First Quarter: How many wins are left?
Can the Cleveland Browns at least match the 4-12 season that preceded this mess?
As they come out of their bye week with a record of 2-7, and we find ourselves existing comfortably in a results-based environment, exactly how many more wins can we expect from Pat Shurmur's motley crew? Sure, several of the seven losses were indeed winnable contests -- the one-point loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and the botched fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts, to name two -- but for a team that has shown so little in terms of finishing games, how can we just assume that the needed growth was obtained over their resting period?
Four of the next five weeks will provide nary an opponent with a winning record; the 4-5 Dallas Cowboys lead the pack of suck otherwise known as the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins. But just as Clevelanders sit here circling these games as potential victories for the Browns, those in Dallas, the Bay Area, KC and DC are doing the exact same thing.
If the Browns cannot find a way to squeak out at least a couple wins within this group, the 2012 season will continue to be a lost cause as two games against the Pittsburgh Steelers will be joined by a game against the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos, at Mile High.
Second Quarter: Thin benches get broken
The Cavaliers undoubtedly boast a young starting five full of upside and excitement packaged in nice, ready-made highlight reel fit for YouTube and 60-inch displays alike. But once Byron Scott opts to give his 20-somethings a bit of a rest -- let's not forget that Kyrie Irving, even in his second year, has played only 11 and 51 games, respectively, over the last two seasons -- the bottom falls out of the Wine and Gold bucket, leaving nothing but Cleveland tears in its wake.
As much hope and upside is possessed by the starting five, the Cavaliers bench is mostly re-treads and D-League darts being hurled at a wall all in hopes of one night of overachievement; Daniel "Boobie" Gibson has been the only consistent factor, supplying some offense for a unit that is otherwise offensive. The only answer will be in head coach Byron Scott who is paid handsomely to come up with the correct mix, rotation and utilization of the 15 men he has been afforded.
Good news is, the season is still very young and several of the Cavaliers early-season losses were very winnable contests. The bad news is, the team still sits on two wins and the gap between them and the rest of the East will only continue to widen if things do not get rectified quickly.
Third Quarter: And then there were two...
The Ohio State Buckeyes managed to lose ground in the latest rendition of the AP Poll, falling to sixth, despite being idle and previously undefeated Alabama giving way to Johnny Football.
Nevertheless, Urban Meyer's crew will have to control their own fate -- BCS ban aside -- by winning out. The only hurdles that remain are big ones: the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison and then the rival Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium. It's not far-fetched that the currently undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes could drop both of these games given their mid-season struggles against lesser opponents. It's also not far-fetched that the Scarlet and Grey could drop 60 on either the Badgers or the Wolverines, breaking out a fake field goal for good measure.
Regardless of what happens, this Buckeyes team -- largely the same one that won a mere six games in 2011 -- has already outperformed expectations and will have a solid standing in the 2013 preseason polls; a season that actually matters in the eyes of the bowl hosts. That said, you can be damned sure that Meyer not only expects to win these next two games, but to do so handily, in spite of the NCAA sanctions presently levied against him.
Fourth Quarter: He Choo-choo-chooses a winner
Well, perhaps not exactly at this very moment, but the days of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo batting lead-off for one of the worst teams in baseball appear to be coming to a close. Though the team has reportedly attempted to sign the Gold Glove-nominated slugger to a contract extension over the course of the last several seasons, Choo's desire -- as wacky as this may sound -- is to play for a team that not only wins, but shows the desire to do so on an annual basis. Given that the Indians have broken the .500 mark exactly one time in Choo's seven years with the franchise, neither of these two criterion are met.
Choo's agent Scott Boras has gone ahead and put the Indians front office on notice, calling them out for their complete dysfunction -- an interesting move given that agents rarely look to burn bridges when their clients are one year away from free agency. That said, Boras' move, if anything, signals that there is no bridge to be burnt -- it's only a matter of time before his client will be boarding a one-way flight to a major market, batting in the middle of the lineup and gunning out would-be scorers at the plate.
It was fun while it lasted.
Scott Sargent is a co-founder of WaitingForNextYear, where he writes about all three professional Cleveland teams. He's been voted "Ohio's Best Sports Blogger" for his work at WFNY. Scott will be covering all things Cleveland, providing feature writing and weekly snapshots of what mattered and where we're headed in the world of Cleveland sports.