BEREA — You know it’s a weird week for the Browns when …
… they’re in the playoff hunt, yet their season finale means practically nothing.
… their playoff fate will be decided by a game in a different state, and it starts four hours after the Browns game will have ended.
… they spend more time talking about Colts backup quarterback Jim Sorgi than Browns starter Derek Anderson.
The Browns (9-6) continued preparations Thursday for a meeting with San Francisco, but their attention was divided among the 49ers, their possible playoff matchup with Pittsburgh or San Diego and the Colts-Titans game.
“We’re breaking down potential opponents,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “The coaches can look at some opponents and start doing some work there, but the team needs to win on Sunday and that will be the biggest springboard into the playoffs.”
The Browns will only make the playoffs if Indianapolis (13-2) beats visiting Tennessee (9-6) on Sunday night. The Colts have the No. 2 seed in the AFC locked up, so they have little incentive and will rest Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning and some other starters for at least a half. The Titans have gone from four-point favorites to 6½-point favorites since Sunday night.
“I’m really concerned we won’t put on a good show for NBC because we have so many people injured and, obviously, Tennessee will play at a very high level,” Colts president Bill Polian said in an interview with colts.com.
Receiver Marvin Harrison, who has been out with a knee injury most of the season, is a question mark for Sunday and was one of 11 Colts not to practice Wednesday. Avon Lake’s Anthony Gonzalez (foot), a receiver, also didn’t practice, along with tackle Ryan Diem (knee) and defensive end Robert Mathis (knee).
This appears to be more bad news for Browns fans still stinging from the loss to Cincinnati on Sunday that cost the Browns a playoff spot, but the Titans aren’t a sure thing. They’ve lost eight of their last nine to the Colts and have been outscored 133-47 in the last four trips to the RCA Dome.
The defending Super Bowl champion Colts have averaged almost 16 points by halftime, while the Titans have scored less than 16 in six of their games and have the 22nd-ranked scoring offense. The Browns hope Manning can put up a couple of touchdowns in his cameo, before he is replaced by Sorgi, who’s never made an NFL start in four years and has thrown 12 passes this season.
“I was thinking about sending him a box of cookies,” Anderson said of Sorgi.
“We hope he has a record game, right?” Browns guard Eric Steinbach said.
“Everyone here in Cleveland is probably buying Jim Sorgi jerseys,” defensive end Simon Fraser said.
Fraser played for Ohio State in 2003 when Buckeye linebacker Robert Reynolds choked Sorgi on the ground after a play at Wisconsin. Sorgi had to leave the game and the Badgers won.
Before this week, that’s what Sorgi was best known for in Ohio. In his Colts career, he’s 66-for-102 for 683 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. He started the year with a 99.3 rating compared to Manning’s 94.4.
“There are a lot of Cleveland fans in Michigan from where I’m from,” Sorgi told Indianapolis reporters. “I’ve gotten a lot of voice mails from Cleveland saying, ‘You need to play well, you need to beat these guys.’ All I can say is I’ll do my best and see what happens.”
Browns kicker Phil Dawson thinks too much is being made of Colts coach Tony Dungy resting his starters.
“If you look at the sideline on Sunday, there are not that many backups standing there,” Dawson said of the 45-man game-day roster. “It sounds a lot bigger than it really is in reality.
“If it were Week 8 and Peyton Manning were to go down and Sorgi has to come in the game, he’d be expected to lead his team to victory. Why is it any different now?”
The Browns could also get into the playoffs with a win or tie and a Colts-Titans tie. But don’t count on it.
“Tony’s not playing for a tie,” Crennel said of Dungy. “He’s playing to get the game over with.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.