Jussel: Up-and-coming Browns’ youth can’t hang with No. 1 Broncos

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu saw this coming in the sixth century B.C.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them,” he penned.

He was surely talking about the sports landscape of today.

The best team in the National Basketball Association is the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the best basketball player in the world is Kevin Durant. The Miami Heat and LeBron James have some catching up to do. Kobe and the Lakers? They are chasing the Denver Nuggets.

The odds-on favorite to win next year’s World Series is the Toronto Blue Jays. Perennial favorites the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are looking up at the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Rays, among others.

Rory McIlroy is the best golfer in the world. Tiger who?

And the best football team in all of creation is the Denver Broncos.

That’s the gospel according to power polls such as CNN, Sports Illustrated, the AP Pro32 and the Fox Sports Network after the Broncos ran their winning streak to nine games with a 34-17 romp over the Ravens in Baltimore last Sunday.

Five more wins and the Broncos, now 11-3, will celebrate a third Super Bowl title.

The beat and the beatings should go on starting today in Denver with a visit from the Cleveland Browns.

Hahahahaha, yukyukyukyuk,teeheeteeheeteehee, guffawguffawguffaw.

The Cleveland Browns? Give us all a break.

The 5-9 Cleveland Browns? A team that has a roster that is almost one-third rookies? A team with a rookie quarterback, rookie running back, rookie wide receiver, rookie offensive tackle ...

Those Cleveland Browns?

How about these Cleveland Browns? The Browns who have won three of the past four and five of the past nine after starting 0-5. The Browns who have beaten playoff-caliber teams in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and who pushed the Cowboys to overtime in Dallas before losing 23-20.

It is a team that led the rapidly rising Washington Redskins last week at halftime before, as young head coach Pat Shurmur said, they stunk it up at an inopportune time.

Bronco fans, do not count your wins before they are hatched.

The Broncos should win today. They are a two-touchdown favorite in most circles.

Still ...

They’d better show up and strap it on.

This one, as we’ve mentioned before, would have been a glorified preseason game had not some strange occurrences taken place last week, the strangest being the defeat of the New England Patriots, which handed Denver the No. 2 seed in the AFC if the Broncos can beat Cleveland and Kansas City in the final two regular-season games.

If Denver had been the No. 3 or No. 4 seed, you would have seen gaggles of second-stringers seeing monstrous minutes for the next two weeks because the results very simply wouldn’t have mattered.

Instead, it will be starters and starters only until the final outcome is no longer in doubt today and, with a win today, next Sunday.

Denver needs to win both of these games to hold that home-field edge over New England, earn a first-round bye and most likely host the Patriots in an AFC semifinal.

So today, it’ll be Von Miller attacking from his variety of spots, Elvis Dumervil doing the same, Champ Bailey sticking like glue to his assigned target and, yes, Peyton Manning at the helm on offense until deemed unnecessary. Newfound hero and former discard Knowshon Moreno might even run the high hurdles again.

Manning and his mates should win this one for several reasons, most of which deal with Cleveland’s youth. The Browns are the youngest team in the league by a wide margin and, while they do tend to make big plays on both sides of the ball and on special teams, they also tend to make mistakes. Lots of them.

Quarterback Brandon Weeden has been intercepted 17 times and thrown only 14 TD passes.

Last week against the Redskins, stud rookie runner Trent Richardson had two TD runs. But he gained only 28 yards on the day.

The Browns’ defense gave up more than 300 passing yards to rookie QB Kirk Cousins, who was making his first start.

The Browns rank 26th offensively and 21st defensively.

By comparison, the Broncos rank fifth offensively and fourth defensively.

Yes, the Browns have been respectable of late. They actually pay players, and those players are learning to compete. But they won’t be able to compete today against the best.

I’ll take my 11-3 record picking with or against the Broncos and say Denver stays No. 1 in the mind of many, 31-17.

And Brock Osweiler will get in more than a few kneel-down plays — only to hand the ball off, of course.

Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.


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