Why did the Cleveland Browns fire Rob Chudzinski?

rod-chudzinskiMost new NFL head coaches are given 2-3 years before an organization makes a decision on their job status. This being said, it was extremely puzzling when the Cleveland Browns decided to fire Rob Chudzinkski after just one season.

Chudzinski had just completed the first year of a four-year contract when he received news of the firing. So why was the former Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator dumped after his lone season in Cleveland? Well there’s the organization’s stated reason, and also the reasons why many insiders thought Chud was axed. Let’s look at the team’s media statement first:

We needed to see progress with this football team. We needed to see development and improvement as the season evolved and, unfortunately, we took a concerning step backward in the second half of the year. Our fans deserve to see a consistently competitive team. We have high standards, and there’s an urgency for success. When we believed we were not positioned to achieve significant progress in 2014, we knew we had to admit that a change was needed, and move forward.

After hearing this statement and looking at the Browns’ record over the past 11 games, there are some glaringly obvious reasons why Chud was fired. They began the year with some promise after starting off 3-2. However, they won just one out of their last 11 contests, including a seven-game losing streak to close out the season.

rob-chudzinskiThere were two weeks in a row that were particularly telling of this season, where the Browns lost to Jacksonville at home, then blew a 12-point lead against New England with three minutes left. Couple this with losses to the Bears, Jets and Steelers to close out the year, and you can definitely see how this year ended on a sour note.

Beyond the losing, the front office felt that Chudzinski’s players showed a lack of accountability and effort as the season wore on. They especially felt that Brandon Weeden and Greg Little weren’t held accountable for their poor play. One prevalent thought was that as the coaching staff spent more time with the players, the worse they were getting.

Another point worth making here is how the Browns organization sees a couple of talented coaches that they like. Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are rumored to be at the top of Cleveland’s list. Given Chud’s perceived shortcomings as the Browns coach, it seems like a perfect time for this team to chase another top-notch coaching prospect.

Of course, Chud didn’t leave this job without some public outcry – most notable from many of his players. D’Qwell Jackson was really critical of the move as he said, “After the Trent Richardson trade and our quarterback injuries, I thought for sure he’d get a pass. Not one year. Come on. One year? There’s no way. Chud was good for us, good for the team. He came in and did everything right, I thought.”

As Jackson referred to, the team lost Weeden to injury for an extended time period while Brian Hoyer suffered a season-ending knee injury. Plus the team traded Richardson just two games into the season and never truly replaced him with a decent starting running back. But despite all of this, management apparently felt that their team was talented enough to win more than four games.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 16 (Dec. 17, 2013)

St Louis Rams v Seattle SeahawksLast week was not kind to the favorites, as league powerhouses like Denver, New Orleans and New England all lost. Two of these games involved desperate teams in San Diego and Miami trying to remain alive for a playoff spot. Speaking of which, the 2013 NFL Playoff picture is beginning to look a lot clearer, but there are still a few division races and Wild Card spots left to be decided. With just two weeks left in the regular season, we’re in for some exciting football!

1. Seattle Seahawks (12-2); beat New York Giants 23-0, moves up one spot – Seattle hasn’t put up the gaudy offensive numbers that Denver has this season. But they are a complete team, and it’s the chief reason why they have the league’s best record. It’s practically a given that Seattle will have home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, and they’re the only team that we see as a clear-cut Super Bowl participant.

2. Denver Broncos (11-3); lost to San Diego 27-20, drops one spot – It’s really hard to tell where Denver fits in when it comes to the posteason. They’ll now be deadlocked in a battle with Kansas City and New England for the AFC’s two first-round byes, and the Patriots hold a tiebreaker over them. It’ll be interesting to see what their defense does against elite teams, given that they couldn’t stop San Diego from marching downfield in a home game.

3. San Francisco 49ers (10-4); beat Tampa Bay 33-14, retains same ranking – It certainly doesn’t look like San Francisco can win the division title from Seattle at this point. So the Niners are going to have a tough road to the Super Bowl. But the way that they’ve been playing late in the season, it isn’t hard to see San Francisco winning a few big road games.

jamaal-charles4. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3); beat Oakland 56-31, moves up two spots – Once thought to purely be a good defensive team, Kansas City keeps surprising people with their offensive weapons. The biggest weapon by far is Jamaal Charles, who made Oakland’s defense look horrible on screen passes. Charles caught eight passes for 195 yards and 4 touchdowns in this route.

5. New England Patriots (10-4); lost to Miami 24-20, drops one spot – The Patriots’ string of late-game comebacks finally came to a halt in this contest. They did get close, though, but Tom Brady’s fourth-down pass was intercepted in the end zone by safety Michael Thomas. Even with the loss, New England still has a chance at home field advantage in the AFC.

6. New Orleans Saints (10-4); lost to St. Louis 27-16, drops one spot – This was definitely a surprising outcome as the Rams picked off three Drew Brees passes that eventually resulted in touchdowns. Brees hasn’t played his best football of late, but there’s no reason to panic. New Orleans still holds the second seed in the NFC, and they could go a long way towards securing this spot by beating Carolina.

7. Carolina Panthers (10-4); beat New York Jets 30-20, moves up one spot – The Panthers still have a shot at the NFC South crown, with this weekend’s game against New Orleans possibly being the deciding factor. At home and looking for revenge, we like Carolina in this one.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (9-5); lost to Pittsburgh 30-20, drops one spot – Seen as many people’s dark horse team to win the Super Bowl, the Bengals looked far from champions in the first quarter – getting outscored 21-0 by the Steelers. It’s hard to tell how Cincinnati is going to come out every week. And this inconsistency is haunting them down the stretch.

9. Arizona Cardinals (9-5); beat Tennessee 37-34 (OT), moves up one spot – Arizona might be the best team to miss the playoffs this year. Of course, they play in the NFL’s toughest division (apologies to the AFC West), so it’d be understandable if they do miss the postseason. The Cardinals got some surprising help from their run game against Tennessee (36CAR, 145YDS, 2TD). It’ll be tough to pull off the same feat against Seattle and San Francisco in their last two games.

trent-richardson-colts10. Indianapolis Colts (9-5); beat Houston 25-3, moves up one spot – This was almost like an exhibition game for the Colts as they prepare for Kansas City. They’ve now won two straight after a mid-season slump that saw the Colts defense and run game exposed. Indy is back to using Trent Richardson at running back (19CAR, 64YDS). Will this continue?

11. Philadelphia Eagles (8-6); lost to Minnesota 48-30, drops two spots – Philadelphia blew a golden opportunity to take a two-game lead over Dallas in the NFC East. Nick Foles continued his amazing run with 428 passing yards, 3 TD’s and an interception. But it wasn’t enough as Philly’s D gave up 382 passing yards to Matt Cassel and three rushing TD’s to the unknown Matt Asiata.

12. Baltimore Ravens (8-6); beat Detroit 18-16, moves up two spots – Baltimore isn’t letting a difficult late-half schedule keep them out of the playoff race. Their defense looked strong on the road against a high-powered Lions team. They harassed Matt Stafford into three interceptions, and Justin Tucker added an incredible game-winning, 61-yard field goal. The Ravens are now in control of their playoff destiny, but that may not mean much with difficult remaining games against New England and Cincinnati (away).

13. Miami Dolphins (8-6); beat New England 24-20, moves up two spots – Ryan Tannehill looked pretty outstanding in this game as he threw for 312 yards and 3 touchdowns. Miami’s defense was able to do just enough to slow down Tom Brady and preserve the win. With remaining games against the Bills and Jets, it’s very possible that the Dolphins could leap-frop Baltimore for the final AFC playoff spot.

jay-cutler-bears14. Chicago Bears (8-6); beat Cleveland 38-31, moves up two spots – Jay Cutler looked every bit like he hadn’t played in a football game since Nov. 10th. However, he shook off this early rust and led the Bears to a comeback win over Cleveland. Cutler got some major help from Alshon Jeffrey, who jumped up to make an outstanding TD catch in double coverage.

15. Dallas Cowboys (7-7); lost to Green Bay 37-36, drops three spots – After playing an excellent game for 57 minutes, Tony Romo tossed two interceptions in the game’s final three minutes to let Green Bay steal this one. The Cowboys aren’t out of the playoff race yet, but if they don’t go to the postseason, they can look back at this one and remember why.

16. San Diego Chargers (7-7); beat Denver 27-20, moves up one spot – Few people saw San Diego grabbing road wins in Kansas City and Denver this season. But they’ve done what they had to in order to keep chasing a postseason bid. Ryan Matthews has experienced a career revival, highlighted by the 127 rushing yards and touchdown he put up against the Broncos.

17. Green Bay Packers (7-6-1); beat Dallas 37-36, moves up one spot – A couple of weeks ago, Green Bay looked like they were done for without Aaron Rodgers. But two wins later and they’re challenging for the NFC North crown. Rookie Eddie Lacy has really done a solid job of keeping the Packers alive, and he turned in 171 total yards and a TD in this comeback victory.

18. Detroit Lions (7-7); lost to Baltimore 18-16, drops five spots – Detroit fans aren’t happy after seeing their Lions lose four out of the past five games. Stafford’s three interceptions from this contest have spawned questions about whether he’s really Detroit’s QB of the future. As you can see, things are a mess in Michigan.

antonio-brown-steelers19. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8); beat Cincinnati 30-20, moves up three spots – After starting the year 0-4, Pittsburgh has played respectably, going 6-4 over the last 10 games. Antonio Brown really made a difference in this win as he scored two touchdowns in a 64-second span (catch and a punt return).

20. St. Louis Rams (6-8); beat New Orleans 27-16, moves up three spots – St. Louis forced some turnovers in this contest and got a big victory. Besides the turnovers, Zac Stacy’s 133 rushing yards were crucial as well.

21. New York Jets (6-8); lost to Carolina 30-20, drops two spots – Now eliminated from postseason contention, New York has a lot of questions to answer in the offseason. Will head coach Rex Ryan be back? Will Geno Smith be the starting QB again? It’s difficult to answer either of these puzzlers.

22. New York Giants (5-9); lost to Seattle 23-0, drops two spots – Things have gone from bad to worse for Eli Manning after he threw five interceptions in this game. By all means he should be back and starting again next year. But will the two-time Super Bowl champ cement his status as a franchise player, or have the Giants looking towards younger talent?

23. Tennessee Titans (5-9); lost to Arizona 37-34, drops two spots – What a collapse for the Titans, who, just two weeks ago, were playing a meaningful division game against the Colts. It looks like the bottom finally fell out and Tennessee will be in rebuilding mode next season.

24. Minnesota Vikings (4-9-1); beat Philadelphia 48-30, moves up one spot – It took nearly an entire season to do, but it seems like Minnesota has finally found a quarterback in Matt Cassel. Whether it remains this way next year is a complete mystery.

25. Atlanta Falcons (4-10); beat Washington 27-26, moves up three spots – Atlanta was the beneficiary of seven Washington turnovers, scoring 20 points off these opportunities. Steven Jackson had two rushing touchdowns in what’s been an otherwise dismal season for him.

ej-manuel26. Buffalo Bills (5-9); beat Jacksonville 27-20, moves up four spots – Sure a win over Jacksonville doesn’t normally warrant this big of a jump. But the Bills are the only team down this low to actually win. EJ Manuel was the star for Buffalo as he combined for three total touchdowns.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10); lost to Buffalo 27-20, drops three spots – Jacksonville fought hard amid all of their injuries. Jordan Todman (109YDS) did a good job of filling in for Maurice Jones-Drew, who’s out with a hamstring pull.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10); lost to San Francisco 33-14, drops two spots – Tampa Bay can begin their search for a new coaching staff in about two more weeks. Other than that, there’s nothing really exciting to say about this team.

29. Cleveland Browns (4-10); lost to Chicago 38-31, drops two spots – Once again, the Browns were leading a good team late, only to falter in the waning moments. They squandered a game where they got two defensive touchdowns.

30. Oakland Raiders (4-10); lost to Kansas City 56-31, drops two spots – If the Raiders were banking on Matt McGloin as their QB of the future, they might want to re-evaluate this decision after his four interceptions against KC.

31. Washington Redskins (3-11); lost to Atlanta 27-26, retains same ranking – Mike Shanahan’s odd Kirk Cousins experiment was met with mixed results. Cousins put up 381 yards and 3 TD’s, but also threw 3 picks as well.

32. Houston Texans (2-12); lost to Indianapolis 25-3, retains same ranking – Judging from the way they played against the Colts, it seems as if Houston has truly given up on the season.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 6 (Oct. 9th, 2013)

drew-breesThroughout most of this season, we’ve discussed the surprise Kansas City Chiefs and their emergence as a top-flight team. Well that’s not news anymore, but what is involves how badly the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons have played to open the year. Most experts tabbed these two teams to win their respective divisions; instead, they’re both plagued with problems and looking like good bets to miss the postseason. So what teams are looking like playoff locks? Take a look in our Week 6 power rankings…

1. Denver Broncos (5-0); beat Dallas 51-48, retains same ranking – For the first time all season, the Broncos were actually challenged. And their defense was battered, until the end, when they finally put pressure on Tony Romo and forced a late-game interception. Peyton Manning was once again flawless; however, the defense looks like the one chink in the armor.

2. New Orleans (5-0); beat Chicago 26-18, moves up one spot – From defense to offense, the Saints might be the NFL’s most complete team. After a down season for himself, Jimmy Graham is back to form and proving to be a superhuman tight end.

3. Seattle Seahawks (4-1); lost to Indianapolis 34-28, drops one spot – The Seahawks dropped a very tough game to a hot Colts team on the road. We certainly don’t think this is any sign of trouble ahead though, and they should still be playing the Saints in the NFC Championship later.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (5-0); beat Tennessee 26-17, moves up one spot – It’s hard to be convinced that Alex Smith is truly capable of taking this team to the Super Bowl – especially when he doesn’t throw downfield too well. But strong defense and Jamaal Charles has been the recipe for an undefeated team and remarkable turnaround so far.

5. San Francisco 49ers (3-2); beat Houston 34-3, moves up one spot

Was this blowout a sign of an improving Niners team or a reeling Texans club? We’re willing to bet it’s somewhere in between. The run game is definitely looking better for San Francisco though, and their defense is tough as usual.

6. New England Patriots (4-1); lost to Cincinnati 13-6, drops two spots – Okay, so that was pretty bad against the Bengals. But credit a Vince Wilfork-less defense for holding Cincinnati to just 13 points on their home field. Also consider that the Patriots have dealt with an insane amount of injuries on offense.

7. Indianapolis Colts (4-1); beat Seattle 34-28, moves up three spots – The Colts have trent-richardson-coltsnow beaten two of the NFC superpowers in the Niners and Seahawks. Andrew Luck put on an impressive display on the road against the league’s best defense. Now, if only Trent Richardson could do something…

8. Green Bay Packers (2-2); beat Detroit 22-9, moves up three spots – Green Bay did an excellent job of bottling up Reggie Bush and taking advantage of a surprise Calvin Johnson scratch. Based on their remaining schedule, get ready for another NFC North title run.

9. Chicago Bears (3-2); lost to New Orleans 26-18, moves down two spots – If there’s one team that can still stand in the way of Green Bay and the NFC North crown, it’s Chicago. They lost to a tough Saints team, but will remain competitive.

10. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2), beat New England 13-6, moves up one spot – Granted, their last victory was at home, against a banged-up team, and only a one-touchdown win at that. But it’s still a victory nonetheless and a very fine defensive performance for the Bengals.

11. Detroit Lions (3-2), lost to Green Bay 22-9, moves down three spots – It turns out that Detroit’s offense needs both Bush and Johnson to function as a solid unit. Green Bay was able to eat both Bush and Matthew Stafford alive without Johnson stretching the defense.

12. Baltimore Ravens (3-2), beat Miami 26-23, moves up one spot – Baltimore played an excellent second half to grab a tough win at Miami. The offense is still filled with question marks, but the defense provides a solid foundation.

13. Miami Dolphins (3-2), lost to Baltimore 26-23, drops four spots – After starting out the year great, Miami has now lost two straight. And one thing that’s really hampering them is how quickly they abandon the run game when yards don’t come easily.

14. Dallas Cowboys (2-3), lost to Denver 51-48, moves up four spots – Dallas and tony-romo-cowboysTony Romo showed more in this one loss than they did in both of their wins. It was a heartbreaker, but the Cowboys will move on and grab some easy wins over their NFC East opponents.

15. Houston Texans (2-3); lost to San Francisco 34-3, drops two spots – Normally the Texans would freefall further after such an ugly loss. But much of the back-half of the league also lost. They should get back to .500 with a below-average St. Louis team coming into town.

16. Cleveland Browns (3-2); beat Buffalo 37-24, moves up five spots – Brian Hoyer hysteria looks to be over as he tore his ACL. Now the keys revert back to Brandon Weeden, who will either drive Cleveland to the playoffs or crash their postseason dreams into a tree.

17. Arizona Cardinals (3-2); beat Carolina 22-6, moves up five spots – Why do teams keep throwing Patrick Peterson’s way? Well probably because he covers opposing number one wideouts; but at the rate he keeps picking off passes, QB’s will think twice and thrice about doing so.

18. Tennessee Titans (3-2); lost to Kansas City 26-17, drops one spot – What this game mainly told us is that Kansas City is a very good team – not that Tennessee is a bad one. Unfortunately, things don’t get any easier for the Titans with Seattle and San Francisco coming up.

19. New York Jets (3-2); beat Atlanta 30-28, moves up four spots – Most people predicted that this would be the game where Atlanta finally got going and started a playoff run. Instead, it was a showcase for rookie Geno Smith to throw three touchdowns and lead a game-winning drive.

20. Atlanta Falcons (1-4); lost to New York Jets 30-28, drops five spots – The Steven Jackson injury was devastating, but most people expected Atlanta to at least remain in the postseason hunt. Now their chances of a turnaround are even more unlikely since Julio Jones may be done for the year.

21. San Diego Chargers (2-3); lost to Oakland 27-17, drops five spots – San Diego gained a lot of hype with how they played earlier in the season. However, this hype has been deflated and they’re looking no better off than when they were under Norv Turner.

22. Philadelphia Eagles (2-3); beat New York Giants 36-21, moves up four spots – Hats off to the Eagles for grabbing a road win and staying in the NFC East race. Michael Vick is unlikely to play, so Nick Foles gets another audition for the starting QB role.

23. Washington Redskins (1-3), bye week, moves up one spot – The Redskins move up by default. Expect them to be moving back down again though after their secondary gets torched by Romo this week.

24. Minnesota Vikings (1-3), bye week, moves up one spot – Bringing Josh Freeman in josh-freeman-minnesota-vikings-1to compete for the quarterback job can only help. Christian Ponder has proven ineffective over and over, while Matt Cassel has failed to do much after being gifted a talented Patriots receiving corp years ago.

25. Carolina Panthers (1-3), lost to Arizona 22-6, drops six spots – Once upon a time, Carolina was coming out of the bye week with a favorable schedule ahead. Then they put just six points up against the Cardinals and looked like NFC South cellar-dwellers.

26. Oakland Raiders (2-3), beat San Diego 27-17, moves up two spots – The Matt Flynn debacle is finally over with following his release, and Terrelle Pryor is firmly entrenched as the QB of the future. He’s now 2-2 as a starter this year.

27. Buffalo Bills (2-3); lost to Cleveland 37-24, drops seven spots – Hats off to Buffalo management for not letting severely outmatched Jeff Tuel out on the field again. However, practice squad hero Thaddeus Lewis doesn’t figure to be much of an upgrade at QB. Don’t expect Buffalo to win too many more games with EJ Manuel out for 6-8 weeks.

28. St. Louis Rams (2-3); beat Jacksonville 34-20, drops one spot – A win over Jacksonville doesn’t get you anywhere these days. Now a win over the Texans this week…that would be showing a little something more.

29. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4); bye week, move up one spot – There are holes on both sides of the ball and the Steelers are going into a rebuilding mode. That process starts with rookie running back Le’Veon Bell .

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4); bye week, move up one spot – This team has actually been competitive in a couple of games this year. Don’t be surprised to see them rack up a few victories over the remainder of the season.

31. New York Giants (0-5); lost to Philadelphia 36-21, drops 3 spots – The Giants lost a very winnable game at home after being outclassed at nearly every position. Now starting running back David Wilson is out for next week’s game at Chicago. Win number one won’t be coming any time soon.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5); lost to St. Louis, retains same ranking – They actually had a lead for once this season and put some points on the board. Unfortunately, it didn’t take Jacksonville long to show their true colors after being blanked 17-0 in the second quarter.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 5 (Oct. 2nd, 2013)

alex-smith-kansas-cityWho would have thought coming into this season that after four weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs would be among the league’s unbeatens? Thanks to a stingy defense, the Chiefs have looked marvelous over the first four games. They’re in a truly elite class now since New England, Denver, New Orleans and Seattle are the only other undefeated teams. Now it’s time to sort out how they all rank, along with the rest of the league.

1. Denver Broncos (4-0); beat Philadelphia 52-20, retains same ranking – Another game, another blowout. Denver will face some tough tests eventually, but these tests will be few and far between. The only thing the Broncos see ahead of them right now is a title.

2. Seattle Seahawks (4-0); beat Houston 23-20 (OT), retains same ranking – The Seahawks looked dominated in the first half after falling behind Houston 20-3. But they showed the heart of a champion after storming back, thanks to a second-half shutout pitched by the defense. Whenever Russell Wilson breaks out, this team can truly compete with Denver.

3. New Orleans (4-0); beat Miami 38-17, retains same ranking – The Saints defense once again turned in an impressive defensive performance against a tough team. Although they keep the same spot, New Orleans did gain some ground on Seattle in our rankings.

4. New England Patriots (4-0); beat Atlanta 30-23, retains same ranking – To go into Atlanta and grab a win against a desperate Falcons team really shows something. Tom Brady has turned spare parts into gold in the early season. Just think what he’ll do with a healthy Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski.

5. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0); beat New York Giants 31-7, moves up 3 spots – The Chiefs just keep winning and rising. Aside from a blown coverage on Victor Cruz, this team thoroughly dominated the Giants and will be extremely tough to beat at Arrowhead.

6. San Francisco 49ers (2-2); beat St. Louis 35-11, moves up 3 spotsfrank-gore-san-franciscoFollowing two rough weeks against Seattle and Indianapolis, the Niners looked strong in St. Louis. Frank Gore finally had his first good game after racking up 153 yards and a TD on just 20 carries.

7. Chicago Bears (3-1); lost to Detroit 40-32, drops 2 spots – The Bears could’ve fallen further, but multiple top 10 teams lost this week. Jay Cutler made a nice fourth-quarter comeback after giving up four turnovers. But you have to worry about the defense, which was gashed by Reggie Bush.

8. Detroit Lions (3-1); beat Chicago 40-32, moves up 7 spots – The difference between having and not having Reggie Bush is tremendous for this team. He racked up 139 yards and a TD on only 18 carries. Detroit vs. Chicago on a neutral field would be a real nail-biter.

9. Miami Dolphins (3-1); lost to New Orleans 38-17, drops 2 spots – This is another team that could have tumbled a lot further. And they were largely noncompetitive on both sides of the ball against New Orleans. However, losing on the road to one of the NFL’s elite isn’t such an embarrassment.

10. Indianapolis Colts (3-1); beat Jacksonville 37-3, moves up 3 spots – No complaints with how they handled the Jaguars. The defense has looked rock solid for two straight weeks. And the offense is complete with Andrew Luck behind center and Trent Richardson running the ball.

11. Green Bay Packers (1-2); bye week, moves up 4 spots – It’s funny how good you can look just by not playing. The NFC North race should be hotly contested with Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago all gunning for the title.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2); lost to Cleveland 17-6, drops 6 spots –  Nobody saw this one coming, especially when the Browns traded away Richardson two weeks ago. It’s an ugly loss for the Bengals, but they are still tied for first in the AFC North.

13. Houston Texans; lost to Seattle 23-20, drops 2 spots – The Texans couldn’t finish off the NFC’s top team while they had them on the ropes. Houston has the pieces to be good, they just need to put everything together.

14. Baltimore Ravens (2-2); lost to Buffalo 23-20, drops 4 spots – A bad joe-flaccoweekend for the AFC North as the defending Super Bowl champs lost to the Bills. This defense can’t continue to cover for the mistakes of Flacco, who threw a career-worst five interceptions.

15. Atlanta Falcons (1-3); lost to New England 30-23, drops 3 spots – After a very strong year in 2012, the Falcons just don’t look the same. The defense is mainly to blame, especially since they surrendered 30 points at home to a team that’s missing several key starters.

16. San Diego Chargers (2-2); beat Dallas 30-21, moves up 4 spots – Philip Rivers has truly re-emerged this year. His performance against the Cowboys, which included 401 yards and 3 touchdowns, is perfect evidence of this.

17. Tennessee Titans (3-1); beat New York Jets 38-13, retains same ranking – In any other situation, the Titans would be 4-5 spots higher and in playoff contention. But now that they’ve lost QB Jake Locker for “multiple weeks,” this team will be hard-pressed to continue doing well. A brutal three-game stretch against Kansas City, Seattle and San Francisco awaits.

18. Dallas Cowboys (2-2); lost to San Diego 30-21, drops 2 spots – How bad is the NFC East if Dallas is the best team with a .500 record? Even if Dallas continues on the same trajectory, they’re going to win the division and grab a postseason bid.

19. Carolina Panthers (1-2); bye week, moves up 2 spots – Once off to a dismal 0-2 start, Carolina is coming off a bye week and into a friendly four-game stretch against Arizona, Minnesota, Tampa Bay and St. Louis. They could win all four of these contests before things get tough again.

20. Buffalo Bills (2-2); beat Baltimore 23-20, moves up 5 spots – The Bills got a nice home win against the Ravens, but it took five interceptions to pull this one out. Will a banged-up Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller take its toll?

21. Cleveland Browns (2-2); beat Cincinnati 17-6, moves up 6 spotsbrian-hoyer-clevelandIt’s hard to know if the Browns are for real at this point. But Brian Hoyer, Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon have breathed new life into this team, which has them thinking about the playoffs.

22. Arizona Cardinals (2-2); beat Tampa Bay 13-10, moves up 1 spot – CB Patrick Peterson came alive in the second half, picking off two crucial passes to lead Arizona to a come-from-behind victory.

23. New York Jets (2-2); lost to Tennessee 38-13, drops 5 spots – The fact that New York is .500 at this point is already surprising. If only rookie Geno Smith could quit making careless mistakes, this team could really exceed expectations.

24. Washington Redskins (1-3); beat Oakland 24-14, moves up 2 spots – Things looked bleak for the Redskins when they were down 14-0 in the first quarter. However, they battled back and finally notched a win. Amazingly, they’re just one game out of the NFC East lead.

25. Minnesota Vikings (1-3); beat Pittsburgh 34-27, moves up 3 spots – Christian Ponder remains the starting quarterback, despite the fact that backup Matt Cassel led Minnesota to their only win. But how long will Ponder start if he continues losing?

26. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3); lost to Denver 52-20, drops 7 spots – Nobody expected the Eagles to walk into Mile High and shut down the Broncos. But isn’t offense supposed to be Chip Kelly’s specialty?

27. St. Louis Rams (1-3); lost to San Francisco 35-11, drops 5 spots – The Rams started the season respectably, but have regressed in the last two blowout losses. However, they have an excellent shot at winning in Jacksonville this weekend.

28. New York Giants (0-4); lost to Kansas City 31-7, drops 4 spots – Few would’ve predicted that New York would be this bad in the early going. They’ll try to get their first win against a slumping Philly team.

29. Oakland Raiders (1-3); lost to Washington 24-14, moves up 1 spot – They lost, but move up because Terrelle Pryor returns this week. Oh, and if there was any inkling of Matt Flynn regaining his starting job, it ended Sunday.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4); lost to Minnesota 34-27, drops 1 spot – The falling cry of the Steelers this year has always been “At least their defense is good.” Well it turns out that this isn’t even true. There is some promise in rookie RB Le’Veon Bell though.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4); lost to Arizona 13-10, retains same ranking – Are the Buccaneers drafting a quarterback next year, or is rookie third-rounder Mike Glennon the future? If it’s the latter, he’s got to stop making stupid decisions like throwing towards Peterson late in a game.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4); lost to Indianapolis 37-3, retains same ranking – Is there any reason to believe this team can avoid going 0-16? We can’t think of one.

Brian Hoyer to start Third Straight Game for Cleveland Browns

brian-hoyer-clevelandTheir opening day quarterback Brandon Weeden goes down with an injury. They trade away franchise running back Trent Richardson after a dismal 0-2 start. And yet, the Cleveland Browns are now tied for the AFC North division lead with the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals.

And a large part of Cleveland’s success is due to the emergence of backup QB Brian Hoyer. In all actuality though, Hoyer may have earned himself the permanent starting role. He’s been named the starter for a third straight week, while the status of Weeden and his injured thumb are unknown.

Regardless of whether or not Weeden is healthy enough to play, it doesn’t appear that Cleveland is overly concerned about him. Instead, they’re embracing Hoyer and looking to forward to seeing if he can lead them to the playoffs.

brian-hoyer-cleveland-1Now this may all sound quite unrealistic, given that many people thought the Browns were mailing it in following the Richardson trade. But as previously stated, Cleveland is tied atop a mediocre division and faces Buffalo this week. The Bills are also 2-2, but the Browns will be at home and should be favored in this contest.

Basically, Hoyer has provided new life to a team that was previously looking to fight with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the league’s top pick next season. Through two games, he’s racked up 590 passing yards, 5 TD’s, 3 INT’s and a 59.8% completion rate.

Of course, it’s important not to look too far ahead because all of this hype has been created in two games. And the NFL season is a long grind with 12 games left to go. But if Cleveland can beat Buffalo on Thursday and remain on top of the AFC North, it will bring Brian Hoyer hysteria to an all-time high.

Why did the Cleveland Browns trade Trent Richardson?

trent-richardsonYesterday the Cleveland Browns pulled off the biggest trade of the 2013 NFL season when they sent Trent Richardson to Indianapolis for a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Following this transaction, Ahmad Bradshaw fantasy owners cringed, casual league fans were puzzled, and Browns fans were like “What the f**k!?”

After all, Richardson was the third overall pick of the 2012 Draft, an every-down back, and somebody who was generally expected to be a franchise player. So why did the Cleveland Browns trade their most precious commodity? Especially when the Colts’ top pick only projects to be a middle-first rounder?

Well the simple answer is that they’re trying to tank the season following an 0-2 start. So why not get rid of their injury-plagued running back while they still can and stockpile another first-round pick in the process.

Basically, the Browns found the perfect taker for Richardson because Indianapolis is desperate to solve their running back situation and make the playoffs for a second consecutive year. They thought that Bradshaw could be this guy when they signed him to a one-year deal in the offseason, or at least a combination of him and Vick Ballard.

trent-richardsonBut Ballard exited in the first week with a season-ending knee injury while Bradshaw has been nothing more than steady with 91 rushing yards, 26 receiving yards and a touchdown (in 2 games). Plus, given his constant foot injuries, the Colts felt that adding a potential star player like Richardson could boost their postseason chances in a crowded AFC East division.

And make no mistake about it, Richardson is a top-notch talent who’s capable of great things. In his rookie season with Cleveland, the Alabama product rushed for 950 yards, added 367 receiving yards, and scored 12 TD’s, despite playing through injuries. So just imagine what he could do on a team where opposing defenses need to worry about the pass.

Unfortunately, this team wasn’t the Browns and opponents were stacking the box with seven and eight defenders on every play, just daring Brandon Weeden to throw. The way Cleveland sees it, why keep running Richardson into a brick wall this season while losing games when he’s got major trade value.

Let’s face it…the Weeden experiment has failed after 18 games, the offensive line is still bad, and there are no huge play-making threats on this club. These are all things that management feared going into the 2013 season, but there was also a glimmer of hope if Weeden could’ve developed.

teddy-bridgewater-draftThat hope is gone, and now, like 50% of the league, Cleveland is trying to find a reliable quarterback. With an extra first-rounder, they now have the chance to trade up for Teddy Bridgewater, if the Jacksonville Jaguars (who are definitely going to finish dead last) feel like making a deal. If this doesn’t work out, Cleveland is likely to finish with the league’s second worst record, which would probably land them UCLA QB Brett Hundley.

Some say South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in the most talented player in the draft. However, it’s unlikely that the Browns would pass up the chance at getting a signal caller in a class that’s loaded with QB talent.

But for now, Cleveland will pretend to focus on this season by bringing veteran Willis McGahee into the fold and trying to win a game or two. But as the Richardson trade indicates, they are really only thinking about 2014 and beyond.