Sunday, September 9, 2012

Reader Mailbag: Cleveland Browns Season Predictions

As most of my loyal fan base knows and has been discussing over coffee and marmalade for weeks, it has been quite some time since I’ve done a reader mailbag column.  In fact, my official guy-who-does-these-kinds-of-things (Code Name: Larry) tells me that I haven’t done a reader mailbag column since “ever,” which is at least before the eclipse, possibly even prior the Hell’s Kitchen swimsuit competition. (Do they do that? I don’t watch that show.)  Anyway, it’s apparently been awhile, and this is causing grave consternation amongst my faithful readers, as proven by the following transcript of an actual conversation between two of my imaginary readers from the Washington D.C. area:

Reader #1:  “Wow, Stephen has’t done a reader mailbag column in at least a fortnight.” 

Reader #2: “Are you consternated about it?”

Reader #1: “Gravely.”

Far be it from me to be the cause of any variety of consternation, so with the NFL season rapidly approaching, let’s do a combination reader mailbag/season prediction column.  Oh, and I’ve recently taken to calling myself “King Thunder,” mostly because it’s what my wife calls me.  So all future reader mail must be addressed as such, or no Frankenberries for you.

Dear King Thunder,
Is it true that you’re planning to pick the Browns over the Eagles this week?  Follow up question, are you planning to bogart the entire bag of whatever you’re smoking?
Eddie from Elyria

Dear Eddie From Elyria,
I am indeed, predicated on two things:  One, that TRich plays.  Two, that Haden plays.  If either of those two things don’t occur, I will change my pick.  As of now, however, this just feels like a game where Philly is overlooking the Browns ... as everyone says they should ... and I mean EVERYONE.  That’s actually a large factor as to why I’m picking Cleveland - if history has taught us anything it’s that A) Anyone can be assassinated (thanks Michael Corleone) and B) If all the sportswriters in the world agree on something and scoff with incredibly unwarranted sportswriter superiority at anyone who disagrees, it almost always turns out to be wrong.  Plus, a power running game makes a four win team at least an eight win team.  With TRich, that’s what the Browns have ... potentially.  As it relates to this particular game, as many great names as the Eagles have on defense, they were surprisingly soft against the run last year, surrendering 4.4 yds/rush.  Oh, and my bag of “stuff” is for medical purposes only.  All this reading of mail gives me serious glaucoma. (For all of my weekly NFL picks, go to my Facebook page at

Dear King Thunder,
Obviously the Browns are going to go 16-0, but what do you think of the rest of the division?  Are there any players on those other three teams that maybe the Browns could pick up for their practice squad or anything?
Tom from Twinsburg

Dear Tom from Twinsburg,
First, please give me back my bag of medically approved stuff. I think the Browns will be much improved, but let’s not get crazy.  Thirteen wins, maybe fourteen; anything more than that sounds like a nutty skit from SuperHost.  Second, I think there is potential for a step back for at least one of the other teams in the division, and that’s the Ravens.  I understand what they’re doing with the Flacco hurry-up offense, and I think it will work.  However, with the age on that defense, they’re taking a huge gamble.  Understand, they’re not planning to run a no-huddle, but an actual hurry-up, a la the Jim Kelly Buffalo Bills.  Those Buffalo defenses wore down at the end of seasons due to all of the extra time on the field, and they were relatively young at their core.  This Baltimore defense is long in the tooth, to put it mildly.  I think they’ll hold up fine the first half of the season and blast out of the gate at 4-0 or 6-1 or something similar, and then wear down in the stretch run.  Fortunately for them, I don’t believe any of the other three AFC North teams have enough in the tank to catch them, so they’ll reign for one more year.

Dear King Thunder,
How can the season be “rapidly approaching?”  Doesn’t the passage of time stay at a constant, regardless of impending events?
Aaron from Akron

Dear Aaron from Akron,
You are most likely correct, although I’ve seen several episodes of Star Trek: TNG that raise the possibility of time not being as linear as modern physicists believe.  Aren’t you way too smart to be reading my column?

Dear King Thunder,
You didn’t really answer all of Tom from Twinsburg’s question, you just cherry picked one team and then dodged the rest.  What are you, a politician or something?
Dave from Dayton

Dear Dave from Dayton,
It’s my prerogative as a professional humor writing type person (PHWTP).  What are you, a lawyer or something?

Dear King Thunder,
Yes, actually I am.  Now will you answer the question and explain your whereabouts on the night of the OJ murders, please?
Dave from Dayton

Dear Dave from Dayton,
No Hablo Ingles. (Sets off Ninja smoke bomb, escapes through secret floor hatch.)

Dear King Thunder,
So why don’t you just tell us what you think about the 2012 Browns?  This is supposed to be a football column, you know.
Mike from Marietta

Dear Mike from Marietta,
First off, that shows what you know about my column; none of my regular readers think I know the first thing about football.  Of course, none of my regular readers own more than two pair of pants, and they rarely wear either one except to a formal event such as an arraignment, but that’s for another discussion.  Second, OK, here’s my 2012 Browns thoughts, in all seriousness.  Or mostly seriousness.  Or a 70/30 Seriousness/Polyester blend.  I really, truly, honestly believe they’re going to be much, much better than anyone is predicting.  Last year, they hung around in almost every game, and could have won at least five more, and that was with virtually no offense.  Now, they have (potentially, all based on that knee) a power running game, and some skill and speed at the WR position, raw though it may be.  With an improved defensive line (at least on paper) especially after Phil Taylor comes back, the defense should be even better than it was a year ago.  Finally, as much as I wanted them to stick with Colt for another year and then go after Barkley next year if things didn’t improve, I’ve liked the little we’ve seen from Weeden.  Will they make the playoffs?  Even I’m not nutty enough to say that.  However, I think 6-8 wins isn’t beyond reasonable to expect.  They’re going to surprise some people.  So I’m going with 8-8.  That’s my prediction.  Now get off my back.

Dear King Thunder,
What are you going to say when people reply to this column and call you an idiot and a moron, with poorly spelled curse words, non-existent punctuation, and horrific grammar?
Frank from Columbus

Dear Frank from Columbus,
Don’t you know that all reader mailbag questions MUST come from people who have alliteration in their first name and their hometown?  I’m not answering your question until you rectify this situation.  Jerk.

Dear King Thunder,
So what are your division, and Super Bowl picks?  Come on, I can’t wait any longer - I’ve secretly liquidated my company’s entire 401k fund, and want to go bet it all in Las Vegas based on your psychic abilities.
Carl from Cleveland

Dear Carl from Cleveland,
First, thank you for following the name and hometown rules.  If you happen to see Frank from Columbus, kick him repeatedly in the duodenum for me, OK? (What? duodenum is a real thing.)  Second, you were wise to make such a bold financial transaction.  Sure, people like your bosses and the SEC will be mad at first, but when you put all of the money back plus profit at the end of the season, they’re sure to throw you a parade.  Third, here we go:  AFC East: New England.  AFC North: Baltimore. AFC South: Houston. AFC West: Denver.  NFC East: Dallas. NFC North: Green Bay. NFC South: New Orleans. NFC West: San Francisco.  Super Bowl: Green Bay over New England.  

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