Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And days o' auld lang syne.

Know Thy Enemy: Cleveland Browns

Lyrics aside, I still don’t like the Cleveland Browns.  And I’m sure the Browns haven’t forgotten the beating handed to them by the Pittsburgh Steelers way back in week six.  Well, except for Joshua Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi, who probably don’t remember much from that game thanks to James Harrison.  I’m sure Silverback will be more than happy to renew acquaintances if either should be dumb enough to venture in to his part of the field.

You’ll have to forgive me if this Know Thy Enemy is shorter than usual as I’m still a bit exhausted from New Year’s.  No, I wasn’t drinking like a college girl in Milledgeville.  I was late, got stuck in traffic, then had to run up nine flights of stairs just to make sure I got to the party in time to be with my girl when the clock struck midnight.  That damn “Dice” song is still stuck in my head.

There’s not much to say anyway.  After we destroyed the Brownies, figuratively and literally, they went on to defeat the Saints and Patriots in back-to-back weeks.  Yes, Cleveland beat two of the four teams we’ve lost to this year.  And they narrowly missed beating the Jets the week after all that.  But they’ve lost their last three in a row, two of which (Bills and Bengals) were very winnable games, so they may be up-and-coming but they’re not quite there yet.


The Browns seem to have found a keeper at quarterback with rookie Colt McCoy.  He was the man behind center for those big wins and despite pretty unimpressive season numbers (5 TDs/6 INTs 1,400 yards in a half season’s worth of work), he’s shown enough to earn the starting job next season.  With a few more weapons at his disposal, he should prove to be a more than adequate signal caller.

Peyton Hillis has been the breakout star for the Browns this season.  The Browns’ recent struggles can be traced to his missing time due to injury.  To get an idea how huge Hillis is to Cleveland’s offense, not only is he the team’s leading rusher (10th overall in the NFL) but he’s the team’s second leading receiver.  P-Hill hasn’t practiced this week due to his sore ribs but with this being the team’s final game of the year, it is expected he’ll be out there on Sunday.

The Steelers defense will greet him with a rush defense seeking to set one of the best marks in NFL history.  They’re currently allowing a meager 64 rush yards per game.  The next best D is allowing 90.  If the Steelers can keep that mark under 65 for the season, they’ll be only the third team in the last thirty-five years to accomplish that goal.

Troy Polamalu practiced on Friday and is listed as questionable.  The Steelers are saying he’s “50-50″ but Troy sounds more optimistic than that.  Reading between the lines, it sounds like he’s pushing to play while they’re reluctant to risk him getting hurt on the eve of the playoffs.  I would play him since a first round bye is absolutely crucial to making any kind of run but the second we open up any kind of lead, he should go right back to the bench.


The Browns rank a notch above the Steelers in pass defense while they’re near the bottom against the run.  They also have the fourth fewest total sacks in the NFL.  Despite all this, they’re allowing only a smidge under 20 points a game which is better than the Chargers, Jets, Eagles, Patriots, or Giants.  So while they give up plays, they’ve clearly mastered the philosophy of “bend but do not break.”

Ben Roethlisberger has quietly put together a very nice season.  In addition to throwing for 3,000 yards, his 15/5 TD-INT ratio is a career best.  If not for the four missed games due to the unfair unwarranted unjustified suspension, he would’ve hit the 20 TDs/4,000 yards mark for a second consecutive season.  When you factor in the patchwork line, crippling injuries, and the officials out to get him, one might argue this has been the finest season of his career.

Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace have done their part by contributing 1,000 yard seasons to the Steelers cause.  Hines Ward is sitting at 710 so barring some sort of crazy shootout, he’s not going to add another 1,000 yard season to his Hall of Fame credentials.  I’ll have more to say about Hines after the season is over in February but for now I’ll simply leave it at this.  While he’s clearly not the centerpiece of the passing game nor is he even the team’s second best option anymore (Heath Miller deserves that honor), I believe his heart and experience are not only key in big games but contribute to our young receivers coming along so quickly.

Josh Cribbs has not returned a punt or kick for a touchdown this season.  If the Steelers don’t allow any cheap points, I think they’ll be more than able to take care of business on Sunday.  To put this game’s importance in perspective, if the Steelers lose, they can fall from the second seed all the way to the sixth.  However, as I’ve said throughout the season, this team clearly learned from last year’s mistakes and never takes anything for granted.  Good news for the Steelers, not so good for the Browns.

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