NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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Different Paths
by Dennis Ranahan

Hue Jackson is no longer the head coach in Cleveland, and he loses his job while holding the second worst career winning percentage of all time. Or, should we say losing percentage. Jackson coached in Oakland for one season, and compiled an 8-8 campaign in 2011. That was a significant year in Raiders history, longtime owner and general manager Al Davis died that season.

Five years after being released by Oakland, Jackson landed the Cleveland Browns head coaching position in 2016. In three plus years in that role Jackson guided Cleveland to only 3 wins in 36 games. Even with his respectful 8-8 season in Oakland, Jackson’s lifetime record of 11 wins and 44 losses and .205 winning average only finds Bert Bell, who coached the Philadelphia Eagles from 1936 to 1941, with a worse all-time winning percentage. Bell led the Eagles to a 10-46-2 win/loss/tie record for a winning average of .179.

After last week’s loss, both Jackson and Browns offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, were sent packing. The burden to coach this team now falls to Gregg Williams, who was elevated from defensive coordinator to interim head coach.

This is not Williams’ first rodeo.

He was the Buffalo Bills head coach for three seasons beginning in 2001, and compiled a 17-31 won/loss record before being released after the 2003 season. Williams is perhaps better known for the controversy he endured in New Orleans that led to a 2012 suspension for encouraging his defensive troops to injure opposing players. During his tenure as defensive coordinator on Sean Payton’s staff in New Orleans, the Saints did win their franchise’s only Super Bowl title to complete the 2009 season.

This is an opportunity for redemption for the 60-year old coach who has rebuilt his NFL stock to not only be reinstated as an assistant, but to rise to another head coaching position, albeit, currently on an interim basis. His first task as head coach … beat the best team in the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs.

Now, this may appear a tall task for the home team this Sunday in Cleveland. The Browns rookie quarterback, Baker Mayfield, has gotten solid reviews for his first five starts in the National Football League, but he has only one win to show for his efforts.

How could the Browns possibly compete with the current leader for Most Valuable Player in the league, Patrick Mahomes? The Chiefs second-year signal caller triggers the highest scoring offense in the league.

Well, first of all, this is not the Browns squad that won only one game the prior two seasons. This is a talented group on the cusp of moving into the respectable range. This year, they have won more games than they have lost against the point spread, 5-3, with spread victories over a couple really good football teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints.

This is the tale of two teams entering under severely different circumstances.

The Chiefs have rolled through the first half of the campaign with only a three point loss to the Patriots in New England tarnishing their season mark. But, while the Chiefs may continue to win, the books are forced to set point spreads that take away the advantage of betting on the highest scoring team.

Kansas City fell victim to a bloated line last week against the Denver Broncos, winning the game by seven points while forced to lay nine points on the line.

This week, they come to Cleveland confident of wins the next two weeks before their next big challenge on November 19th, when they meet the Los Angeles Rams in Mexico City. Following this contest against the Browns, the Chiefs host the Arizona Cardinals.

Teams playing as well as the Chiefs don’t often lose when challenged by their opponent, but fall victim when they confidently stride into a trap while saddled with a bloated line. The Browns have so much to overcome this week with a new head coach and offensive coordinator, but that fear of failure is the greatest motivator of all.

The motivation in this matchup is probably enough to earn the Browns the straight up win, and the generous point spread simply makes this a great wager.

Qoxhi Picks: Cleveland Browns (+9) over Kansas City Chiefs