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Great Expectations

Browns & Cavs In Playoffs? Oh Please Oh Please

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CLEVELAND BROWNS

NFL ¥ www.clevelandbrowns.com ¥ Cleveland Browns Stadium, 1085 W. 3rd St.

Aug. 28: vs. Chicago Bears, 7:30 p.m. Last preseason game

Sept. 7: vs. Dallas Cowboys, 4:15 p.m. Jessica Simpson notwithstanding, Dallas has assembled perhaps the most talented squad in the NFC, and the Browns get them the first game of the season. It wouldn't be surprising or devastating if they lost, but this game is a chance to set a tone for the season and prove they belong with the big boys.

Sept. 14: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:15 p.m. The Browns have lost nine straight games to the Steelers and 24 of the last 31. Ric Flair's tired saying, "If you want to be the man, you have to beat the man," applies perfectly. Not only would a victory be a welcome end to the massacre, but the division and a playoff spot may hang in the balance if both teams finish the season around the 9-7 or 8-8 mark.

Oct. 13: vs. New York Giants, 8:30 p.m. The Brownies are featured on Monday Night Football for the first time since 2003. The embarrassing performance at the Meadowlands during the pre-season should still be fresh in the minds of the Browns' first-teamers. Tonight will determine whether that loss was a fluke or a dismal sign of things to come.

Nov. 2: vs. Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.

Nov. 6: vs. Denver Broncos, 8:15 p.m. The rivalry isn't what it used to be now that John Elway and Bernie Kosar are no longer involved. But we can still hate the Broncos, right? With the Thursday game, the Browns will be working on only three days off, then won't play again for nine days before Buffalo on Monday night. Will the prime-time schedule and erratic rest get the best of them?

Nov. 23: vs. Houston Texans, 1 p.m.

Nov. 30: vs. Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m.

Dec. 21: vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m. Simply put: The Browns didn't make the playoffs in 2007 because they (more specifically, Derek Anderson) tanked in the penultimate game of the season against the Bengals. Once again, the Bengals are the second-to-last game of the season. With wins in the division always at a premium and the Steelers looming large in the final week, the Browns could put themselves in position by taking care of business and making amends. - Vince Grzegorek

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

NBA ¥ www.nba.com/cavaliers ¥ Quicken Loans Arena, West Huron and Ontario

The quickest way to table - or at least temper - the whole "LeBron's going to leave in 2010" discussion is for the Cavs to win a title. For as much as Cavs fans like to groan about Mike Brown and the gang, the Wine and Gold are a lot closer to that goal than many give them credit for.

2008-2009 might be their best shot yet. Ben Wallace, Wally World and Delonte West - the three remaining pieces from last year's blockbuster mid-season trade - will have a full training camp with the team. LeBron is coming off an MVP-caliber year and a summer spent thumping international competition in Beijing. And Danny Ferry traded for Mo Williams, the team's first legitimate point guard since Terrell Brandon, and hopefully the Robin to LeBron's Batman.

Here are some (completely made up) odds for tasty story lines sure to develop this season:

Over/Under 5,690: The number of times someone speculates that LeBron will leave in 2010.

Over/Under 3: Current players on the roster that will be traded.

Over/Under 5: Number of times the words "Mike Brown" and "offense" are mentioned in the same sentence with a positive connotation.

Over/Under 16ppg: Scoring average for Mo Williams.

Over/Under 30ppg: Scoring average for LeBron.

Over/Under 1: Number of times the phrase "We sure miss Damon Jones" will be uttered.

Over/Under 6: Games needed to beat the Western Conference representative in the NBA Finals.

LAKE ERIE MONSTERS

American Hockey League ¥ www.lakeeriemonsters.com ¥ Quicken Loans Arena, West Huron and Ontario

The Monsters kick off their second season on Saturday, October 11, by hosting the Grand Rapids Griffins. Last season, the Monsters also opened up against the Griffins with former Hart Trophy and Vezina Trophy winner Jose Theodore, in net for Lake Erie. It was the first of 10 meetings between the teams last season and the start of a fierce rivalry that raged throughout the entire campaign. Look for bad blood to continue this season between the Monsters and the Griffins, and it all begins on opening night.

On Friday, October 17, the Monsters host the Norfolk Admirals for the first time in franchise history. That night also welcomes back two special Friday-night promotions: Dollar Dog Fridays (hot dogs and sodas are $1) and the Tri-C Post Game Family Open Skate. Both promotions run all season long for every Friday home game.

On Wednesday, November 19, the defending American Hockey League champions, the Chicago Wolves, invade Quicken Loans Arena. The Wolves' fast-paced, high-octane style makes them perennially one of the most entertaining teams in the league. In addition, that night - and every Wednesday-night home game - is College Night: College students get $3 off the purchase of a ticket with a college ID. - John Michael

John Michael is the voice of the Monsters, on radio (ESPN 850 WKNR) and TV (FSN Ohio). He also hosts "Between the Pipes With John Michael" and writes "From the Perch," both of which can be accessed at www.lakeeriemonsters.com.

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