The Browns absolutely must win this game. We have spoken all season about the improving Browns that we can see with our eyes, but eventually those improvements are going to have to start translating into wins. Enter the Panthers, who are unequivocally the worst team in the NFL this year. They’ll be bringing their 1-9 record and their league worst 11.7 average points per game to Cleveland this Sunday. To give some perspective, the team with the second worst average ppg is the 49ers who are at an even 16, more than four points higher than the Panthers!
Due to the ankle injury that Colt McCoy suffered during last weeks game against the Jaguars, he will not be able to play this weekend. Long time Panther Jake Delhomme will be called upon to start for the Browns. It will certainly be an emotional day for Delhomme who started ninety-eight games for the Panthers from 2003-2009, including a loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Delhomme has been known as a gunslinger over his career, and is no stranger to the interception, but he will be asked to protect the ball this week. Basically the only way a team like the Panthers are getting wins this season is if someone delivers it on a platter, and with Coach Eric Mangini still on the hot seat, he certainly will have Delhomme on a short leash. If Delhomme can not get the job done, Seneca Wallace, who has played fairly well in limited duty this year, will be available.
Look for a Thanksgiving size helping of Peyton Hillis this week, as the Browns will look to bruise and break the will of the Panthers defense. This may not be hard considering the Panther’s awful record, and all the speculation about how their head coach, John Fox, will not be back next season.
It is likely that rookie QB Jimmy Clausen will be leading the hapless Panther’s offense, although he is recovering from a concussion so his status is a bit up in the air. With injuries to RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, Mike Goodson will make his third start of the season. Goodson has rushed for over 100 yards in each of his first two starts. The Browns defense will also have to account for WR Steve Smith, who has been one of the best receivers in the league for a number of years. An interesting match-up would be if the Browns matched up rookie CB Joe Haden with Smith. Haden has played very well all season, and it could be a boost to his confidence if Mangini entrusts him with shutting down the Panther’s most dangerous offensive weapon.
Honestly, this probably isn’t the most exciting game on the docket for Sunday, but the implications of the game are huge in Cleveland. Mangini and his regime really must get a few tally marks in the win column down the stretch to prove to Browns’ President Mike Holmgren that they should keep their jobs next season. If they can not out duel the Panthers, who will probably have a new coach and quarterback next season and have absolutely nothing to play for, then it could be the nail in the coffin for Mangini in Cleveland. A coffin which he has been clawing his way out of with how respectably he has had his Browns playing thus far in 2010.
About the Author
Written by Fran Berkman
Francis (Fran) Berkman is a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY with a BS in Human Development. He is currently working towards a master's degree in journalism at Hofstra University. He lives in Massapequa, NY.