Something different this week, occasioned by the Browns' startling win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, which has surely energized the Cleveland fan base enough to make us wish that there was a game next week, and also to make us look forward eagerly to the next game, in two weeks against the Jets.
So which five games on the slate in Week 8 seem most attractive?
Obviously it would be a stretch to see any game "meaning something" to the Browns at this stage. It would take one heck of a winning streak to become contenders, after all, and so it really might not "help" if the Steelers or the Titans win or lose. But hey, what if a winning streak were to happen? Then we might say -- some time in December -- "Damn, if only the Steelers had lost that game during our bye week, we would have a chance to make the playoffs".
So let's take a look at what I consider to be the five most attractive games on this week's schedule involving AFC teams
#5 -- Tennessee (5-2) at San Diego (2-5)
The Titans have hit their stride, it would seem, while the Chargers are shooting themselves in the foot week after week, literally losing a chance to take their game to overtime yesterday after a furious comeback against the Patriots when a game-tying field goal attempt hit the right upright and bounced away.
Tennessee is three games up on the Browns and -- realistically -- we aren't catching the Titans. Yet, even so, if they were to lose to San Diego and then we were to pick up win number three against the Jets and then win number four against the Patriots...
Hey, it doesn't hurt to dream.
#4 -- Seattle (4-2) at Oakland (3-4)
Did Ken Stabler and Cliff Branch sneak back into silver-and-black uniforms yesterday against the Broncos? Did Howie Long? Something sure happened in Denver that put one in mind of the old Raiders.
Oakland is a game up on the Browns and obviously is one team that the Browns could "catch" with a win and a Raiders' loss or two. If there is any one of the eleven teams with more wins than the Browns have -- and thus one of the seven Cleveland would have to pass to "make the playoffs" -- that it would be feasible to catch up to in short order, it might be the Raiders.
Have to start somewhere, right?
#3 -- Minnesota (2-4) at New England (5-1)
This game is another wherein an AFC team is probably too far ahead of the Browns -- as well as being too good to fall apart -- for it to make much difference whether they win or lose, but the matchup itself is attractive, as was the case with Titans at Chargers.
The Vikings have to be feeling both desperate and furious after their game last night with the Packers. Minnesota, however, has the good fortune to be playing in a division where they are only two wins from first place, and the Bears and Packers don't look good enough to blow away the competition. Ergo, the Vikes have to feel that a win or two would put them right back in the thick of things -- a win like they felt they deserved last night, and a win that they feel they were deprived of by bad calls.
The Patriots, meanwhile, survived a brain cramp at the end of the game from Bill Belichick, who elected to go for it on fourth down near midfield with limited time left, failed, and then watched San Diego, with a short field and needing a field goal to tie, miss sending their game to overtime by -- literally -- inches.
This one should be a really good game if Brett Favre can go, although that is quite a question mark right now.
But if he can, this could be a real barn-burner in Massachusetts.
#2 -- Pittsburgh (5-1) at New Orleans (4-3)
If any team will be fired up this week, it will be the Saints. They laid an egg yesterday against the Browns and are looking very tentative in their Super Bowl defense. They are in trouble in their own division, with the Buccaneers and the Falcons both doing very well, so if New Orleans is going to defend their title, they need to get on a roll.
And the Steelers, ah the Steelers, The Controversy Kids. First there was the Ben Roethlisberger drama, and then the James Harrison head-hunting escapade against the Browns, and finally the "did he score, did he fumble, whose ball is it, who recovered, you are giving the Steelers the ball where?" game yesterday. (By the way, I was secretly pleased at all of the stress and hand-wringing of the Dolphins' fans yesterday. Call me shallow for finding pleasure in a Miami loss -- especially a gut-wrenching loss -- in any game in any sport right now. I may well be. But it is an odd feeling indeed to be secretly happy for a Pittsburgh win. So thanks, LeBron.)
This one should be a really, really entertaining game. I think it is safe to say that New Orleans will show up ready this time, and Pittsburgh would feel a little bad, no doubt, if they followed the Browns into the same venue Cleveland won handily in and came away with a loss.
It sure wouldn't hurt to stabilize three games behind the Steelers instead of four games behind going into Week 9.
#1 -- Miami (3-3) at Cincinnati (2-4)
And here, for the second week in a row, the team from that place in Florida plays one of the Browns' rivals.
Miami has achieved something really bizarre so far this year. They are 3-0 on the road and 0-3 at home. Sounds as if they have taken their talents anywhere but South Beach. Ah, but they really should have won at home yesterday, and even my new-found dislike for Miami can't make me deny that "they wuz robbed" against Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, the Bengals put a scare into Atlanta in Georgia, coming from way behind to lead briefly before falling to the Falcons. A loss this week against the Dolphins and the Browns, by virtue of their win earlier this season against Cincinnati, would technically put Cincy in the cellar. T.O and Ochocinco and all.
Wouldn't that be sweet?
And there we have it: Five games to entice on Halloween, while Browns fans get to bask for two weeks in the sentence, "We just beat the Super Bowl champs in their building".