Scott Sargent provides quick-hit thoughts on the state of Cleveland's teams.
First Quarter: Terrible Towels and Turnovers
It took a barrage of forced fumbles, a handful of intercepted passes, and a splash home field advantage, but the Cleveland Browns not only beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they also snapped an eight-game streak of topping out at 14 points. Partying like it was the 1950s, the Browns defense was playing at a level not seen in quite some time -- a role-reversal from the Steelers defenses that have plagued the Browns since their return in 1999.
Some fans will undoubtedly drag their ever-hovering rain clouds over any sort of parade, being quick to point out that a team which forces as many turnovers as the Browns should have produced a higher point total on the offensive end. The record books, however, will show that the Browns have now won their second AFC North contest, possessing the chance to go .500 for the first time since the fluke 10-win season of 2007. If hometown hope isn't enough, the Browns may have effectively ended the Pittsburgh Steelers' playoff dreams, having put them in a tie with the Cincinnati Bengals. Sure, there's still a chance, but all it takes is one look at the respective schedules left for each team, and it could be the perennial contenders who are left watching the post-season from their own couches.
It may have only been the Browns' third win of an otherwise dreadful season, but what a win it was.
Second Quarter: Urban's Renewal
Even the most optimistic of Ohio State Buckeye fans couldn't have forecasted a team that went 6-7 a season ago -- complete with players who were largely not recruited by their new head coach -- putting up an undefeated season amidst sanctions rendering every win moot in the eyes of the almighty Bowl Championship Series. But as the clock drew zeroes and students began to pour on to the field, it was Urban Meyer who, in his first season since retiring in December of 2010, was wearing scarlet, grey and gatorade gold.
A team that was not given much of a chance at competing following the fallout of the Jim Tressel-based sanctions will get a chance to be the Associated Press' top-ranked team and will undoubtedly be a top-five team heading into the 2013 season. Considering what Meyer was able to do with his inherited team, the suspense entrenched in what he will be able to do during his second year with the program will be at an all-time high.
Ohio State's season may in fact be over, but this only gives Meyer a head start on the recruiting trail. The march back to a national title begins immediately.
Third Quarter: Go Pargo Go
When franchise-starter Kyrie Irving went down with a broken finger, fans feared the worst with the team sitting, at the time, with a two-win record. Since Uncle Drew was shelved, it has been reserve guard Jeremy Pargo stepping up in ways unforeseen. Certainly, rookie shooting guard Dion Waiters was going to fill in on the scoring front, but it is Pargo who, as a starter, has averaged 19.7 points on 47.8 percent shooting to go with four assists over two three-point field goals made.
Pargo wasn't heralded coming out of Gonzaga. He struggled mightily during the team's preseason play. He doesn't break down defenders the way Irving does, but has the ability to get in to the paint as well as the ability to hit jump shots from various spots on the floor, making him a threat in pick-and-roll situations. He's a hard-nosed defender that obtained his starting role for his constant effort and determination -- something Byron Scott was otherwise lacking from his 15-man unit. He'll give way to Irving when the All-Star hopeful returns, but if these last few games have provided anything, it's that the guard position on the Cavaliers' roster may in fact be a bit deeper than previously considered.
Fourth Quarter: Walking into a Winter Meeting Wonderland
At this time next week, the Cleveland Indians' front office will converge upon Nashville, Tennessee to talk shop with the rest of Major League Baseball big wigs. Chris Antonetti and his team claim to be "further along" in assessing the free agent market, having burned through cell phone minutes and fired off countless text-based correspondence.
Having lost 94 games a season ago, when it comes to the Tribe, it would be easier to count the areas which do not need improvement -- the bullpen potentially being the only one. Needing to assess where, exactly, this team is in terms of future competition, Antonetti is reportedly fielding inquiries of all shapes and sizes when it comes to All-Star short stop Asdrubal Cabrera and impending free agent, and Gold Glove nominee, Shin-Soo Choo.
Unlike seasons past, the Indians -- thanks to the departures of Travis Hafner, Roberto Hernandez, and Grady Sizemore -- actually have some money to spend in the free agent market, with estimates of their free cash flow hovering around $13 million. Of course, a repeat of last offseason's free agency misfire is always a possibility. Hopes are, however, that the team -- having seen their plummeting attendance figures and television ratings -- learned their lesson. Where better for a team hailing from the Rock and Roll capital of the world to prove their worth than Music City, USA?
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.