Before I fully get into the impact that Big Ben’s injury has on the Browns and rest of the AFC North, there are two things that I would like to explain. As we know, there are four teams in the AFC North: the Cleveland Browns, the Baltimore Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals. Which one of these teams does not belong? If you guessed the Baltimore Ravens, then you’re correct. The reason the Ravens do not belong is that Baltimore is not in the north. So, I think that the Ravens should move to the AFC East, the Miami Dolphins should move to the AFC South and the Indianapolis Colts should move to the AFC North. Now, I do understand that by making these changes, you would be ruining rivalries such as Ravens vs. Steelers and Dolphins vs. Patriots. But at the same time, you would be creating new rivalries like Steelers vs Colts and Ravens vs Patriots. It usually turns into a really good matchup when Baltimore plays New England, so I would like to see them play twice a year in the same division.
Speaking of rivalries, if you were to ask a Browns fan, who are the Browns’ biggest rivals? They would most likely say the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals in that order. However, I would argue that as of right now, the Browns do not have a rivalry with any of those teams. The reason is that Cincinnati, Baltimore and Pittsburgh have all been good and Baltimore and Pittsburgh have both been to Super Bowls and they have both won Super Bowls.
Meanwhile, the Browns haven’t made the playoffs since 2002 and they’re coming off their first successful season in a long time. If the Browns can sustain their newfound success and the other teams continue to be good teams and the games are competitive when the Browns play the Bengals, Ravens, and Steelers, then I’ll say the Browns have a rivalry with the Bengals, Steelers and Ravens. But right now, I would say no.
So now that little bit is out of the way, let’s get into the main portion of the article. Which, as the title indicates, Ben Roethlisberger has to undergo elbow surgery after injuring it in the Steelers Week 2 loss at home against the Seahawks, 28-26. (By the way, Seahawks visit FirstEnergy Stadium in Week 6 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX). So how exactly does Big Ben’s absence affect the Browns and the rest of the AFC North? Let’s delve into it, shall we?
Before getting into how it affects the Browns specifically, let’s take a look at how his injury affect the AFC North, in general. With Roethlisberger out of action, the division is now wide open. But ultimately, I do think the Ravens win the division. But don’t worry, Dawg Pound. The Browns will go 9-7 and end up making the wild card and perhaps they will be at home for the game. Without Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, it felt like this was a prove-it year for Ben to show that he could still carry the Steelers and prove that he did not need Brown or Bell. But in their first game of the season, the Steelers got absolutely shellacked by the Patriots at Gillette Stadium (the Browns will visit there in Week 8 after their bye week) by a score of 33-3. Then, in the Steelers home opener in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks (my favorite NFC team, the Browns play them in Week 6), Ben was playing well until he got injured and Mason Rudolph had to come in. Seattle would go to win, 28-26.
So how does Big Ben’s injury affect the Browns? Well, the first way that it affects the Browns is IF the Browns beat the Steelers on Thursday night football in Cleveland or in Week 13 in Pittsburgh; I don’t think the Browns will get the full credit since they aren’t playing Ben. The one exception to that is when the Browns did beat the Steelers in Cleveland – Week 6 of 2014 by a score of 31-10. Other than that game, if the Browns do beat the Steelers, they usually don’t get the credit because they didn’t beat Big Ben.
I hate that the Browns home game against the Steelers is on Thursday Night Football. The reason is that we will be coming off playing a Buffalo Bills team that could present some serious challenges to Browns. In fact, other than our home games against the Rams on Sunday Night Football and against the Seahawks, the home game I think I’m most excited for is Week 10 against Buffalo. Maybe that game will get flexed into Sunday Night Football, you never know. But then to have a short week to get ready for a divisional opponent as well as a team that has pretty much owned the Browns in the last couple seasons. But just in general, Thursday Night Football is terrible and the NFL should just get rid of it. First of all, it doesn’t give the players’ bodies enough time to recover from the previous week. Second, it doesn’t give teams enough time to create a game plan for their opponent. So, I wish the Browns home game against the Steelers wasn’t on Thursday Night Football.
As for this week’s game against the Los Angeles Rams, I think it should be on National TV but just not this week. The reason is that the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs play each other this week at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, and I wish that was the Sunday Night game or the Monday Night game. Ok, so here’s a compromise, Rams at Browns can be the Sunday Night game and Ravens at Chiefs can be the Monday Night game instead of Bears and Washington, (I choose not to say the name of Washington’s NFL team). But to get ready for this game, I am watching games where LA teams like the Dodgers lose and I’m watching games where a Cleveland team wins. I’m hoping that superstition works and it sends bad vibes to the Rams and good vibes to the Browns so that somehow someway the Browns can win this game.