Writing this article, in the days before the season kicks off, I and most other NFL fans are full of optimism, envisioning disparate pieces assembled in free agency and the draft clicking together with the team's core talent and transformed into a finely-tuned killing machine operated with surgical skill by our genius coaching staff.
And then there are Cleveland fans. Great fans, as loyal as you can get, but twenty years without consecutive winning seasons kind of saps the joy out of preseason prognostication.
So when I talk to friends of mine who are Browns fans, and ask "So, does Shurmur call the shots or is he basically going to be Holmgrens hand puppet, do you think?" or "So, how about that Colt McCoy, is he the real deal?" or "Starting the season with the battle for Ohio... those Bengals are going down, big time!" or "So, whattya think. Good year this year?" I get the same response.
"We'll see. They are the Browns."
That said, I am legitimately excited about this game. Shurmur is the first Rams coordinator to be poached for a head coaching position since Lovie Smith in 2004, and the hope in Cleveland is that he can bring along Colt McCoy in his high-volume, short-target passing game and get the same magical results that he did with Sam Bradford.
Arguably, he has a better offensive line to work with, an equally talented (if less accomplished) downhill sledder in Peyton Hillis, an underrated TE target duo in Ben Watson and Evan Moore, and an undrafted scrawny slot guy in the Amendola mold named Jordan Norwood.
In an eerie sense, it will be as though the 2011 Rams get to face off against the 2010 version of themselves on offense. The part of me that geeks out over the Twilight Zone and those surreal holodeck episodes of Star Trek TNG is psyched.
Brennan: "The Shurmur bowl is a close game but the Browns are ultimately doomed by check down passes."
It will be a weary Rams team that arrives at Rams Park after four road games in five weeks, but one that now faces the downhill part of its schedule and should be battle-tested and ready to roll. They'll face off against a Seattle team that, by this point in the season, could be hanging in the division race, or could be still looking for their first win.
Seriously. If it doesn't come in week 1 against overhyped (or underrated?) San Francisco, their next strong opportunity for a W doesn't appear until week 8 against the suck-for-luck-ing Cincinnati Bengals. Want to talk brutal schedules? Seattle fans can talk. Want to talk quarterbacks? All of a sudden they get really quiet, with a sad little pinched expression on their faces.
Even the fans that were ready to move on from Matt Hasselbeck are in a daze, watching the team start the season with only Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst, and turning their backs on the likes of David Garrard. Big Mike Williams, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate might as well bring a book to read along with them as they run routes, as whoever is taking snaps scrambles for their life behind a young patchwork offensive line.
Even if the Rams score enough points to win this game three times over, however, it won't wash away the taste of having lost last year to a more clever and daring Seattle team playing with nothing to lose and only a playoff spot to gain. But it would be a start.
Tim: "Seahawks won't let the Rams get in their way to winning the services of Andrew Luck. Rams in an easy one."