Cavs Having October Basketball Issues

The first week of the NBA season is a time for weird things to happen.

That’s why we aren’t too concerned with the performance of the Cleveland Cavaliers thus far.

Tyronn Lue’s team has struggled out of the gate, losing two of their last three, against a trio of teams expected to be also-rans this season, the Magic, Bulls, and Nets.

If we get to game 15, and the team is 8-7 and still struggling to show any consistency, then we may have some serious questions.

Remember that the Cavaliers have eight new faces on the roster, and three of those players, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, and Isaiah Thomas, have been battling injuries.

Rose might be more important to the team than originally thought.  The Cavs opened with two straight wins, but he left the latter of the two victories late with a sprained ankle and hasn’t played since.

In his absence, Lue tried Jose Calderon against Orlando, and as expected, the veteran struggled, particularly on defense.

So, the coach turned to LeBron James at the point, moving Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup.  That unit struggled on the defensive end as well, mainly because they struggle to defend the quickness of a traditional point guards.

Rose is supposed to return to the lineup Saturday night against New Orleans, and it will be interesting to see how his presence on the court affects the other players.

Lue has been highly critical of his defense, but last night, Jae Crowder played just 20 minutes, and Tristan Thompson was on the floor for just 22 minutes.

Those two are the wine and gold’s most accomplished defenders, so if Lue wants a defensive presence for his team, it should start by giving these two players more time.

Particularly Crowder, who can shoot the three and stretch the floor on offense.

On the other hand, we said a week ago that with all the new players on the roster, we knew it would take some time for Lue to develop a rotation that works, and that process was set back a week by the absences of Rose and Wade.

Having James miss most of the pre-season with a sprained ankle didn’t help the situation either.

And yes, we know the Cavs are the oldest team in the league, but that number is skewed by the presence of Channing Frye (34), Calderon (36), and Kyle Korver (36).  Out of that trio, only Korver figures to get a lot of playing time this season.

If you take Frye and Calderon out of the mix, Cleveland is very similar in age to San Antonio, Golden State, and Houston, the next three teams in this category.

Oh, by the way, those teams are all title contenders, just like the Cavs.

Our point is we don’t want to hear how the defensive problems are due to age.  The players getting the bulk of the playing time aren’t or shouldn’t be on their last legs.

We trust Lue to figure this out.

Let’s see what happens when Rose is back and Crowder gets more time on the floor.  If the Cavs win the next three games, and look good doing it, these last three games will be forgotten.

JK

 

 

 

 

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Tribe Dilemma: Brantley, Santana, Bruce

In a little over a week from now, the baseball hot stove season will be upon us, three days after the World Series ends.

Although we were hopeful at the end of the regular season that the Indians would be involved in the Fall Classic for the second straight year, the reality of the post-season for the national pastime creeped in and Terry Francona’s team was eliminated in the Division Series.

The biggest decision the front office has to deal with immediately is whether or not to pick up the club option on Michael Brantley, and how that decision affects the future of Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce with the Tribe.

Although Brantley has been with the Indians since 2009, he is actually the youngest of the trio as he will not turn 31 until May 15th next year.

Brantley is a professional hitter.  He makes contact and gets on base on a regular basis, a career .349 on base percentage.  He is also consistent, hitting at least .285 for the last five years.

But he has the least pop of the three, a career .423 slugging percentage, and unfortunately has played only 101 games over the last two seasons.  And he had surgery on his ankle since the end of the year, and may not be available for five months.

His defense has declined in leftfield over the past couple of years, and with another leg issue, that seems unlikely to be reversed, so he may have to be a 1B or DH going forward, something we predicted a few years ago.

And the latter spot isn’t really an option with Cleveland, with Edwin Encarnacion on the roster.

If Brantley has to be moved, it would seem to force Santana out, and he is probably the best player of the three.

The switch-hitter has a lifetime .363 on base percentage and a higher slugging percentage than Brantley.  He’s also made himself into an excellent first baseman defensively.

He is the oldest of the three, turning 32 early next season.  He’s also a free agent, and if another team offered more than three years, the Tribe front office might be inclined to pass.

Bruce, who came over in August and made an immediate impact, is probably the least consistent, and is also a free agent this winter.

His 832 OPS in 2017 was his highest since 2012, and the third highest of his career.

We can’t forget he had back-to-back seasons in ’14 and ’15 where he hit .217 and .226 in hitter friendly Great American Ball Park.

Complicating the decision is what does the future hold for Jason Kipnis, who seems to be viewed as an outfielder now by the Tribe brass.

Our guess is the team will pick up Brantley’s option because of his tenure with the organization, although we would pass because of the uncertainty that he can play the outfield going forward.

Santana would be the priority because of his impact on offense and defense, and that he’s a switch-hitter.

He’s happy here and might sign a more club friendly deal to remain an Indian too.

Our second choice would be Bruce because he can still be a serviceable outfielder and he has revitalized his career by making a swing adjustment to hit the ball in the air more.

The Indians have spent more in recent years, but they aren’t a big market team, meaning they still have to be smart about who they spend big money on.  They can’t have a lot of cash tied up in a player who isn’t available.

That’s why we would pass on Brantley.  The organization probably won’t because that’s how they operate.

Still, it’s the biggest decision of the off-season.

MW

 

 

Just What Is Hue Whispering?

For the second time in three weeks, the Cleveland Browns outgained their opponent and lost a football game.

In a strange way, this could be progress.

However, once again, turnovers raised their ugly head, and along with some odd coaching moves (again!), the Browns dropped to 0-7 on the season with a 12-9 loss to the Tennessee Titans in overtime.

Hue Jackson’s team lost the turnover battle 3-1, with two of the picks coming as the team was driving.

And once again, Jackson changed quarterbacks, going to Cody Kessler in the third quarter after DeShone Kizer threw a pick at the end of the first half, and then threw another early after halftime.

There were several odd coaching decisions in this one, the first coming on the game’s first drive, when Jackson declined a personal foul penalty on 3rd and 1 in Cleveland territory.

The Titans went for it on fourth and one, and picked up the first down.  Thankfully, the defense stiffened and held Tennessee to a field goal.

Didn’t Jackson consider the possibility that the Titans would go for it?  Also, the penalty yardage would have backed the Titans out of field goal range.

Another odd play was Kessler’s interception in the fourth quarter.

On 3rd and 13 from the Titans’ 47 yard line, Kessler fired the ball downfield and it was picked off on the Tennessee 8 with Cleveland trailing 9-6.

One, why not try to get seven or eight yards and then go for it on fourth down.  Two, the replay showed there were no route underneath to do just that.

Jackson forced his QB to throw a long pass downfield, and we believe everyone would believe that throwing downfield is not Kessler’s strong suit.

The Browns had another penalty filled day, another thing that can be attributed to the coaching staff.

The special teams had a block in the back call (to be fair, a little questionable) on the Browns last drive forcing them to start 10 yards further back after forcing a punt, and they received another flag on Cleveland’s last punt for a player being out of bounds, giving Tennessee an extra five yards on the game winning drive.

Then, in overtime, both possessions started offensively for Cleveland with runs, putting Kessler in unfavorable down and distance situations.

We understand we want the Browns to run the football, and they did make a concerted effort to do that today, but they still wound up running 26 times vs. 39 passes.

Our point in overtime is with Kessler in there, why not throw a short pass to gain 4 or 5 yards on first down and give your passer options?

To top off the entire mess, Joe Thomas got hurt in the game and had his consecutive snap streak ended.  His availability for next week is in doubt.  And if he can’t play, the offensive line is a mess.

Want positives?  Rookie TE David Njoku continues to show he is a player, with two catches for 58 yards.  The question would be why just two catches?

The other positive is the defense, which did not allow the opposition into the end zone.  Granted, Tennessee likes to run the ball, and the Browns are very good at stopping the run, but they accomplished this with Jason McCourty and Jabrill Peppers inactive with injuries.

So, now it’s off to London for a game against the Vikings, followed by the bye week.

Another game with weird coaching decisions and the front office may have to do something.  Perhaps change play calling responsibilities, maybe a change at special teams’ coach.

It’s tough to be 1-22, when this was supposed to be a season where progress was to be seen.

We don’t think Hue Jackson is giving us any confidence that it will be.

JD

 

Cavs’ Opener Just One Game, They Will Only Get Better.

The Cleveland Cavaliers started the defense of their Eastern Conference title by beating Boston 102-99 Tuesday night.

There is no question this is a very different team than last year, as Kyrie Irving is gone, and partially because of the deal which sent him to Boston, the roster is much deeper than a year ago.

They are also not a team that is as reliant on the three point shot as a year ago, but they still have the perimeter threats that are needed on a team where LeBron James is the best player on the roster.

Coach Tyronn Lue has Jae Crowder, JR Smith, Kevin Love, Kyle Korver, and Channing Frye on the roster, and all of them are very good from beyond the arc.

However, whereas last year, just James and Irving could create their own shots, the wine and gold have Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade too, and the other night saw Smith showing something beside standing outside waiting for the ball to find him.

Any concerns about a three point win over a team that lost their second best player five minutes into the game should be excused right now as a team still learning how to play together and a coach still searching for the right combinations.

Many of already questioned Lue’s choice as a starting lineup, but does it really matter?  The bigger question is who will play at crunch time, and while Tuesday night it was the starters, something tells us that will change as the season continues.

We would expect Smith will be out there at the end of the game because of his defense and ability to stretch the floor.

And depending on the opponent, you could see a different combination upfront, but likely two of these three (Love, Crowder, and Tristan Thompson) will be out there with James and Rose.

In the first half, the defense looked much improved with everyone keeping their men in front of them.  And we thought Rose did a solid job denying Irving the ball in the last few minutes in the opener.

If Rose’s knee is sound, he will provide better defense at the point guard position than Cleveland received a year ago.

We are anxious to see how Lue divides the minutes going forward.

We would like to see James getting about 34-35 minutes per night, with Wade getting around 24 to keep them strong and fresh heading into the playoffs.

No doubt Thompson will get more than the 19 minutes he played in the lidlifter.

And we are sure the staff will put some things in to get Kyle Korver some shots when he is on the floor.

While much was made Tuesday night about the Celtics roster turnover, the Cavaliers are facing the same issue, but apparently since they have James, it is overlooked.

Lue started only two players (James and Love) that started a year ago.  And outside of LeBron, every member of the first two units has a different role than they had a year ago.

So, there is a lot for this team get used to.

It was a win, and that is better than losing.  However, it will be interesting to see where the Cavs are after 10 or 15 games.  That will be a more accurate barometer for the progress of a pretty much new group of players.

JK

 

Note To Hue Jackson: Run The Football, Protect Your Young QB

The Cleveland Browns are searching for a quarterback.  We believe everyone would agree with that statement.

As we are so often reminded, in the past two NFL Drafts, the Browns passed on picking what a lot of experts felt were blue chip prospects.

In 2016, Cleveland could’ve picked Carson Wentz, but traded out of the pick, obtaining a lot more draft choices.

This past April, the Browns were in position to take Deshaun Watson from the national champion Clemson Tigers, but again traded out of the slot, and in the second round took DeShone Kizer.

However, in watching last Sunday’s game against the team that drafted Watson, the Houston Texans, a few things stood out.

The first and most glaring was how Texans’ coach Bill O’Brien has taken care of his rookie, in sharp contrast to how Hue Jackson has handled Kizer.

Watson made very few throws outside the numbers.  O’Brien gives him a lot of easy throws, short passes over the middle, with an occasional deep ball, like the 39 yard touchdown pass to Will Fuller.

He has completed 61.5% of his passes, and he does have a security blanket in WR DeAndre Hopkins, who has caught 37 passes on the season, for an average of 10.3 yards per reception.

Kizer doesn’t have a wideout like Hopkins, the Browns’ leading receiver is RB Duke Johnson with 26 catches.  The wide receiver position is like a revolving door, with Ricardo Louis having the most catches with 18.

The biggest benefit for Watson is the Texans’ running game, which ranks second in the NFL in both number of attempts and yards gained.

Cleveland ranks 18th in attempts and 17th in yards.  But do you know what the difference in yards per carry is between the two teams?  Houston averages 4.4 per rush, and the Browns are at 4.2.

That’s right, 0.2 yards per carry.

Yet, the Texans have run the ball 49 more times on the season than Cleveland.

It’s not much different for Wentz’ Eagles, who sit atop the NFC East at 5-1.  Philly ranks 5th in the league in rushing yards, and 4th in attempts.  Average yards per carry?  The same 4.4 figure the Texans own.

The top ten in rushing is pretty much a list of surprise teams or teams with young quarterbacks.

Jacksonville (3-3) with a mediocre to this point in his career, Blake Bortles, is first.  Houston (3-3) with a rookie in Watson is second.

Another rookie guided squad, the Bears (2-4), led by Mentor’s Mitch Trubisky, is third.

Others in the top ten are the Eagles (5th), the Vikings (4-2) despite an injury to Sam Bradford is 7th, the surprising Rams (4-2) with second year QB Jared Goff are 8th, and the Jets (3-3) with aging veteran Josh McCown, yes, that Josh McCown, round out the top ten.

Unfortunately, the Browns seem to go into each game intending to run the ball, but as soon as they fall behind by ten or more points, even if it is still in the first half, they go away from it.

Cleveland should be able to run.  They have two backs, who at least can be considered solid in Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson.

They invested money in two free agent offensive linemen this off season and still have the incomparable Joe Thomas and Joel Bitonio.

And as previously stated, it’s not like they average 3.5 yards per carry.

Do the people who bring up Wentz and Watson think those passers would have the same success running the offense the Browns are currently running?

It’s time for Jackson to adjust his offense to the talent he currently has, including DeShone Kizer.  That would be the best thing for his development.

JD

 

Browns Keep Firing Long Passes, Lose Once Again

So, the biggest news of the week for pro football fans in Cleveland was that Kevin Hogan was named the starting quarterback, giving rookie DeShone Kizer time to watch and learn.

Surely, the way Hogan played in the second half last week, getting the ball to David Njoku, Seth DeValve, and Duke Johnson, would carry over to this week and we would see a more efficient offensive game.

And early on, it seemed to work.  Heck, the Browns even picked up two first downs on their first drive, an improvement from the usual three and out.

The Browns even tied up the game at 3 in the first quarter after pinning Houston deep in their own territory after a punt and getting a good return from Jabrill Peppers.

After the Texans scored on a deep pass, the Browns were moving again, mostly using the ground game to get the football in the red zone.

After Hogan overthrew the ball on first down, his next pass was another overthrow picked off by Johnathon Joseph and run back 82 yards for a touchdown.

That seemed to be the end of the running and short passing game.

And Hue Jackson’s squad dropped to 0-6 on the season with a 33-17 loss, and are now 1-21 during his tenure as head coach.

After that interception, Cleveland ran the ball just twice the rest of the first half, and that turnover occurred with 11:08 left in the second quarter!

Cleveland trailed 24-3 at halftime, and was lucky it wasn’t worse.  They got the ball back with slightly over three minutes to go in the half, and threw three passes, two of them deep throws, giving Houston the ball back with 2:33 left.

Luckily, the defense held.

Our point is if you are going to run that type of offense, there is really no reason not to play Kizer, he is more suited and has the bigger arm to throw the ball downfield.

As a result of this type of offense, the Browns were just three of 14 in third down conversions, a woeful 21.4%.  That doesn’t help the defense of course.

Duke Johnson, a player one of the Browns’ own coaches said is a threat every time he touches the ball, had five carries and caught three passes.

The two tight ends, Njoku and DeValve?  Both caught two passes.

Meanwhile, Jackson has his quarterbacks heaving 20-25 yard patterns on a week to week basis.

Thank goodness for Myles Garrett, who had another sack today, his third in two games, and had five tackles total.

We liked Deshaun Watson coming out of Clemson, but he didn’t do anything today that knocked our socks off.  He is just in a better system and has some playmakers surrounding him.

Texans’ coach Bill O’Brien didn’t ask his rookie to make a lot of throws outside the numbers, the way Jackson does with his passers.  Watson makes a lot of short tosses in the middle of the field.

Which is what we would like to see the Browns do with Kizer.

The one positive we can think of is Zane Gonzalez made a field goal today, a 41-yarder.  He needed that.

Another telling sign on the Browns coaching was 11 penalties.  Granted Cleveland has the youngest roster in the NFL, but the yellow flags are a constant issue.  Doesn’t that reflect on the staff?

We all know the definition of insanity.  Yet, Jackson doesn’t seem to want to do anything differently on offense.  He continues to chuck long throws to a mediocre wide receiver crew.

Name another team in watching other games that throws deep ball this often.

Bringing up the insanity thing again…maybe the fans fall in the same category.

JD

 

Tribe’s Loss Stings, But Future Is Still Bright.

While it is certainly a shock to our system that the Cleveland Indians’ season ended abruptly Wednesday night, our biggest takeaway is that it’s baseball.

Look at it this way, the best team in football wins around 85% of the regular season games.  In basketball, that figure is around 75%.

In baseball, a team that wins 100 games in the regular season, is victorious in 62% of the contests.  A five game period like the one the Tribe just went through in the Division Series, occurs in June or July all the time.

The Indians didn’t hit, scoring just five runs combined in the last three games, and that isn’t going to get it done.  You have to get more offense.

Players like Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Edwin Encarnacion couldn’t get a hit, let alone one in the clutch, and all three had slumps during the regular season.

We questioned not using Mike Clevinger as a fourth starter in this series and not starting Yandy Diaz at third base, and those are legitimate now as well.  The former wasn’t the bullpen weapon Terry Francona thought he would be, and perhaps Diaz’ bat could have helped the offense.

However, people thinking there will be drastic changes, or need to be drastic changes are just wrong.

As it stands right now, the Indians are the favorite to win the American League Central Division in 2018, and their roster is set up to contend for the next few years.

And as we just learned and should remember from last year’s run to the World Series, once you get in the playoffs, you have a good chance to win it all.

We have said many times that the best thing about the Indians is their two best players are 25 (Ramirez) and 23 (Lindor).  And they have one of best prospects in the game in Francisco Mejia coming soon.

Where Mejia will play is up for debate at this time.

And don’t forget about Bradley Zimmer, who tailed off after a hot start, but should improve in his second big league season.

They still have the best starting rotation in the game, and if Trevor Bauer has found some consistency, they could have a top three that is the envy of any GM in the game, and Clevinger went 12-6 in his first extended big league experience.

They also have Danny Salazar, Josh Tomlin, and Ryan Merritt to fill out the rotation.

Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith are free agents, so there may be a couple of holes in the bullpen, but we wouldn’t be surprised if one or both are back in 2018.

The front office does have some decisions to make.  Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce are free agents, and Michael Brantley has a club option for ’18.

Our bet on the free agents is that it will come down to years, because the Indians can’t afford to pay a player big money (over $10 million per year) for someone who isn’t producing.

And where will Jason Kipnis play in 2018?  It’s pretty clear the Tribe wants to use Ramirez at 2B going forward, so is Kipnis’ move to the outfield permanent.  A lot could depend on what happens with Santana and Bruce.

We think many fans got caught thinking the playoffs would be a cakewalk because of last year.  The Yankees were a better club than either the Red Sox or the Blue Jays, and most of the key players stopped hitting.

It’s a reminder of how special last year’s run to the Fall Classic with basically three starters was.

It’s painful now, but the future is very bright for the Cleveland Indians.  Just win the division next year and take another shot at winning the whole thing.

MW

 

 

Why Is Hue Held Blameless?

We understand how it goes when covering a team.  Reporters talk to the coaches everyday, and unless the coach is a total jerk, we are sure they develop a good relationship.

And when you cover the Cleveland Browns, and the front office representative, Sashi Brown is kind of condescending to the media, it is probably natural to support the coach when at all possible.

However, in watching the games, it is hard to see if objectivity is used, why the front office should be under attack.

One veteran media member said yesterday that the Kenny Britt signing is proof that Brown is over his head as Executive Vice President of the team.  What?

Wouldn’t the signing of CB Jason McCourty alone counteract the Britt acquisition?

And that’s not even bringing up getting Jamie Collins, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, and  Jamar Taylor in trades or guys brought in off the waiver wire.

While the “you have to have a football man in charge” people don’t want to admit it, the two drafts the Brown regime has overseen has more promising players chosen than most drafts in recent memory.

Another reporter wrote after Sunday’s loss to the Jets that Jackson couldn’t be blamed because Zane Gonzalez missed two field goals and DeShone Kizer turned it over twice in the red zone.  Huh?

He’s in charge, right?  He gets credit when players play well.

He’s developed the game plan that put in an audible for an option pitch near the goal line that resulted in a fumble.  The second turnover was simply an awful throw by Kizer.

Jackson is also the coach who didn’t put in a system to protect a 21-year-old rookie quarterback.  Look at the two quarterbacks most media members bring up as guys the front office blew it by passing on.

Carson Wentz is having a fine season for the 4-1 Eagles.  But his offense is also 4th in the NFL in rushing.  Deshaun Watson, passed over this season, is playing well too, but the Texans are 3rd in running the football.

The Browns rank 23rd in rushing and this past week gave their quarterback more carries than Duke Johnson had touches.

The failure to commit to the running game is on the coach, it’s not Sashi Brown’s fault.

In fact, Brown spent a ton of money on two offensive linemen, both of whom start for the 2017 Browns.

We also read someone bemoaning the players the front office let go, bringing up Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz.  Mack started in the Super Bowl, and Schwartz starts for the NFL’s best team in Kansas City.

Those are fair criticisms.

Then, Terrelle Pryor was brought up.  The same Pryor who has 13 catches for 186 yards on the season to date.  Heck. Ricardo Louis has 15 receptions for 204 yards.

Also mentioned?  Gary Barnidge, who isn’t on an NFL roster.

And of course, Joe Haden is always brought up.  Haden is still a decent cornerback in the NFL, but he no longer can match up with top receivers.  Stop comparing him to the memories of him four years ago before the injuries took their toll.

Yesterday, a member of the Browns’ broadcast crew admitted Cleveland has more talent than the Jets, the team that defeated them last Sunday.  They are now 3-2 on the season.

So, why can’t the Browns win some games?  We aren’t advocating firing the head coach because the organization can’t keep doing that.

However, it is time to start holding the coaching staff accountable.  Don’t protect him because he’s a good guy, and point the finger at someone who you don’t know.

JD

 

 

Decisions In Red Zone Cost Browns.

We are sure most of the focus of today’s 17-14 loss by the Cleveland Browns to the New York Jets will be on Hue Jackson’s decision to remove DeShone Kizer at halftime.

However, that shouldn’t mask the terrible coaching decisions made during the game.  Although the smile on fans’  faces after watching Myles Garrett, who recorded two sacks in his debut, shouldn’t be discounted.

Quite frankly, the Browns dominated this football game, particularly in the first half, which ended with Cleveland trailing 3-0.

In total, the Browns gained 419 yards offensively, compared to 212 by the Jets.  And they still lost.

With this one-sided statistical edge, Jackson should have to answer for a case of trying to be too cute offensively when his team got into the red zone.

The first time the brown and orange got inside the Jets’ 20, Cleveland ran an option pitch on third down, the first time the play has been used all year.

The pitch went off of Isaiah Crowell’s hands and was recovered by New York, so instead of at least three points (more on that later), the Browns were kept off the scoreboard.

Later, on the Browns’ next possession, rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez missed a 52-yard field goal.  More to come on that front.

The next time Cleveland got the ball close, on a 3rd down and three from the Jets’ four, Kizer threw an interception when it looked as if had he floated the ball over the safety, it would have been a TD pass to TE Seth DeValve.

Before the half ended, Gonzalez missed another field goal, this one much more makeable, from 39 yards.  It’s tough to keep missing opportunities to score points.

So, instead of 20 points possible in the first half.  Jackson’s team emerged with zero, a combination of crazy play calling, execution by the rookie QB, and poor special teams play, mostly by the kicker.

In the second half, Kevin Hogan, who completed 16 of his 19 throws for 194 yards and two touchdowns, seemed to have more rhythm with the attack, and also looked more amenable to getting the ball to the teams’ best offensive players:  Crowell, Duke Johnson, and tight ends David Njoku and DeValve.

But another curious decision came in to play.  Down 10-7 in the fourth quarter, the Browns had a 4th and 2 from the Jets’ three.  A field goal ties the score, and even with Gonzalez’ issues, he has to be counted on to make a 20 yard attempt, right?

Instead, the coach wasted a timeout, and ran Crowell up the middle, and he wasn’t even close.

That the defense, who was dominant for most of the day allowed a 97 yard drive didn’t help matters, but why not keep the momentum and tie the contest?

Cleveland ran 33 times today, but a closer look at the numbers shows than 10 of those attempts were by the quarterbacks.

Johnson had just nine touches, and produced 83 yards, including a 41 yard run after catching a screen pass.

Njoku scored his third touchdown in five games.  Why aren’t the Browns using him more?

Removing Kizer was the right decision in our opinion.  He was hurting the team’s chances at a victory.  He holds the ball to long and the inaccuracy he was plagued with in college is rearing its’ ugly head.

It’s time for the rookie to watch for awhile, and we would definitely start Hogan next week against the Texans.

He’s earned the gig.

Besides stubbornness, trying to show people how smart you are is our least favorite attribute in coaches.  Sometimes the obvious move is the right one.

Jackson has showed each of those things in the last two weeks.

JD

 

 

 

Yankees A Huge Challenge For Tribe

Anyone who is an ardent fan of baseball knows that it is a funny game.  It is probably the one sport where the best team not winning the World Series would be the norm.

The Cleveland Indians finished the regular season with the American League’s best record, so they get the winner of the wild card game as their opponent in the Division Series.

Unfortunately, the winner of that game, the New York Yankees, might just be the second best team in the AL.

The Indians led the league in run differential, outscoring their opponents by an incredible 254 runs.  The Yankees were second, with a +198 mark, just slightly ahead of Houston’s +196.

It is not the ideal situation to play the second best team in the league in a best-of-five series.

Many people have focused on Terry Francona’s decision to start Trevor Bauer in game one, but we have always thought the even numbered games are most important in a series until the deciding game, and that may be Tito’s thought process in using ace Corey Kluber in the second game.

If Bauer wins the series opener, how great will it be to have Kluber going with a chance to take a commanding 2-0 lead.

And if the Indians lose game one, you have perhaps the AL’s best pitcher to tie up the series at a game apiece.

Another reason is Francona seems hesitant to use Josh Tomlin as a starter.  If Kluber pitches game one, Tomlin would seem to be the most likely candidate to pitch a potential fourth game.

If Bauer goes in the first game, Kluber still would be the game five starter, and Bauer can go in game four, backed up by the bullpen, which has starters Danny Salazar, Mike Clevinger, and Tomlin as members.

There is no question the Yankees are a different team outside of the bandbox that is new Yankee Stadium, but amazingly, they pitch better at home too.

New York has a 817 OPS as a team at home, but that figure drops to 755 on the road.  As a comparison, the Indians have a 782 OPS at Progressive Field, and a 793 OPS away from home, another reason the Cleveland tied Houston for the best road record in the AL at 53-28.

The Yankees also have a very good bullpen, perhaps second only to the Indians.

Just as Francona can shorten a game by going to Joe Smith, Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen after five innings, Yankee skipper Joe Girardi can do the same with David Robertson, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, and Aroldis Chapman.

It will be very important for the Tribe to get an early lead in each game.

These games will probably be long.  The two teams involved are one and two in the American League in walks, but the big difference is in strikeouts.

The Indians have a strikeout staff leading the AL in whiffs, and the Yankees rank 6th in the league in fanning.  New York’s pitching staff ranks 4th in strikeouts, but Indians’ hitters are second to last in the junior circuit in whiffing.

The one decided edge the Tribe has is in the starting pitching.  While Luis Severino is one of the sports’ best young starters, Francona has three of perhaps the top ten starters in the AL at his disposal.

It is very likely that this Yankee team is better than the Red Sox or Blue Jays teams the Indians met last year in the post-season.

Make no mistake, this series will be a challenge.

MW