matters tougher, they embark on the journey having to take on the defending World Series titlists, the Houston Astros, in the best of five Division Series.

We could be completely wrong on this, because well, baseball, but we feel it will be a very difficult series for the Tribe to emerge victorious.

The Astros lead the American League in run differential, meaning them, not the 108 win Boston Red Sox are the best team in the AL.

The Indians’ hallmark is their pitching, particularly their starters.  Their staff ERA is 3.77, ranking 4th in the American League.  However, Houston led the league in that category, more than a half run per game less at 3.11.

Cleveland has scored more runs, but only 21 more than the Astros on the season.

The teams are very similar offensively.  The Indians scored three runs or less 58 times, which is over 1/3rd of their games.  That seems like a lot, right?

Except the Astros did the same thing more often, having 64 games with three runs or less.

Using the 350/450/800 standard for being a very good offensive player, the Indians have three such players (Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley, and Jose Ramirez), while the Astros have two in Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman.

Houston comes in as the hotter team, going 21-6 after September 1st, while the Indians went 14-14.  But as we found out last year, being hot coming into the playoffs makes absolutely no difference.

As we said, both teams have exceptional starting pitching, and in our opinion, that’s what the series will come down to.  Corey Kluber won 20 games this year, but at times has appeared mortal this season.  His game one mound opponent, Justin Verlander, quite frankly had a better season.

The two teams met seven times in the regular season, with Houston having a 4-3 advantage.

In Houston, all three games were close.  The Indians were either tied or ahead through 6-1/2 innings in each contest, and a tired starter gave up runs late.  Remember, at that time, the Cleveland bullpen was having major issues.

At Progressive Field, Houston won in blowout fashion in the first two games, the latter with the Astros scoring 11 runs in the last two innings.

Even in the extra inning win the day before Memorial Day, the Tribe led 3-2 after seven, before Houston scored six in the 8th, matched by a five run rally in the bottom of the ninth by the Indians.

In that game, Trevor Bauer was left in to throw a season high 127 pitches.

So, this series could hinge on how well Allen, Miller, and Hand do.  Only Allen was fully healthy at the time.  Miller was about to go on the DL, and Hand was in San Diego.

If Ramirez doesn’t start hitting in this series, the offense could depend on whether or not Josh Donaldson can contribute.

The record says the Astros are better than the Tribe, but last year it said the Indians were the better team than New York.

We say it will be a great series, and these two teams are more evenly matched than it appears record wise.

If we have to make a prediction, we would go with the Astros in four.  We also can’t tell you how wrong we would like to be.

MW

Browns Giving Themselves A Chance To Win, Need To Cash In.

The Cleveland Browns have played 25% of their schedule and hit the quarter pole with a 1-2-1 record.

That doesn’t seem much different from past seasons, but this year has a very different feel to it.

Last year, the Browns were 0-4 (obviously, they went 0-16), and outside of the first game of the season against the Steelers, Hue Jackson’s squad fell behind early and tried to climb back into the game (with the exception of Week 4 vs. Cincinnati).

In 2016, it was better.  The Browns were in all four games to open that season, and should have defeated Miami if not for kicking woes (sound familiar?).

However, last season, the quarterback was DeShone Kizer and his traveling turnover show, and in ’16 Robert Griffin III was injured in the opener and was replaced by the local media’s favorite, Josh McCown.

Now, Jackson has turned over the keys to Baker Mayfield, and suddenly there is hope on the horizon.

We have heard the criticism of Mayfield’s four turnovers last Sunday, but there is no question the good he did outweighed the bad.

How about the throw to Darren Fells for a 49-yard touchdown, or the fade to Jarvis Landry for another score.  For that matter, when was the last time the Browns used a fade pattern and it worked?

And the strike over the middle to Antonio Callaway was beautiful too.  Yes, he was wide open, but Mayfield hit him in stride and he took it to the 1 yard line.

This year’s team has had a legitimate chance to win every game.  Two games have went to overtime, one ended in a tie, the other in a loss.  Cleveland had the lead against New Orleans with two minutes to go.

We fully support the Bill Parcells theory of your record is what it says it is, but after two seasons with very few good shots at winning, forgive us if we can’t help but be encouraged.

The defense has created turnovers, 13 of them to be exact.  By the way, last year’s Browns created that many for the entire season.

Myles Garrett is becoming one of the NFL’s best pass rushers, and another first round pick, Denzel Ward is becoming a shutdown cornerback.  You didn’t hear Ward’s name too often last Sunday because Derek Carr was trying to avoid him.

We get that people want to see more of rookie Nick Chubb at running back, but it isn’t as though Carlos Hyde has been bad.  He ranks 5th in the NFL in rushing to date.

Still, Chubb should get more opportunities because as he showed Sunday, he can be explosive.  Also, his carries will keep Hyde fresh for the end of the season.

Landry is a Pro Bowl wide receiver, Joe Schobert is a Pro Bowl linebacker.

The point is there is talent on this roster, and it’s not just people that Browns’ fans think highly of.  People around the NFL respect the young players on the roster here.

Now they have to win.  And winning is something you learn.  Make no mistake though, it is no longer a talent issue.

If the Browns can’t start converting some of these efforts into wins, we doubt Hue Jackson will be here in 2019.  That’s not a threatening thing, it’s just that the NFL is a result business.

JD

 

Browns Get Robbed In Oakland.

If you read this site regularly, you know we are not nor ever have been a fan of the way the NFL is officiated.

We have claimed for years that the NFL officials are the worst in professional sports, and today’s Browns-Raiders games demonstrated exactly why we think that.

Did they Browns play great today?  No.  Did the defense give up a boatload of big plays in the second half and overtime?  Yes.

However, late in the game the Browns did enough to salt this game away and denied a victory on the road because of the officiating.

First, a play in the fourth quarter when Myles Garrett and Genard Avery sacked Raiders’ QB Derek Carr, and it was clear that the ball popped out immediately after the Cleveland defenders hit him.

Larry Ogunjobi was picking up the ball to start running toward the end zone as the whistle blew.  The call was Carr was in the grasp and the play was blown dead.  Blown dead without the ball being in anyone’s control.

Later, with less than two minutes to go, the Browns stopped the Raiders on downs and took control of the ball on the Oakland nine yard line.

Three running plays to force the Raiders to use their timeouts were used, and the third one appeared to give Cleveland a first down, which would have allowed the Browns to run out the clock.

We thought it was a bad spot in the Raiders’ favor to begin with, but the measurement gave Cleveland the first down anyway.

But a review of the play moved the spot back further and forced the Browns to punt.

Our understanding of the rule, is there has to be irrefutable evidence to change the call on the field.  We were not shown any evidence on the broadcast.

Even former the former NFL officiating supervisor, Dean Blandino, was on the FOX telecast, couldn’t believe the call was overturned.

Given another chance, the Raiders tied the game and forced overtime.

Just so we don’t come across as sour grapes, there was other calls in favor of the Browns which were terrible.

The crew blew a whistle early on a run by Marshawn Lynch, costing the Raiders a long gain in the first half.  And a terrible roughing the passer call gave the Browns a first down, also in the first half.

The problem is the consistency and a need by many crews to affect the game.  Check the box scores every week and see how many games have more than 10 penalties called on each team.

One of the things that made the Browns-Jets game so fun to watch (besides the Browns finally winning) was there were only 11 penalties in the entire game.

Were there other things?  Of course.  The Browns’ receivers dropped a lot of passes, particularly in the first half.

They had a 28-14 lead, and had two critical turnovers which led to 20 unanswered points by Oakland, which gave them a 34-28 advantage.

Still, the Browns fought back and overcame this and should have won the game after turning back the Raiders at the goal line.

They lost the turnover battle for the first time this season, committing four, including a pick six in the first quarter, while forcing just two interceptions.  Of course, they forced a fumble late too, but it was taken away.

All in all, the Browns have made football exciting again for fans in northeast Ohio.  They are a competitive team.

The next test is at home against the Ravens next Sunday.  For the first time in a while, it’s something to look forward to.

JD

Watch Love’s Numbers Go Up in ’18-’19

After Kevin Love signed his contract extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer, there is no question who the leader this edition of the wine and gold is.

Love is a former champion, a five time all star, and a second team All NBA selection twice.

When Love arrived in Cleveland, he was regarded as kind of the third wheel after LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, and he quickly became the whipping boy for fans because he no longer averaged the 26 points he scored in Minnesota.

As Chris Bosh predicted when Love joined James with the Cavs, it’s not easy to be a guy who doesn’t have the ball in his hands all the time, when playing with LeBron.

The former UCLA All American looked and played tentative at times, seemingly unsure of what he was supposed to do on the court.

He played inside and outside with the Timberwolves, and with the Cavaliers, it seemed he was more of a three point shooter.

Now that James has departed the squad, Love will be the primary scoring threat, and people have questioned whether or not he will be able to handle the role.

If you look at the numbers, there is no question Kevin Love can get back to averaging 20 points per game.

Yes, Love’s scoring has dipped since coming to the Cavs, 17.1 per contest in four years here vs. 19.2 in six seasons with the Wolves.  But that drop comes from getting less opportunities.

In Love’s best scoring seasons in Minnesota, he averaged 19.3, 16.6, and 18.5 shots per game.  With the wine and gold, that number has dropped to 12.7, 12.7, 14.5, and 12.4 in the four years here.

For the most part, that’s between 6.5 to 7 shots per game difference.  Which by the way, is a lot.

Since Love is a career 45% shooter, you can figure three more baskets a game, that’s six points, which added to the 17 points he’s scored with Cleveland, puts him at 23 PPG.

His free throws also dropped from around eight a game in his best three seasons in Minnesota, to under five each year with the Cavs.

A lot of that is a result of playing on the perimeter, something we believe will decrease now that the middle doesn’t need to be free for James to operate.

An 80% free thrower, getting three more charity tosses per game should result in another 2.5 points.  That puts him around 25 points per game.

Will his rebounding totals also increase?  Not as much as the scoring, we say.  With the Wolves, the second best rebounder was Nikola Pekovic, and there wasn’t much beyond that.

Even with James gone, Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. provide better rebounding than the players Love had as teammates in Minnesota.

Although, we definitely see him getting back into double digits off the glass, after grabbing 9.3 boards a year ago.

The fans who wondered where the Kevin Love who played in Minnesota was will see him this season.

Why?

Because as we have said before, no player with the Cavs the past four seasons sacrificed more than Kevin Love.

As for the rap that a team can’t win with Love as the best player, look at the rosters for those teams.

When Ricky Rubio joined the team, they went 26-40 in the strike year, and were 40-42 in the second year Love was healthy.  They were getting better, and Love is definitely a better player now.

Kevin Love will show everyone this year what kind of player he is and can be.  It’s a shame he hasn’t been appreciated by many during his time here.

JK