The Cleveland Browns‘ game against the Kansas City Chiefs will be their eighth this year, marking the midway point of the season. As we go into this game, the Browns are 3-4 and in second place in the AFC North. If fans had been asked in the preseason if they’d take that after seven games, I’m sure they would have said “yes”.
But here we are, and it’s not feeling very good. That feeling is just the latest emotion in the roller coaster ride that the fans have been through in just two months.
It started with hope as a new staff came in here and talked about excitement — downfield passing and a blitzing defense. That hope became despair when the first two games were played and the new Browns looked like the old Browns: inept and overmatched.
That despair became outrage when the team traded away last year’s first-round draft pick Trent Richardson and announced that the new starting quarterback would be their third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer. That outrage turned into excitement as the team started playing well and won two impressive games against the Minnesota Vikings and the current division-leading Cincinnati Bengals, keeping the team in first place.
Excitement became concern when Hoyer was hurt sliding on a scramble, and Weeden had to come on in relief. The concern did not go away despite the Weeden-led Browns winning their third in a row. From concerned, the fans returned to despair as Weeden returned to being himself and the team lost two in a row again.
And despair became emotionally exhausted when Jason Campbell was announced as the starter for Week 8. Campbell is the third starting quarterback in four weeks — such classic Cleveland.
What can fans expect in this match-up with undefeated Kansas City? Will Campbell come out firing, bringing with him the lessons of his pro career, maybe stabilizing the position and giving the fans something to cheer about? Or will he look as ineffective as he did the last time he relieved Weeden? Who knows, but it’s easy to believe that this is what a Browns victory hinges on.
But, the game also hinges on how the Browns’ defense does against Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles. Charles is the Chiefs’ no. 1 weapon, and though the Browns were able to shut down Adrian Peterson in Week 3, running backs the last couple of weeks have started finding success against this defense. If the Browns allow Charles – a threat both running and receiving – to get into the open, it may not matter what Campbell does. It could be a long afternoon.
Another challenge for the Browns will be the offensive line. The Chiefs lead the league in sacks and are on pace to set the single-season record. The Browns are tied for second in most sacks allowed, but to be fair, some of those were the fault of Weeden, who liked to hold the ball like a security blanket.
The Chiefs’ defense has had some wonderful success on the team’s way to 7-0, but they also did it against some bad teams. Two of their wins came against backup quarterbacks. It sounds exactly what they’re going up against this week, but that defense also gives up a lot of yards passing.
If Campbell can exploit this and if DC Ray Horton can find a way to neutralize Charles, the Browns could end the Chiefs’ undefeated streak. I just don’t think they will. Though the Chiefs have beaten some bad teams, the circumstances for them this week seem pretty much the same. Campbell is not a good quarterback, and now he’s starting as the coaches’ last resort.
I expect that this will all lead to another Browns loss and another Chiefs win. My prediction: Chiefs win 27-13.