Cheerio guv’nor! It’s a right good weekend to play a little sport, eh? Me mum tells me that the Minnesota Vikings (5-2) and the Cleveland Browns (0-7) ‘ave packed up the ole eggball to hop across the pond and play the Yank style of football. Blimey. It’s not real footy, but I suppose it couldn’t ‘urt to learn a wee bit more about the sides and see what we ought to know about ‘em.
Oh, that is just intolerable. Here’s your Week 8 preview.
Are the Browns favored?
Not even in Britain. Cleveland will start the game as 9.5 point underdogs. It’s the first time the franchise has been a “home” dog when playing underseas.
Minnesota leads the all-time series 11-4, including a 27-7 victory in the 1969 NFL Championship Game. Cleveland won the most recent contest thanks to Brian Hoyer in 2013. The Vikings have won five of the last six games in the series.
The Vikings opened the season with two wins and two losses against the Saints, Steelers, Buccaneers, and Lions. Since their loss to Detroit, the Vikes have won three straight contests against Chicago Green Bay, and Baltimore. With a one game lead over the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers the Purple People Eaters appear to be in the NFC North’s catbird seat.
Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford played in Weeks 1 and 5, but a lingering injury means that Case Keenum will once again step under center for the Vikings. The veteran has thrown 122-of-190 passing for 1,322 yards, five touchdowns, and two picks. His favorite target, Adam Thielen, has 43 receptions for 529 yards. Stefon Diggs has fewer yards receiving (395) but has scored four touchdowns. Tailback Dalvin Cook leads the ground game with 354 yards and two TDs.
One week after being benched, rookie QB DeShone Kizer gets the start for Cleveland. “Struggle” feels like the right word to describe his first pro season. When you’re talking about 93-of-179 passing (52% completion) for 965 yards, three touchdowns, and eleven (!) picks “struggle” might actually be generous. The offense finally reached rock bottom last week and the unit now ranks 32nd in the NFL with a paltry 14.7 points per game.
The injury bug appears determined to squash any remaining intrigue in the Browns season. To everyone’s shock and sadness, ironman Joe Thomas suffered a tricep injury against the Titans. He underwent surgery during the week and is shut down for the year. Questions remain about whether or not he will play again, but those are for another day. The club also announced that top pick Myles Garrett has entered the NFL concussion protocol and is listed as Questionable for Sunday’s game. Quarterback Kevin Hogan remains sidelined by a rib injury. First round pick Jabrill Peppers’ toe continues to torment him as well.
The S.S. Cleveland Browns ’17 appears to be another sinking ship. Looking ahead at the schedule, Cleveland has perhaps two or three winnable games left. While those might be more viable win opportunities, I am more interested in the comedic option. The Browns have lost 35 of their past 39 games with three of them coming at home. Nothing would amuse me more than the Browns again finishing 1-15 with their only win occurring in Week 8 while the team is in England. Wouldn’t that just make the most sense? If the football gods have a sense of humor, and I believe they do, look for the Browns to earn a dramatic win early Sunday morning.