NFL Week 15: Sunday Night Preview

8:20 PM Sunday, December 20th, Cleveland Browns vs. New York Giants (NBC)

The Cleveland Browns will try to muster the strength to battle the Giants after a heartbreaking loss to their divisional rivals from Baltimore on Monday night. If you missed it, then you missed the game of the year, because it was that good.

Well, maybe not if you’re a Browns’ fan but the Dawg Pound should be proud even in defeat. These are not your father’s Cleveland Browns to be sure and are already fulfilling the loftiest expectations of even the most ardent Browns’ supporters.

In case you are unaware, Cleveland trailed the visiting Ravens, 34-20, entering the fourth quarter but Baker Mayfield got the engine revving with a 21-yard touchdown strike to Rashard Higgins. If that wasn’t enough, the analytics brainiacs suggested to rookie head coach, Kevin Stefanski, that a two-point conversion would be the right move, eschewing the extra point which would tie the game.

Stefanski rolled the dice and trusted his offense to make him look like a riverboat gambler who was working his marks with pocket aces. Mayfield went to work but his pass was deflected…right into the lovin’ arms of Browns’ teammate Donovan Peoples-Jones. Cleveland cut the lead to 34-28 and the momentum shift was palpable.

Within six minutes the Browns would go ahead, 35-34, courtesy of a five-yard Mayfield romp into the endzone. By this time, last year’s MVP and Baltimore quarterback, Lamar Jackson, had headed for the locker room with cramps and was replaced by second-year man, Trace McSorley. After McSorley failed to ignite his offense against an amped-up Browns’ defense, Jackson strode onto the field to take the reins of a fourth and five situation that was due or die for the Ravens.

Jackson would hit Marquise Brown on a 44-yard fly pattern to go ahead only to see Mayfield counter with a 22-yard strike to Kareen Hunt to tie the game at 45 apiece. Jackson would follow by marching his troops to within kicker, Justin Tucker’s, field goal range where the deadliest foot in the business connected on a 55-yard bomb to seal the victory.

The Browns tried the old hook and ladder with two seconds remaining on the clock but the ball wound up going backward and the Ravens got the safety, much to the chagrin of Cleveland bettors everywhere who wagered the Browns +3, only to see their push turn into an agonizing five-point loss. Speaking of betting, the sportsbook Intertops [Review here]has lines on every NFL game on the slate so check them out because if you’ve got a hunch, bet a bunch!

Big Blue Still in the Hunt

The Giants fell, 26-7, to the Arizona Cardinals and now sit with a 5-8 record with only three games remaining on the regular season. Most teams would be making vacation plans at this point but not if you reside in the NFC Least – er – East because this is the division where you’re never really out of it.

New York trails Washington by only one game but wouldn’t it be ironic if the division was won by a team without a nickname and a sub .500 record? After all, it’s 2020 and it just makes perfect sense. Second-year man, Daniel Jones, has been dealing with injuries this season and his progression from a surprising No. 6 overall pick in 2019 has been hampered because of it.

Who Wins on Sunday Night?

I think we could have a shocker in the making. According to the best online sportsbooks, the Browns are currently four-point road favorites against a Giants team that had won four straight until their loss against the Cardinals last week.

New York has been known for getting their act together late after stumbling early, and this season is no exception. Cleveland could be due for a big letdown after last week’s staggering setback despite what Mayfield said shortly after the loss, “There can either be good or bad to come from this. You can start pointing fingers, but that’s not this team. We know that we need to fight and make the plays to win when we need to.”

And although that’s exactly what any competitor worth his salt would say, it’s probably going to take a few weeks to shake this one off.
Prediction: Giants 27 – Browns 20.

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