I'm in Cleveland -- where gametime weather is supposed to be sunny and in the 40s -- while awaiting the Panthers-Browns game. Here are 5 few notes about it and my prediction (which I forgot to post as usual on Friday -- oops!):
1. Here's my column on Browns QB Jake Delhomme -- still feels weird writing that -- in advance of today's game. Delhomme says he will always consider himself a Panther, but you can bet he will try like crazy to beat Carolina today.
2. The last time the Panthers played in Cleveland was in 2002, when they won 13-6 to break an eight-game losing streak in John Fox’s first year. I barely remember that game, but I do remember racing to Akron from Cleveland in a rent-a-car right after it was over so I could cover LeBron James for the first time.
LeBron was playing in high school then and already a phenom. He was so popular many of his games were on pay-per-view in Ohio for $7.95 a pop. All of Ohio loved him and hoped he would one day play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Man, a lot has happened in the intervening eight years.
In that game, incidentally, LeBron had 21 points, 14 rebounds and did a number of on-court pushups for violating his coach’s “no-cursing” rule.
3. Weird stat: the Browns have beaten every team in the NFL except Carolina. The Panthers are 3-0 in this very occasional series.
4. It will be fun to watch Mohamed Massaquoi (formerly of Independence High) play today for Cleveland. Massaquoi and Hakeem Nicks (also of Independence and now of the New York Giants) are the best two high-school receivers I’ve ever covered. Best running back? Nick Maddox of Kannapolis A.L. Brown (who was on Panthers' practice squad awhile but never made it into an NFL game like the other 2).
5. I’m 7-3 picking the outcome of Panthers’ games this season, mostly by picking them to lose. Today’s pick is in the same vein: Cleveland 17, Carolina 9.