With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, Cleveland Browns fans across the country now have turned their attention to Christmas, New Year’s, and other end-of-year holidays. Perhaps they are not thankful for the Cleveland Browns (0-11) in the midst of the worse season in franchise history, but I imagine the Browns are not terribly thankful their next opponent is the New York Giants (7-3) either.
With only five more chances to secure a win, can the Browns stuff the boxscore full of points on Sunday?
Are the Browns favored?
Not so much. The Giants are seven-point favorites Sunday. Considering how high the line has been in previous weeks against inferior opponents it is a little surprising how relatively close Vegas expects the game to be. Do they know something we don’t? However, it is not at all surprising that the Browns are underdogs for the twelfth straight game.
It’s worth noting that the Browns were 3.5-point underdogs heading into the season, which means two things: 1) The Browns were essentially considered a half-point underdog to the Giants on a neutral field (which is crazy talk) and 2) their horrible play throughout the season has been worth nearly four additional points.
Turn Back the Clock
The Browns lead the all-time series 26-20-2. The Giants have won five of the past six matchups dating back to 1991. New York won the most recent contest in 2012 (41-27) and Cleveland last defeated the G-Men in 2008.
In a Monday night battle, the Browns bested their guests 35-14, delivering New York’s first loss after losing the Super Bowl the previous February. Jamal Lewis rushed for a score, Darnell Dinkins and Braylon Edwards each received a touchdown pass, and Eric Wright recorded a 94-yard pick six to cap the night. Derek Anderson played quarterback in that game, and we still believed that the recently completed 2007 season was an indicator of good things to come. Simpler times.
Know Your Foe
The Giants are in the thick of the NFC playoff race. Los Gigantes opened with wins over Dallas (the lone Cowboys loss on the season) and New Orleans. They dropped their next three versus Washington, Minnesota, and Green Bay. New York has handsomely recovered since by ripping five straight wins over Baltimore, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Chicago. The club is two games behind Dallas in the NFC East, and currently sit in fifth place in the NFC with their eyes on a wild card spot.
The Giants rank 23rd in offense (20.4 ppg) and eleventh in defense (20.0 ppg). Quarterback Eli Manning has thrown 246-of-386 passes for 2,708 yards, 17 touchdowns, and ten interceptions. All-world wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has 59 receptions for 819 yards and six touchdowns. He enjoys the perfect storm of speed, height, and hands that gives him the potential to find the end zone on any and every touch.
Is this the week?
Naturally, the Browns were a topic of conversation on Thanksgiving. When asked about the Browns, my 83-year-old grandfather recommended they be reduced to high school status. He spent his youth watching Lou Groza, Jim Brown, and Otto Graham. When asked how the current roster compares to those titans he says there is no comparison.
My grandmother wonders where hope will come from next. An avid Notre Dame fan, she questions if DeShone Kizer is the hero quarterback we have been waiting for. They are both certainly disappointed in Cleveland’s 2016 showing, but even as bad as the team has been I can’t help but feel a little grateful they are around for us to analyze and discuss on Turkey Day. That tradition never gets old.
These Giants remind me of a biblical giant-Goliath. While New York may not have the same swagger as the Philistine, the Browns very much feel like a David type – wildly overmatched and facing long odds. While the Giants are favored it is worth remembering that David managed to defeat his opponent with the help of a sling and luck. Perhaps the Browns can channel their inner David and slay their opponents on Sunday.