Fourth Game Vital For Cleveland Browns for at Least Five Reasons
The Cleveland Browns come off their early season bye week facing a crucial fourth game. The Browns sit at 1 – 2 after three close came against teams that were expected to be competitive coming into the season. Now the Browns face off with the Tennessee Titans in Week 5 in a game that has importance for a variety of reasons:
Compared to the Steelers, Saints and Ravens, the Titans are not a formidable team. They have struggled all season and now sit at 1 – 3 on the year, coming off three straight loses. The Browns have been competitive in their first three games against much better talent. The transitive property doesn’t work in sports but in the case of the Browns it means they should be able to handle their business against the Titans.
Specifically the Titans offensive woes seem like the perfect cure for a Browns defense that has struggled to meet expectations. The Titans haven’t scored more than 26 points all season including scoring 7, 10 and 17 in the last three weeks. Jake Locker‘s injury could keep him out of the game, or limit him. Either way that is good news for the Browns defense. Since their opening day win the Titans defense has also regressed; giving up 26, 33 and 41 points over the last three weeks. The surprising Browns offense could take a step forward this week.
Off a Bye
Coming off a Bye Week successfully is a huge sign of the Browns coaching staff. The team, especially on defense and special teams, needs to show they can make the proper adjustments to be successful. This week is the next test of Mike Pettine and his coaching staff. Will they stick with what they have been doing and hope things improve? Will they scrap some of the plans and make adjustments based on early season results? This week will likely tell the story of how Pettine sees the needs of the team.
4 Week Seasons
In the NFL coaches often talk about breaking down the season into 4 week increments. Coaches will judge their team based on 4 games at a time. This allows the coach to take a good sample of what is going on and make changes when needed but not overreact.
Most coaches goals are to go 2 – 2 at least during the 4 week seasons while improving as the season goes on. For the Browns a win this week evens them out at 2 – 2. It gives validity to the coaches and players for all of their hard work and gives them a stepping stone for the rest of the season. A loss this week would give the Browns a failing grade for early in the season.
The Cleveland Browns schedule was heavily weighted early and late in the season with a much lighter set in the middle. Now that the season is a quarter of the way done for most teams we see that those expectations seem to be reality:
That starts with this week. The Titans and the Steelers have 3 of those 4 wins of the next 5 opponents. For the Browns to feel hope going into a tough closing schedule a winning record, say 5 -3, after 8 games is crucial. A slip up against the Titans is not something the team can afford if they want to make this happen.
If the Browns can go 4 – 1 or even 5 – 0 in their next 5 games the players, and fans, will be fully bought into what the team is doing. A bought in team going into Week 10 would be well placed to compete for a playoff spot. This becomes even more crucial when remembering that Josh Gordon returns in Week 12 against the Falcons. At 6 – 4 or 7 – 3 without Gordon means with Gordon the Browns would see their final 6 games as all winnable. That attitude is huge.
The Browns have already lost 2 games in their division. The Titans are not in the Browns division but are in conference. Down the road in tie breaker scenarios conference record does matter.
Yet for the division it is vital that the Browns keep pace. The Browns are one win behind the Steelers and two wins behind both the Ravens and Bengals. Having already faced the Steelers and Ravens once the Browns can only hope for a split with those two teams. The division is likely to beat itself up so wins outside of the division will be key to keeping pace. Of the 5 loses among the 4 teams in the division, only the Steelers loss to Tampa Bay was outside of the division. That makes this week a must win.
How important do you see this week’s game?