First Quarter: We're going streaking!
While last Sunday ended with the Pittsburgh Steelers throwing cross-field passes to one another as the clock struck zeroes, this past week provided the Cleveland Browns with a formation not all that familiar: The Victory Formation, with Brandon Weeden being flanked by 10 other teammates as he took a knee, thus sealing the win. It was hard fought as the rookie quarterback facilitated a crucial fourth quarter drive that would ultimately put his team up by two scores, allowing the defense to play the prevent to the utmost perfection.
The final score was not indicative of what the Browns did to an opponent which was by no means among the upper echelon of the NFL. One can argue that the three-point margin upon the game's completion should have been larger, but they could then build a nest with all of the straw obtained from doing such. While Cleveland fans should curb enthusiasm based solely on a two-game winning streak, the last two weeks have undoubtedly shown progress in terms of closing out games regardless of the complete absence of style points.
An emotionally driven Kansas City Chiefs team -- littered with players who used to call Cleveland home -- head to town this Sunday. After going 4-12 through all of 2011, can the Orange and Brown bring home a fifth win?
Second Quarter: Speaking of battling youngsters...
Interestingly enough, the Cleveland Cavaliers appear to be in the same phase as their football brethren when it comes to youth and the ability/inability to close out contests. Several times this season, the Wine and Gold have let leads of all sizes dissipate in the waning moments of a game, falling just short as the buzzer blares.
While their recent win over the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks was a great sign of what can happen when the Cavs play hard for a full 48 minutes, the fact that it was sandwiched between crushing losses to the Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trailblazers -- the latter in double overtime -- show that this team still has ways to go if it is to consistently play at a high level against top-tier opponents.
If credit is to be aimed anywhere, it's in the direction of Byron Scott, who has a group of players who are playing without their star point guard yet are hanging tough with teams boasting higher payrolls and considerably larger expectations. There may be an off night where they come out flat, shoot 30 percent from the floor and leave fans wanting to gouge out their own eyeballs, but more often than not, these kids continue to provide something that has been missing for quite some time: Hope.
Third Quarter: A Winter Wonderland
Sporting a huge shopping list and not much in terms of liquid resources, the Cleveland Indians front office -- led by general manager Chris Antonetti -- has planted his Wahoo-crested flag in Nashville, Tennessee with hopes of coming away with a couple of new faces who will help one of baseball's worst teams (if we're using 2012 record as an indicator) improve on the field and in the box office. That latter part will prove to be the challenge as fans continue to sour on the team and have shown little to no interest in players who will add marginally when it comes to Wins Above Replacement.
The Indians have expressed interest in several free agents, but continue to find themselves sitting at the poker table with the short stack. The trade market is always an option but All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera has a six-team no-trade clause and starting pitcher Justin Masterson is not drawing the value the team covets in return.
Regardless of what Antonetti is able to do amongst his peers at the winter meetings, it appears that one thing is for certain -- Grady Sizemore's days in Cleveland have come to an unfortunate end.
Fourth Quarter: Whatsa Matta U
With Urban Meyer and his undefeated Buckeyes having closed their doors on the 2012 season, focus in Columbus turns to a team that can vie for a national championship -- Thad Matta's men's basketball team. Matta's hiring back in 2004 was met with a fraction of the fanfare compared to Meyer, but it is his short rotation and sometimes frustrating half-court sets that have led to Ohio State being one of the most consistently competitive programs in the NCAA.
It is undoubtedly a tougher situation for Matta as his biggest recruits can leave town after one season and head to the NBA. Fortunately for all of the players he's lost to The League -- Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr, to name a couple -- the man from the hotbed of Indiana has managed to get players to stick around a bit longer as well; the Buckeyes' starting five is comprised of a sophomore, three juniors and a senior.
Matta's Buckeyes may not have graced the cover of every major magazine as that honor belongs to Big Ten rival Indiana. He may never be considered one of the best recruiters; the sleazy John Calipari continues to wear that crown. And he may never be considered among the best in the game; Duke's Coach K and Louisville's Rick Pitino seem to always be in the conversation. But while Meyer and his football team are Waiting For Next Year, it will be Thad Matta's basketball team that will slowly take down opponents one by one, head into March Madness under the national radar and then proceed to see their name move through brackets in cubicles across America.
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. In addition to his writing, he's also made radio and television appearances on 92.3 The Fan, ESPN 850 WKNR, 100.7 WMMS, FS Ohio, WKYC, and SportsTime Ohio. 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.