By Lynn Saternow
Herald Sports Editor
IT MAKES NO sense to say that one game determines the rest of the season. That’s why I’ll simply say: Today’s one game determines the rest of the season.
Since when did my predictions make sense anyhow?
The Cleveland Browns’ visit to Cincinnati today will go a long way to deciding if the Browns have a shot at making the playoffs — and even winning the AFC North title — or if they should start planning for the NFL draft.
In fact, it will be a rare case where the Pittsburgh Steelers and Black and Gold fans will also be rooting for Cleveland to allow Pittsburgh a slim chance of sneaking back into the playoffs race.
Of course that will also hinge on whether Pittsburgh can beat the surging Detroit Lions this afternoon as well. If not, they can start preparing for the NFL draft and maybe even looking at hiring a new head coach.
Cleveland already beat Cincy once this year and is only a slight underdog even though it is a road game. And because of the Browns’ solid defense, they have a chance to win every game as long as the quarterback is someone not named Weeden. Currently Jason Campbell is the QB of choice for Cleveland and he has been playing very well.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati is reeling. Quarterback Andy Dalton is sputtering and has thrown 6 interceptions in the last two games, both losses in overtime.
Conversely, Cincy is 4-0 at home so Cleveland will need to jump out to an early lead to take the home crowd out of the contest.
The Browns are coming off a bye week so they should be well rested and well prepared for the Battle of Ohio. Look for the Browns to prevail, 20-13, and throw the AFC North into a tizzy.
Meanwhile, the Steelers’ backs are against the proverbial wall. After their terrible start it was pretty much unthinkable that they could still have a playoff shot, but hope springs eternal in the NFL where strange things happen. You know what they say: “On any given Sunday!” Of course they don’t mention any given Thursday or any given Monday or any given Saturday when games are also sometimes played.
Detroit has one of the best defensive lines in the league. Pittsburgh has one of the worst offensive lines in the league. That does not bode well for Big Ben who takes a beating every week against even lesser opponents.
Pittsburgh’s aging defense will also be tested by All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson who is almost unstoppable in the passing game.
Look for a blowout — Detroit, 30-6.
My season prediction record is 79-47. Following are the rest of this week’s picks (betting line in parentheses just for fun):
New England (plus 21⁄2) over Carolina
Denver (-8) over Kansas City
New Orleans (-3) over San Fran
NY Jets (plus 1) over Buffalo
Philly (-31⁄2) over Washington
Chicago (-3) over Baltimore
Seattle (-131⁄2) over Minnesota
NY Giants (-61⁄2) over Green Bay
Jacksonville (plus 61⁄2) over Arizona
San Diego (-1) over Miami
Tampa (plus 1) over Atlanta
Houston (-7) over Oakland