To say anything is a “must” is tough. Sure, some things come highly recommended: watching a movie,1 trying something at a restaurant,2 experiencing a deep tissue massage at the hands of a Swedish bodybuilder…the list can go on.3 But hardly ever are things an absolute must, in this case, a “must-win” game so early in the season, but it definitely has that vibe for both the Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets.
Coming off the preseason hype train as they did, Week 1 was basically an unmitigated disaster for the Browns. Everything that could go wrong did: Baker Mayfield was not his “rookie phenom” self, getting banged up in the process and throwing far too many desperation type passes. The undisciplined nature of the game4 lent itself to making rookie head coach Freddie Kitchens look like the wrong hire. Now the backs are up against the wall already; a city craving simply a good Browns team had to deal with the below the belt blow Week 1 was are now going to be even more rabid for a win on Monday night.
But the steaming load that Week 1 was is not the only reason for the Monday night must win: the start of their season is the hardest part of their schedule. After Monday’s matchup with playoff wannabe New York, they have a Sunday night matchup at home against the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams, go to Baltimore to play their division rivals, then to San Francisco for another primetime Monday night matchup, then back across the country on a short week to play Seattle at home before their Week 7 bye. That’s a lot of prime air time, a lot of travel, and a lot of playoff-caliber matchups. Browns fans have already had to mentally cope with the idea that this team might not be as good as first expected, but too many national game losses and the vibe will get VERY ugly going forward.
Yes, a contending team can have a bad stretch of games, but with Baltimore looking like a juggernaut, albeit against the lowly Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh lurking in the shadows after a 30 point loss themselves, you can’t lose too much ground on the divisional foes. So while Monday night might now be an absolute must-win scenario, it’s about as close as you can come.
You gotta Hand it to them, they tried
The Indians, ever sneaky in so many ways, tried to get one by us late last night as they shipped closer Brad Hand home to get an MRI on his arm without telling anybody about it and would have succeeded had Jim Rosenhaus not mentioned it on the radio broadcast, prompting the TV crew to check in with Andre Knott who confirmed it. The results came back clean, but neither the exact reasoning for the exam nor the clandestine nature of the trip were given to the media. Playing a man down, especially one as good as Hand can be, is tough, and Cleveland needs every conceivable victory for the rest of the season. Why not call up James Karinchak from Columbus to take the place of Hand? It’s a move that should have been done already, but especially going into this weekend’s season-making series with Minnesota, the Tribe needs all hands on deck.5