Cleveland Browns Have Everything to Play For
There have been a ton of story lines this season from waiving Antonio Callaway to the indefinite suspension of Myles Garrett. All of this took place after the Cleveland Browns got off to a bad start and just weren’t ready to win games in the beginning of the year.
Coming out of the first half of the season with a 2-6 record wasn’t ideal for the Browns, especially losing games that appeared likely wins. Then again, the Browns weren’t expected to travel to Baltimore and defeat a very good Ravens team. Cleveland suffered losses to the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos they had no business losing.
Through the first eight games, the offense was struggling, unable to get its footing. Baker Mayfield threw far more interceptions than touchdown passes and the wide receivers didn’t offer him much help. Things have changed since, by a pretty good measure. In his last five games Mayfield has thrown nine touchdown passes to just two interceptions.
Analysts and many fans knew the second half of the season would offer many more winnable games and, so far, it has. Cleveland has pulled off three straight wins, including two over current would-be playoff teams in the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills. The Steelers seem to be heading down the drain, onto their third string quarterback Devlin Hodges, who will take on the Cleveland Browns this Sunday at home.
Cleveland is sitting at 5-6 overall and 2-0 in the division, with four divisional games left to play. The Browns will travel to Pittsburgh and look to defeat a tough defense on their home field. The Steelers offense has been bad as of late, but they might get a boost if James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster return healthy. Playing with a mindset they are 0-0, trying to be 1-0 each week has put the Browns in position to get back to .500 at 6-6.
After the Steelers game, Cleveland will be back at home for a matchup with the winless Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals look to be going back to Andy Dalton reports say, but little should change with that switch. A.J. Green should return soon, if the Bengals don’t shut him down in a rebuilding season. These next two games are winnable and the Browns are favored in both.
In week 15 the Browns will travel across the country for a date with the Arizona Cardinals. Going west has resulted in an 0-2 record for the Browns, losing in San Francisco and Denver. The Cardinals are a young team with some exciting pieces such as rookie Kyler Murray. Cleveland will likely be tested in this one as the Cardinals have played tough all season except for two games. Arizona has lost its last four games, but Kyler Murray has 14 touchdown passes to just five interceptions, a very strong rookie season that is leading them. Cleveland won’t be able to overlook this three win team as they’re challenging opponents on the road.
Week 16 will likely be the biggest game of the season for the Browns. The Baltimore Ravens have absolutely rolled since their early season loss to Cleveland, including a win over the New England Patriots. The Ravens are the biggest obstacle in the way of what could be a 10-win season.
Stopping Lamar Jackson and the Ravens will be a tough task, but the Browns have done it once with a banged up defense at the time. This go around Cleveland will have their secondary back, minus Morgan Burnett who is out the rest of the year.
The final week will be another matchup with the Bengals, who could lock up the number one pick by the time week 17 rolls around. But, they may also need to lose that last game depending how things play out. If Cincinnati already has the top pick secured, they could have extra motivation in trying to avoid 0-16. Either way, Cleveland shouldn’t have a problem in this one.
Going through the schedule, winning out will likely get the Browns a wildcard spot at 10-6. Even at 9-7, Cleveland would still stand a chance for the second wildcard spot, but would require help. It all starts with beating the Steelers who currently hold one wildcard spot and then hoping for the Raiders, Titans and Colts to lose some games. Some of that is going to happen as Colts and Titans still have to play each other twice this season in addition to the fact the Raiders play the Titans.
The Browns put themselves in a position with little if any room for error, but playoff hopes are still in front of them if they can win out. The offense is as healthy as it’s been with the impending return of David Njoku, which could be provide a boost, particularly in the red zone. The defense is pretty banged up or suspended and will have to do all of this without Myles Garrett. However, Larry Ogunjobi returns this week and Oliver Vernon should be back before the first Bengals game. Despite their 2-6 start, everything is still in front of the Browns. They likely can't win the division as the Ravens would have to lose at least three games including against Cleveland, however, the Browns can still go undefeated in the AFC North and clinch a playoff spot.