DURING THE heady
days of Cleveland's off-season, the coach received a contract extension, the
quarterback took snaps at the Pro Bowl and the star receiver bet Michael Phelps
that for every gold medal the swimmer won in Beijing, he would score two
touchdowns. After a 1--3 start to the season, Romeo Crennel is hearing
questions about his future, Derek Anderson may soon be holding a clipboard, and
Braylon Edwards needs 15 TDs just to break even on his wager with his Michigan
workout buddy. "We know what business we're in," Crennel said just days
before Cleveland pulled out a messy but much-needed 20--12 victory at woeful
Cincinnati. "If you win, people like you more. If you lose, they don't like
you as much."
If the league's
underachievers were placed in a classroom, the Browns would be the one sent to
a corner with a dunce cap. Seen as the AFC's It team after going 10--6 last
season and narrowly missing the playoffs, Cleveland has wilted under the weight
of expectation and national exposure. Though he rallied his team to victory on
Sunday, Anderson has been erratic since last December, when the Browns suffered
two costly losses. During practices last week, Crennel increased second-year
backup Brady Quinn's first-team workload, a move that seemed to signal a
shake-up. It still may come, after Anderson completed 15 of 24 passes for only
138 yards. He's looked indecisive and lacking in confidence, reflected in his
abysmal 49.9 passer rating.
the lone reason for the Browns' rocky start. Josh Cribbs, a game-breaking kick
returner, has been slowed by a high ankle sprain. Offensive coordinator Rod
Chudzinski's pass-heavy play-calling isn't fooling anyone. Edwards, who missed
three preseason games with a lacerated foot, has 11 catches—including his first
TD on Sunday—and an unusual number of drops. At 1--3, Cleveland's season isn't
over, but the Browns, who have a bye this week, need some serious tweaks before
they host the Super Bowl--champion Giants on Monday night in Week 6. Besides
boosting running back Jamal Lewis's workload (he was averaging fewer than 15
carries a game before rushing 25 times against Cincinnati) and finding more
seams for tight end Kellen Winslow, Cleveland ought to turn the franchise over
to Quinn, the Ohio native, Notre Dame standout and 22nd pick in the 2007 draft.
The Browns know what Anderson can do. It's time to find out about Quinn.
the only presumed contender that's struggling. Here's a prognosis on a trio of
other one-win teams.
Once defined by an explosive offense and a defense that thrived on the
takeaway, Indianapolis has arrived at a strange and unfamiliar place in 2008.
The Colts look old. They look spent. On paper few teams in the NFL can match
Indy's talent, but the rest of the league is running on fresh legs by
comparison. The Colts have time to get healthy, but the middle of the schedule
is a beast: at Green Bay in Week 7, at Tennessee in Week 8, home to the
Patriots in Week 9, at Pittsburgh in Week 10. You can't find a tougher stretch
As long as Peyton
Manning is upright, Indy can compete with anybody, but it's getting harder
every year. And harder still without All-Pro safety Bob Sanders, who's out for
at least a month. With Tom Brady done for the season, you'd have said the Colts
would dominate the conference. They may not even get out of the AFC South.
An early-season NFC favorite, Minnesota's 30--17 loss at Tennessee left
questions: Why couldn't the Vikings' vaunted defensive front, bolstered by the
addition of Jared Allen, get to a quarterback with the slow feet and big windup
of Kerry Collins? Why did Adrian Peterson carry the ball just 18 times, while
Gus Frerotte threw 43 passes? And how soon will Peterson master the nuances of
the position at this level, such as pass blocking? The Vikings thought they'd
have among the best offensive and defensive lines this season. On Sunday,
Tennessee showed it had better versions of each.
Coach Mike Holmgren spent the bye week scanning the waiver wire, the training
room and the street for healthy receivers. Bobby Engram (shoulder), Deion
Branch (knee) and Koren Robinson (knee) could all see action in Week 5, when
Seattle visits the Giants. The best thing the Seahawks have going for them is
the NFC West: The Cardinals (2--2) and the 49ers (2--2) failed to take hold of
the division on Sunday, and the Rams are 0--4.
For Seattle, the
key to the division will be the continued resurgence of Julius Jones, the
former Cowboy who's a surprising third in the league in rushing yards per game.
And all those rainy games at their home stadium, where they're 34--8 since
2003, won't hurt.
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Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback.