If the Panthers score 20 or more, good things happen. They are 4-1-1 when they do that this year. When they score 19 or less, they are 1-7.
The only time the Panthers won with a score under 20 was last week, when Carolina ground out an ugly win, 19-17, over Tampa Bay.
Against Cleveland, 20 should be more than enough. I just can't see the Browns getting out of the teens against Carolina's resurgent defense and rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Manziel will undoubtedly play better than he did last week against Cincinnati -- a horrific 30-0 loss in his first start -- but I remain unconvinced he will ever be more than a mediocre NFL quarterback. He does have Josh Gordon on his side, however.
-- It will be pretty hard not to scoreboard-watch on Sunday, with the Atlanta-New Orleans game going on exactly at the same time as this one. The Panthers badly need Atlanta to win, because then Carolina can control its own destiny in the final week of the season if it can also beat Cleveland.
-- Memo to Chicago Bears: If Jimmy Clausen is the answer, you are asking the wrong question.
-- How long ago was it that Cleveland and Carolina played? So long that Jake Delhomme was the quarterback for Cleveland and Clausen for Carolina. That was in 2010. John Kasay uncharacteristically missed a 42-yard field goal as time expired, leaving Delhomme to beat his former team, 24-23.
-- Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen will both likely go over 1,000 yards for the season Sunday against the Browns. Olsen has 960 yards and Benjamin 952. Look in particular for quarterback Cam Newton to target Benjamin. The Browns have had trouble against big receivers -- Benjamin's rookie classmate, Mike Evans, hit them up for 124 yards and two touchdowns when Tampa Bay played the Browns.
-- Prediction time. I am 8-5-1 picking the Panthers this season after (barely) picking them correctly to beat Tampa Bay last week. I think this game was decided in Carolina's favor the day the Browns decided to start Manziel. My pick: Carolina 23, Cleveland 13.
|Josh Gordon (12) might give
Johnny Manziel (2) his best shot of being significantly|
better in his second start for the Browns. ( Jason Miller, Getty Images)