The Bengals are making their way into Cleveland this weekend to take on a Browns team that can finish the season above .500 for the first time in over a decade. Cincinnati has a chance to officially end Cleveland’s thin playoff hopes this week though with a victory, so we caught up with Chris Pokorny of Dawgs By Nature to get his perspective of this week’s game.
Patrick Judis: The Browns aren’t likely to make the playoffs again this season, but there seems to be a confidence in this team we haven’t seen in awhile. How confident are you in this team going forward?
Chris Porkorny: We can see the effect that having a quarterback the team believes in has. The offensive line is playing extremely well, despite some question marks at both tackle positions. The number of dropped passes by receivers has been cut in half. The defense has even picked up their intensity. As much as we want to think NFL players (even the good ones) give their all on every snap, sometimes you just get resigned to losing and it impacts your play. We’re not seeing that any more.
The players all see that something special is building here in Cleveland, and they are motivated to finish the season out strong to make sure they are retained next year when that playoff push is expected to come. My confidence in the Browns is sky high right now; they still have room to improve, as evidenced by how they played against the Chiefs, Chargers, and Texans this year, but they are getting there.
PJ: Gregg William’s has had more success as interim head coach than any head coach in recent history for Cleveland, but is he at the top of your list for the permanent job?
CP: There is always a predicament to think about with the Browns’ head coaching situation, (lol). The team has one of the hottest young quarterbacks in the NFL; we could attract the best head coaching candidates easily. But what if we get the wrong guy? Why not just stick with Gregg Williams, who the team has responded to after the firing of Hue Jackson? He isn’t at the top of my list, but I want to keep it simple: hire Bruce Arians, who wants to come here (and has been vocal about it), and retain Williams and Freddie Kitchens as the coordinators. You get to maintain continuity, and Arians can take it easy while fulfilling one of the goals he’s always wanted to do in the NFL (help turn the Browns around).
PJ: There is no denying the first time these teams met in Week 12 it was a huge revenge game for Cleveland players facing off against Hue Jackson after he was fired. Do you think we will see the team as hyped to start the game again?
CP: I think the hype will be there a little, but no where near as strong as it was the first time. The focus this time should be: “hey, this Jeff Driskel overachieved against us in his debut -- let’s make sure we don’t let him get any confidence.” It’ll be pretty rough for Cincinnati at the receiving position, being without both A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd now.
PJ: Which player do you think has the biggest impact on the outcome of this game on either side of the ball?
CP: Baker Mayfield -- he is the key every week now. If the Bengals had their top offensive weapons, I might have picked a member of the secondary instead. Mayfield faces a slightly better secondary this time around, and will be looking to make up for an inaccurate first half last week.
PJ: What is your prediction for the game?
CP: It won’t be a rout like the last time, but Cleveland will maintain the lead throughout the game and sweep Cincinnati. I’ll take the Browns 27-17.
Thanks again to Chris Pokorny of Dawgs By Nature for taking the time out to answer our question. Make sure you check out the rest of Dawgs By nature’s posts before the Bengals take on the Browns.