Broncos, Browns face games that may define future
The Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos are two of the biggest underdogs this week. Few outside of their respective locker rooms believe they will win on Sunday, and yet they might well have to. With losses, head coaches Hue Jackson and Vance Joseph are looking at lost seasons and, soon after, lost jobs.
This weekend, the Browns go into Pittsburgh as eight-point underdogs against the Steelers, while the Kansas City Chiefs are 9.5-point favorites at home against Denver. The only teams facing larger spreads are the Green Bay Packers (at the Los Angeles Rams) and Buffalo Bills (home on MNF against the New England Patriots).
In other words, the tasks will be significant for both Jackson and Joseph, who are running out of precious time to prove they belong in their current roles.
Cleveland started out the season well enough, unlocking the Bud Light fridges around its city with a Thursday night home win in Baker Mayfield’s debut. After splitting the following two games, the Browns were sitting at 2-2-1 and looking like a vastly improved group, but then the bottom fell out. After being blown out by the Los Angeles Chargers and losing a poorly-coached game to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland is 2-4-1 with a date against Pittsburgh followed by a home date with the aforementioned Chiefs.
After Kansas City comes a bye week, and if Jackson is staring at 2-6-1, on the heels of being 1-31 over his first two seasons with the Browns, it’s hard to see him surviving.
Meanwhile, the Broncos go into Arrowhead Stadium fresh off a 45-10 humbling of the Arizona Cardinals last Thursday night. Arizona was a mess throughout with five turnovers, a number Denver is hoping to come near replicating against the Chiefs and their high-powered, highest-scoring attack.
The Broncos and Chiefs already played once this season, with Denver taking a 23-13 lead into the fourth quarter of their Week 4 affair at Mile High. However, Patrick Mahomes led a pair of touchdown drives in the final 10 minutes, Case Keenum missed an open Demaryius Thomas in the waning seconds, and the Chiefs escaped with a 27-23 win.
It stands to reason that this will be a tougher game for Denver, considering it won’t have a primetime home crowd on its side. Keenum and the offense almost have to score 30 points or likely go back to the Mile High City at 3-5 with a date against the Houston Texans on deck.
For Joseph, who was almost fired at the conclusion of last year, he’s on the edge and in desperate need of a signature win.