Hey - how nice is it that this game actually means something for both teams?
Pokorny: I'm loving it and am not taking it for granted. With that said, it is a bit frustrating that despite being 7-4, the Browns, due to tiebreakers, rank fourth in the AFC North and are behind in some of the wildcard scenarios too. It's great that the Browns are 3-0 against the NFC South, but by losing to Jacksonville and Houston, that hurts the Browns' conference record, which is more important in those playoff tiebreaker scenarios. One thing that I've learned with a winning season is that expectations among the fans adjust on the fly. Heading into the season, fans would have been ecstatic with a seven-win season. Now, the expectations are ten wins at a minimum and a playoff berth if Brian Hoyer wants to keep his job. It's crazy!
Naturally at 7-4, the impressions on the job Mike Pettine is doing are generally favorable, so I'll ask this: where, long-term, do y'all think the chinks in his armor are? What has he brought to the organization that it lacked in previous seasons?
Pokorny: Overall, Pettine has drawn favorable reviews because he emphasizes toughness and a "no excuses" mentality without coming across as a hardass. There also seems to be a greater level of accountability, as evidenced by the team parting ways with Greg Little this past offseason and then Ben Tate before last week's game. Both players had negative stigmas surrounding them in the media and locker room due to their attitudes, so Cleveland has more of a positive vibe in the locker room with the right mix of veterans and youngsters.
The primary weakness for Pettine thus far has been his decision making at the end of the first half. In the loss to the Jaguars, he passed on a field goal to take a two possession lead, opting to go for it on 4th-and-1. We failed, and Jacksonville used that momentum to score a quick touchdown and suddenly lead 7-6 at the half.
Last week against the Falcons, Pettine had three timeouts and didn't use them while Cleveland was doing the one-minute drill. The Browns got in range for a 60-yard field goal, yet he tried a field goal with Billy Cundiff, who is the most inaccurate kicker in NFL history from beyond 50 yards. Cundiff's first kick wasn't even close, and Devin Hester fielded it... but a timeout had been called prior to the snap by Atlanta. Pettine conversed with Cundiff and let him kick it again instead of going for the Hail Mary. Cundiff's kick was well short again, and Hester would have returned the kick for a touchdown if it hadn't been for one of our rookie offensive linemen hustling down the whole field to make the touchdown-saving tackle.
What are the odds that Jordan Cameron will return to the lineup this week?
Pokorny: Cameron was a limited participant in practice for three straight days and is listed as questionable. Pettine still called him day-to-day since he hasn't tested his symptoms after a full day of practice. My hunch is that the Browns will want to be cautious and not play him until he is symptom free after a full day of practice, but we'll see. I'd put him at having a little less than a 50 percent chance of playing.
Josh Gordon didn't waste any time getting back into the swing of things, did he? Do you anticipate his involvement decreasing at all from where it was in Atlanta if Cameron returns to the lineup?
Pokorny: If Cameron returns, I wouldn't expect that to impact Josh Gordon's involvement whatsoever. I don't know how many Bills fans got to watch Gordon's first game back last week, but there were three plays during the game in which he was wide open and Hoyer flat out missed him on awful throws. If Hoyer is even remotely accurately on those plays, Gordon could have had a 200-yard type of game without even having made any spectacular plays. The guy just gets open and piles on the yardage so effortless that I'm constantly in awe when he's on the field.
Both teams are 3-0 against their NFC opponents this season, with the Browns at 4-4 and the Bills 3-5 otherwise. Despite the meaningful nature of the game, is there a sense in Cleveland, as there is in Buffalo, that things might be more or less over without a win on Sunday?
Pokorny: I mentioned the Browns' poor conference record in the first question, so a loss to Buffalo would indeed basically crush the Browns' hopes of winning a wildcard spot in the AFC. Even with a loss, though, the Browns would very much be alive in the AFC North. Cleveland has games remaining with Cincinnati and Baltimore -- if the Browns beat the Bengals, Cleveland will own the season series sweep over them. Then, a win in Week 17 over the Ravens would split the season series with them and give Cleveland a 4-2 record within the division, one that would be better than the Steelers' division record if they go 1-1 against the Bengals to close out the season. Buffalo would be two or three games behind the Patriots if they win this week, so in that sense, this game is more "do or die" for the Bills than it is the Browns.
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