On this Thanksgiving while you’re spending time with your family around the dinner table you may speak of things that you are thankful for. Cleveland Browns’ fans are one of a kind and are probably thinking about the team, even on Thanksgiving. In fact, some may say that’s exactly what they are thankful for in a crazy year like 2020, is how well the Browns have played.
Sure, there has been some bad this season. Players missing games because of COVID-19, limited fans at games and injures. Odell Beckham Jr.‘s season was cut way short, a catastrophe in it’s own. He is already rehabbing and the plan is for him to come back strong as ever next year for the Browns.
The team has a very good running game, has played pretty well coached and has made some timely plays on defense when needed. There are quite a few things to be thankful for in terms of the Cleveland Browns football team.
The Cleveland Browns Are 7-3
No matter of their record against opponents over .500, the Cleveland Browns are 7-3. The team is 6-0 against opponents with a below .500 record, which is one of the best marks in the leagues in itself, tied with the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers. Cleveland does have a very good win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Everything remains in front of the Browns and that includes a shot at the playoffs. They control their own destiny with a couple of favorable games remaining, as well as a couple of tough ones. Playing the likes of the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens still helps your changes if you can take care of business. Many fans are just happy to be in this position, it has not came often as of late in Cleveland. Andrew Berry has done a great job shaping this team to be in this position, even if he doesn’t deserve all of the credit.
Sitting at 7-3 the chance for a double-digit win season is as realistic as it gets, which hasn’t happened in over a decade, when many of the players on this team were in middle school. One sure thing to be thankful for with this Browns team is how it has been led by Kevin Stefanski. They haven’t shown to be out coached very much, outplayed a couple of times sure. This season has gone just about as good as one could have thought thus far.
Defense Has Improved
Before a couple of weeks ago the Browns simply had one of the worst defenses in the league. In fact, the only thing making it look serviceable was the defensive line, Denzel Ward and Ronnie Harrison. Harrison was a steal having to give up just a fifth round pick, a move that Berry deserves endless credit for making and taking a chance on. But, what is important is the improvement of this defense.
Cleveland has not allowed more than 17 points in the month of November, sure the weather in Cleveland the last three weeks has helped. But, the defense has played better. For instance Sione Takitaki and Olivier Vernon against the Philadelphia Eagles simply played out of their mind. Easily the best game for both players while in a orange and brown uniform, that is what’s exciting for this defense. A young guy and a vet stepping up, that is stuff that can spark a team for a stretch run.
Against the run Cleveland is a top-10 team. Allowing 108 yards a game is the eighth best in the league and has been their strong point outside of the Las Vegas Raiders game. The Browns are 21st against the pass and that comes for multiple reasons. The linebackers haven’t been very good in coverage and there has been inconsistent play at safety. One thing the Eagles game showed was that these two things can improve, there is a possibility.
Cleveland has a legit defensive player of the year caliber player in Myles Garrett, a player that has single handily carried this defense at times this season. Missing the Eagles game and this coming week against Jacksonville may hurt his chances for that award, but he will deservingly be in the conversation. Garrett has 9.5 sacks in nine games, that was virtually with no help opposite of him. If Vernon can produce anything close to what he did against the Eagles, Garrett’s numbers only improve.
It gets interesting for Garrett when you add in his four forced fumbles, two recoveries and seven tackles for a loss - he has played out of his mind this season. Cleveland hasn’t seen a player of his caliber in a long time, he is something to be thankful for. When 95 is out there, the offense has a chance to get the ball back at anytime.
Baker Mayfield Has Improved
No matter what the “quarterback gurus” are saying on Twitter, Baker Mayfield is a better quarterback in 2020 than he was in 2019. Number six is operating with a 15-7 TD to INT ratio and hasn’t thrown a pick since October. Sure, he hasn’t thrown for a touchdown either, the ground game has paved the way. Weather has halted any game plan to throw the ball very much the last three weeks in Cleveland, but when he has he’s done a good job. Mayfield is doing things in 2020 that he just was not doing in 2019. The running game was always going to lead things this season for the Browns, but Mayfield is doing his party pretty well.
The third year quarterback is climbing the pocket more often and delivering, doesn’t look to escape as often with a clean pocket. Check downs are a huge point in keeping the ball moving and staying in the positive, Mayfield hasn’t always went for the big play and this has helped him. In 2019 six had a 22-21 TD to INT ratio, just to again show how much improvement he has made. The game has been natural and he’s obviously had more fun with it. When Mayfield is enjoying himself out there he plays better and that has shown since his Oklahoma days.
Cleveland has an to choose to pick up their quarterbacks fifth year option pretty soon, to me it is a no-brainer. Quarterbacks have been scarce in Cleveland and they don’t want the chance of not hitting on one for another 20 years, it is Cleveland after all. Mayfield has shown improvement and that’s all you can ask for, it is actually a tough year to show improvement in with the lack of preparation. But, he has done just that. Cleveland’s Mayfield has been a positive mark to this team in 2020 that fans should be thankful for, the organization surely is.
Football Is Being Played During These Times
At one point there was no certainty on if the 2020 NFL season would even be played. Now, we’re 11 weeks in and there has been minimal cancellations and league has been able to work with just about anything being thrown at them. This is a testament to the players and members of each team doing what they’re supposed to, for the most part. Also, to doctors and members of training staffs doing their part in this fight against the coronavirus.
Cases are starting to go up a bit, which was to be expected in the later months of the year. The Cleveland Browns are seeing the most cases they have yet, their first mini outbreak to be exact. But, football is still being played. Health is first and foremost always the most important thing and the fact that the sport is still going on is a positive in that direction.
Simply watching football can be an escape for many people in the tough times of 2020 and if it helps just a few people out, that is a plus. The 2020 NFL season has given somewhat of a sense of normalcy to things, which has been nice. Here is to 2021 being a lot more normal, with fans and tailgates.