The Week 14 matchup between the Cleveland Browns and the New England Patriots could have been a good one. This stage was set for a great battle, a battle of old vs. new. It could have been a face-off between the coach that Cleveland let get away and the hometown boy looking to bring the Browns back into glory. It could have been a shootout between a Hall of Fame QB and his Padawan. It could have been Brian Hoyer's return to the team that groomed him. And, best of all, it could have been a battle of the two top teams in their respective divisions.
It could have been a game that Browns fans would have wanted to watch. But its not.
Instead, Cleveland comes into New England as ten point underdogs with a recently-concussed Jason Campbell at the helm.
The Browns are coming off a three game losing streak, a week after a demoralizing loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Patriots, on the other hand, are coming off a two game winning streak, scoring 68 points over their last two games.
Based on trends, this game figures to be another loss for the Cleveland Browns. Their 6th ranked overall defense is, in all reality, a fluke. While giving up a "measly" 306 yards per game, the Browns are giving up 25 points per game, ranking them at 19th in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Patriots' offense is on a roll, scoring an average of 37 points per game over the last 4 games. Brady has found his stride, throwing for 10 touchdowns since Week 9.
Bill Belichick has compiled a 4-2 record as head coach against his former team and looks to make it 5-2 on Sunday.
Unfortunately, the Browns keys to victory lie in their weaknesses. Their only hope is to come out strong and knock the Patriots on their heels early. New England has outscored their opponents 122-56 in the second half over the last 5 games. New England's biggest weakness is in their run defense, ranking 31st in the NFL and giving up 138.2 yards per game. The Browns, however, have one of the league's worst rushing offenses. Cleveland's 28th-ranked three-headed rushing attack has only been able to grind out 82.3 yards per game. In terms of scoring, it's even worse. The Browns have only been able to manage 2 rushing touchdowns on the entire season.
This game doesn't figure to be a close one. The Browns seem to be outmatched, outcoached, and outswaggered. Add to that the Patriots are on a streak while Cleveland is in the midst of a free-fall and you'll see why most Browns fans across the nation are already inebriated.
UPDATE: Jason Campbell has already thrown his second interception of the day. The game doesn't start for another half-hour.