Only two weeks remain in the 2016 NFL Season.1 We have suffered through the worst of it, and now just 120 minutes of football separate the city of Cleveland from the mercy of the NFL offseason.
There is a certain historic rival with which to contend later, but for now the Cleveland Browns (0-14) are focused on their holiday opponent the San Diego Chargers (5-9).
Are the Browns favored?
Wouldn’t that be a Christmas miracle. Nope, the Chargers enter as six-point favorites in Ohio which means for the 15th straight week the Browns are underdogs. I have no reason to doubt that trend will continue January 1, 2017 as well. Worse, the Browns have not covered the spread in eight consecutive weeks—a feat much more difficult to accomplish than actually winning a game.
San Diego leads the all-time series 15-8-1. They took the last matchup 30-27 in 2015 when a Tramon Williams offsides penalty resulted in another attempt at a field goal. Cleveland last bested the Bolts in 2012 in a 7-6 game that most fans would rather forget. Trent Richardson rushed for a 26-yard score, Nick Novak kicked two field goals for San Diego, and…that’s all. In a 44 degree, rainy day in Cleveland neither club managed much offense, combining for only 515 yards on the day. Let us all bow our heads and pray that such a game never comes our way again.
Do the Chargers Care?
Not really. San Diego is in dead last in the AFC West, six games out of first place. The club is four games out of the wild card as well and will miss the playoffs for the third straight season. The threat of relocation hangs ominously over the organization as well. San Diego held a vote in November about building a new stadium/convention center, but the measure failed to pass. Team owner Alex Spanos has made no promises to America’s Finest City about keeping the club in town long term. As the LA Rams’ new facility continues construction, the allure of some new digs in Hollywood may be too much for Spanos to resist. Clevelanders should have naught but sympathy for San Diego’s plight. They know better than most the agony over your team’s uncertain future.
He’s making a list. He’s checking it twice. He is going to find out who is covered and open. Philip Rivers is coming to town. The 35-year-old is not the same quarterback he once was. His 3,795 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions are all below his career averages. As the Chargers continue their slide into mediocrity it stands to reason that Rivers may not be in the team’s long term plans. Still, the team ranks fourth offensively (26.1 ppg). Shockingly they rank 29th defensively (26.1 ppg). Their defensive inadequacies may help explain their low position in the NFL tables. It’s worth noting tight end Antonio Gates is two touchdowns shy of the all-time tight end touchdown record. It’s also worth noting the Browns being historically bad at defending tight ends.
The Indians may not be in season, but we can still talk about everyone’s favorite subject: Attendance! Saturday will mark the Browns’ eighth and final home game of the season. For years, the turnstiles at Cleveland Browns/FirstEnergy Stadium seemed recession-proof. No matter who played quarterback or how many games the Browns lost the stadium always appeared full on Sunday. This season’s dreadful performance has started to affect the gate receipts. Here are the attendances for Browns home games so far this season.
The season is more a trend progression than an aberration. Over the past four years the average attendance has steadily dropped. (x-axis is years, y-axis is attendance)
With tickets as low as $4 each on the secondary market it seems unlikely that the season average will tick up at the end. The Browns’ rebuild is partially based on the idea that the fans will remain loyal throughout. While there are no doubt thousands of die hards who will endure the lean years such prolonged losing may turn off a younger generation and fair weather fans.
The Browns have all but secured the top pick in the 2017 Draft. All they have to do to lock it down is drop two more contests. If anything, the club has shown a knack for that over the past few months. Still, Christmas is a time for miracles, and a Cleveland win on Saturday would certainly fall under “H” for “Holiday Magic.” There is no reason a Browns win or loss should make or ruin anyone’s holiday, but a “W” would certainly make for a very Merry Christmas.
- Ed. note: THANK YOU! [↩]