AFC North up for grabs minus Browns
Despite the fact they host St. Louis (1-7) and Jacksonville (2-6) the next two weeks, it’s not realistic to suggest the Browns remain factors in the AFC North Division.
Since coughing up what appeared a sure season-opening win against Cincinnati, the Browns have failed to muster a significant victory, winning only against three of the league’s bottom feeders – Indianapolis (0-9), Miami (1-7) and Seattle (2-6).
It’s not out of the question, Pat Shurmur’s club can beat both the Rams and Jaguars, thus regaining .500 status.
However, four of Cleveland’s final six games are on the road. Additionally, the Browns must face both Baltimore and Pittsburgh two times apiece.
It all adds up to another disappointing season on the lakefront.
Sunday’s division showdown occurs at sold-out Paul Brown Stadium where the Steelers battle (with all due respect to Detroit and San Francisco) the league’s most surprising team in Cincinnati.
The NFL Network, meanwhile, begins its annual series of Thursday night telecasts this evening when Oakland visits San Diego.
This column continued its recent trend of treading water last week, compiling an 8-6 mark. Play on.
OAKLAND AT SAN DIEGO. A 4-4 record is good enough for first place in the wild AFC West, thus a shake-up occurs tonight in southern California. Chargers, 21-17.
ARIZONA AT PHILADELPHIA. Philly’s highly-touted dream team has tuned into a 3-5 midseason nightmare with QB Michael Vick resigned to the doghouse. This one’s not exactly must-see TV. Eagles, 35-20.
TENNESSEE AT CAROLINA. At 4-4, Titans’ season slipping away and winning this game at Charlotte is anything but a given. Titans, 20-16.
WASHINGTON AT MIAMI. Another great day for beach-goers in south Florida, though Dolphins are coming off first win last week. Redskins, 27-17.
ST. LOUIS AT CLEVELAND. There’s not enough coffee in Columbia to keep fans awake for this potential snoozer. Expect to hear this plea early and often: ‘Need 2?’ Browns, 24-13.
PITTSBURGH AT CINCINNATI. Hard to discount what Bengals have accomplished though many feel Marvin Lewis’ second half reality check begins with this outcome. Steelers, 17-16.
NEW ORLEANS AT ATLANTA. A battle for AFC South supremacy is up for grabs here where Drew Brees and company may embark on a second half roll. Saints, 30-20.
HOUSTON AT TAMPA BAY. Another major test for Houston team seeking to reach the league’s ‘next level.’ Bucs, 24-21.
JACKSONVILLE AT INDIANAPOLIS. Woeful Colts may have best chance to record first win against unpredictable Jags in another low profile attraction. Colts, 21-20.
BUFFALO AT DALLAS. Bills starting to lose early season momentum while Cowpokes are a disappointing .500. One of the weekend’s most spirited matchups. Cowboys, 31-27.
DENVER AT KANSAS CITY. Another key battle in up-for-grabs AFC West Division. KC coming off embarrassing 31-3 loss to previously winless Miami. Chiefs, 14-13.
BALTIMORE AT SEATTLE. Last time Ravens knocked off Pittsburgh (week one), they fell flat on their faces at Tennessee. Not likely this week vs. inferior opponent. Ravens, 24-14.
DETROIT AT CHICAGO. A black & blue division showdown at Soldier Field with Bears coming off Monday night win at Philadelphia. Men of Motown prove they are indeed for real. Lions 28-20.
NEW ENGLAND AT NEW YORK JETS. Third consecutive loss seems unimaginable for Tom Brady and company. Don’t look for it to happen. Patriots, 33-27.
MINNESOTA AT GREEN BAY. Wonderful opportunity for league’s most elite team to suffer mental letdown. Only Lambeau loonies won’t permit it. Packers, 23-16.
Last Week: 8-6. Season: 79-51. Upset Specials 2-7.
Gibson may be reached at email@example.com