Not many pundits are picking the 2-5 Browns to upset the 6-1 Patriots on Sunday, but count ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter among the few going against the grain. In an interview on Boston sports radio WEEI this morning, Schefter explained why he likes Cleveland in Sunday’s game.
"Cleveland seems to play its best football against good teams, evidenced by the fact that they've beaten the defending Super Bowl champion each of the last three years, including the New Orleans Saints on the road two weeks ago," Schefter said. "I think they're coming back home. I think that they're coming off a bye week. I think the Patriots are coming off a game that took some things out of them, a great win over the Minnesota Vikings, where everybody thought a game like that could go either way.
"I just think that Cleveland is this tough, crafty football team. New England's the best team in football right now. You're not going to get an argument from me on that. I just think on one Sunday, I think it's going to be a tough game for them."
So how are they going to win, Schefter was asked?
“In Cleveland’s last seven wins, dating back to last October, they have averaged in those seven wins, 91.4 passing yards,” Schefter explained. “So how are they going to win? However the hell they’ve won the last seven times. By throwing for 91.4 yards, forcing 2-3 turnovers, by getting a Josh Cribbs special teams play ... that’s how they win.”
On the other hand, Schefter said in his weekly "10 Spot" column that it's time to pay the 6-1 Patriots their due. He wrote that "no NFL team has done a better job of winning despite losing players."
Here's some of his column:
Week after week, the spotlight seems to go everywhere except the New England Patriots.
Last week, the spotlight focused on the questions about Brett Favre, whom the Patriots managed to beat.
This week, it shined back on Randy Moss, whom the Patriots traded for a third-round pick before he could implode again.
But at some point, New England must be cited for what it has done. As impressive as the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers have been this season in overcoming adversity, no NFL team has done a better job of winning despite losing players.
New England Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins stayed away from the team until this week in a contract dispute, and the Patriots still have allowed only 12 sacks.
New England's top defensive end, Ty Warren, suffered a season-ending hip injury in training camp, but the Patriots still have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season.
New England's top cornerback, Leigh Bodden, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury before the season kicked off, and the Patriots still have nine interceptions.
New England's third-down specialist, Kevin Faulk, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game; Moss was traded after the fourth game; and Mankins' potential replacement, Nick Kaczur, was lost to a season-ending back injury. But nothing has slowed New England. Good teams like the Patriots don't stress the importance of a single player. They stress the importance of a unit.
Indianapolis is winning without safeties Bob Sanders and Melvin Bullitt as well as tight end Dallas Clark. Green Bay is winning without running back Ryan Grant, linebacker Nick Barnett, tight end Jermichael Finley and defensive backs Al Harris, Atari Bigby and Morgan Burnett.
But at this point in the season, no team has won as often as the Patriots (6-1). New England doesn't have some of its best players, but it has football's best record.