It was billed as “Super Wild Card Weekend”. It should have been called “Blowout City”.
Six playoff games, six games that barely made me want to see the second half. Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and the Los Angeles Rams went through the weekend. It makes you wonder if the NFL should ever think about adding more teams to the playoffs. The top seeds in each conference earned a bye week by having the best records. They got the bye week as a reward for a great regular season. There’s talk of adding more teams to the playoffs so the top seeds don’t get a bye. The playoffs are already watered down. We witnessed this with the eruptions last weekend, so there is no need to make matters worse.
As a bitter Cleveland Browns fan from the sidelines, I kept shaking my head trying to figure out how the Browns didn’t beat the Pittsburgh Steelers this season. It was also frustrating to see Odell Beckham Jr. succeed in the Rams system, but it didn’t work here. I think he has less pressure as the No. 2 receiver behind Cooper Kupp. Still, the Rams are getting there and the Browns haven’t.
When the Browns were 1-15, 0-16, it was easy to watch the playoffs. You knew the Browns had no business in the playoffs. Now, that just shows that one win here, one more first there, or one less turnover and the Browns get an extra game. The underperformance was a tough pill to swallow last weekend.
In a way, I’m glad the Cincinnati Bengals won on Jan. 15. I laughed when Bengals radio announcer Dave Lapham called them the “heart kids” on the radio after Cincinnati’s 26-19 win over Las Vegas. Maybe it’s because the Browns beat the Bengals twice.
I really like Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. He just wants to play the game. You didn’t hear him complain about the lack of an offensive line last season. You saw him come back from a season-ending injury last year. Cincinnati improved the offensive line and drafted former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase. It’s a formula the Browns will continue while the Athens high school graduate is under center with the Bengals.
The Bengals will face the AFC’s top-seeded Tennessee Titans at 4:30 p.m. on January 22. The winner will face the winner of the Bills-Chiefs matchup, which takes place at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 23, in the AFC title game at 3:05 a.m. Jan.
Cavs playing as a team
Put the team on me cause this team is fun to watch.
That’s the #1 thing I hear about the Cavs. It’s true. It’s a nuance to what we really see. A team that plays selflessly on the pitch and without drama off the pitch. It’s far from clinging to every move LeBron James has on and off the floor during his stints with the Cavs. Do not mistake yourself. Other than “The Decision” dog and pony show on TV, I wouldn’t trade the LeBron years.
The victory over the Brooklyn Nets on January 17 was a big deal. Brooklyn played without Kevin Durant, who has a knee injury, but the Cavs aren’t completely healthy either. The Cavs have a team full of guys who can drop 20 points in any game. While Darius Garland was the Eastern Conference Player of the Week last week, any number of guys, including Garland’s core Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, can be a hero any night. It all starts with defense. The Cavs held the Nets to just 19 points in the fourth quarter in a 114-107 MLK Matinee victory.
When I worked full-time on local television, I had a co-worker named Cliff. He often shouted in the press room, “It’s time to get on board with these Cavs.” Cliff has never been so correct as he is now. The expectations of just trying to make the qualifying tournament have shifted to playing for one of the four seeds in the East. A 50-win season that was a wild thought in August is now a real goal.
Happy birthday Dan Gilbert
It was good to see Cavs majority owner Dan Gilbert in some of the MLK Day background shots. January 17 was also his 60th birthday. After suffering a stroke in May 2019, we haven’t seen or heard much from Gilbert, so I’m glad he got to be at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse to see the signing win.
Also seen on TV was Amar’e Stoudemire, who was also in town with the Nets as an assistant coach. The six-time NBA All-Star is super interesting. He was a standout player in the Israeli Premier League. He also converted to Judaism in 2020. His faith is on full display on his @amareisreal Instagram account. It is worth following.
Chones provides radio gold
I juggled the Cavs-Nets game between radio and television. Brad Daugherty is fine with Austin Carr and John Michael on television. It would be great if Bally Sports made him play more games.
If you’re really looking to learn about the game, Jim Chones knocks it out of the park. His partner, Tim Alcorn, brings it with a lot of energy. They are a good team. Chones always makes me smarter when I listen to it. I like the way he sees the game. During the win over the Nets, Lauri Markkanen was a guest on the post-game show. Too often you hear praise from announcers after a game, but it’s nothing more than hot air. In the interview, Chones praised and reviewed his performance over the past week, with details on why Chones believed Markkanen had earned his respect. It was like attending a parent-teacher conference and it was radio gold.