The Cleveland Browns host the Los Angeles Rams tonight in a prime time Sunday night game that a few years ago would have been a contest only close family members would have cared about. In fact, the last time these two teams met was 2015, a year in which the Browns won only three games and the Rams beat them 24-6.
But, in 2015, the Rams were not much better than the Browns, in fact they were playing their 12th of 13 consecutive seasons without a winning record.
Boy, how things have changed in a relative hurry.
The Rams won the NFC last year and advanced to their first Super Bowl since the 2001 season. The Browns in 2015 were playing in a three year span, that ran through the 2017 campaign, in which they won only four of 48 games.
Yet, tonight, we have a defending conference champion against a team that has more positive press clippings than Marilyn Monroe at the height of her fame. This also marks the first time this season that according to our charts, the Browns have a motivational edge over their opponent.
With all the hype leading up to the regular season opener, the Browns thoroughly disappointed their home fans by getting crushed at FirstEnergy Stadium, 43-13. The loss has so far proven to be the Tennessee Titans only win of the season, but the convincing fashion in which it was delivered, had Cleveland hopefuls thinking, oh no, not again.
Last week, against the New York Jets on the road in another prime time telecast, the Browns showed the Monday night audience flashes of what their fans think is a total revival. As a road favorite that was bet-on by the public in big numbers, the Browns suffocated the Jets offense in route to a 23-3 victory.
Meanwhile, the Rams have opened with a pair of wins in defense of the NFC Championship. Sean McVay’s team downed the Carolina Panthers on the road to open their campaign and beat the New Orleans Saints in Los Angeles last Sunday. Now, they are back on the road, and for the third straight week the public likes their chances.
The Rams are the most bet team of Week Three with nearly 80% of all wagers backing the Sunday night visitors.
What this does is give the Browns their first positive spot to excel against the point spread. No win could mean more to the city of Cleveland and the Brown’s organization than to pin the defending champs with their first loss of the season. But, for that to happen, the Rams have to perform out of character.
Over the past two seasons, with McVay running the show and Wade Phillips coordinating the Rams defense, Los Angeles has met every challenge except last year’s Super Bowl, a loss to the New England Patriots.
What does that leave us with tonight?
It would force a play against the solid Rams if we were to take the motivational edge the Browns possess. To take the Rams, based purely on talent but not situation, is not how we build winning seasons.
I’m as interested as you to see if the Browns can meet the challenge tonight and take advantage of a sweet home underdog role. But, bet money on it happening is just not on my list of things to do.