Browns – Chargers Preview

“I’m a baker
A poor man in a kitchen

A man to fill people
Fill their hearts and their stomachs

I was given lemons
And so I made lemon cake

I was then given grapes
And so I made wine…”

The 2018 Cleveland Browns (2-2-1) require a vocabulary that fans have not used in many years: “exciting…fun…contender?” Whoa now. The first two are certainly true, but the third remains to be seen. The Brownies will continue their homestand on Sunday when they play host to the San Diego Los Angeles Chargers (3-2).

The Chargers lead the all-time series 16-9-1 including a win last season in California. The Browns secured a significant victory in 2016, their lone win that season. Cleveland stands at 3-7 in the series since returning in 1999 though the Browns have won two straight games against the Bolts at home.

The Chargers opened the season losing two of their first three contests. The Bolts then won their past two games against San Francisco and Oakland. The team’s biggest strength has been its offense. The offense ranks eighth in points per game (27.4) and seventh in yards per game (405.2). Philip “37-year-old father of eight” Rivers seems rejuvenated in his fifteenth NFL season with 122-of-174 passing for 1,495 yards, thirteen touchdowns, and two interceptions. Rivers appears undaunted by Father Time and consistently puts his team in a position to win. Running back Melvin Gordon has 334 yards and three touchdowns on the season. Receiver Keenan Allen has 32 receptions for 372 yards and a touchdown. Anyone hoping to see former Buckeye and No. 2 overall pick Joey Bosa is out of luck. He suffered bone bruise in his foot and will be out for a few more weeks. If you like defensive linemen I recommend Melvin Ingram who has racked up 2.5 sacks and 14 tackles on the year.

Last Sunday’s game against the Ravens was certainly not the most gorgeous football game, but it ended happily for the home team. The emotional swings of the fourth quarter and overtime were exhausting but undeniably compelling television. The biggest “hold your breath” moment, of course, came when rookie kicker Greg Joseph lined up for a game-winning field goal. While the ball resembled a one-winged duck trying to fly more than anything the fact is it went over the crossbar and between the uprights. The more the Browns talk about changing the culture in Berea or altering the narrative around the Browns it’s important to remember plays like that. Those are moments that normally don’t go the Browns’ way and it’s interesting to note when it’s all coming up Cleveland.

The turnover parade continues on the lakefront. The Browns’ D has recorded 15 takeaways in 2018 which, I still cannot believe this, leads the league. Just as importantly Cleveland has only coughed up the ball seven times. Employing a rookie QB creates more risk of losing the ball, but Baker Mayfield has done a decent job controlling the rock in his handful of starts.

Cleveland will again have an opportunity for a winning streak this weekend. The Browns have not strung together wins in consecutive weeks since Weeks 9 and 10 of the 2014 season, a.k.a. The Brian Hoyer Era. Considering the rock bottom-ness of 2017 any win feels like found money. Consecutive wins, especially at home, will do wonders for the team’s confidence and prospects.