In what has been a rather pleasant surprise this season, the Cleveland Browns are sitting at seventh place in the AFC North with a 5-3 record. After years of having losing records, the Browns are putting together more convincing games. If the season were over at this point, the Browns would make the newly expanded 14-team playoffs.
One of the big keys to the Browns’ success has been the play of quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has thrown for 1,514 yards to go along with 15 touchdown passes and has only given up seven interceptions. Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb, the two main running backs for this run-heavy team, have averaged 66 and 83 yards per game, respectively. The receiving corps, featuring wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins as well as tight end Austin Hooper, has also held its own thus far. Star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was also contributing before he suffered a season ending knee injury.
On the other side of the ball, the Cleveland defense has been able to restrict their opponents from scoring too many points, holding them to around 30 points. Defensive end Myles Garrett, in particular, has been a powerful force, putting pressure on enemy quarterbacks and disrupting the passing game. He currently has nine sacks, averaging just over one per game, and has played consistently throughout the season.
The Browns started the season with a tough loss against their division rivals, the Baltimore Ravens. While they lost the game 38-6, afterwards, they went on a solid four game win streak against the Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts and the Washington Football Team. They then lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 38-7 in another tough night, but bounced back against the in-state rival Bengals. The team then suffered a defeat against the Oakland Raiders in a low-scoring game with the final score of 16-6. The teams that they’ve beat have been mediocre and to be taken seriously, they’ll have to score wins against better teams, such as the top two in their division.
This year’s AFC is tough, fighting for a spot in the playoffs along with the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. With the newly expanded NFL playoffs, they currently hold the last spot in the conference and will need to string together several wins against better teams in order to make it to the playoffs. Luckily, the team has a pretty reasonable schedule for the remainder of the season, with matchups against the Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants and New York Jets. All of these are winnable games and give Cleveland a path to the playoffs. Their tough games left are against the Steelers, Browns and Tennessee Titans, and if they were to earn some wins here, this team would make an intriguing playoff case.
This season has been an interesting one for the Browns, and they have a reasonable shot to make the playoffs if they can shake the injury concerns. Baker Mayfield will have to lead the offense and their defense will have to hold opponents to a reasonable total to give this offense a shot.
All in all, this season has been one that Cleveland fans have been waiting for and if the team continues to play the way they have, the postseason may be within reach.