Photo by: Dave Spano
The problem is that they’re in great shape.
It sounds confusing because the Browns have been a confusing team in posting a 6-5 record with six games remaining to determine if they advance to the postseason for a second straight season, something that hasn’t happened since a five-year run from 1985-89.
Glass-is-half-full fans are confident that coach Kevin Stefanski can put the ship on a steady course, but those that know history all too well know that the odds aren’t promising.
After a lackluster effort in a 13-10 victory over the winless Detroit Lions, the Browns control their destiny. Four of the final six games are against AFC North Division rivals — two against the Ravens and one each against the Bengals and Steelers. Take care of business, and the Browns will be playing deep into January.
Taking care of business likely means wins over the Ravens in the next two games (a bye separates the games). Wins over the Bengals and Steelers could be necessary also. The other two remaining games are at Green Bay and home to the Raiders. If you’re counting on a road win against the Packers in December, good luck with that one.
The playoff road is more like a bumpy path with twists and turns everywhere. Given the way the offense and defense aren’t able to post solid performances at the same time makes the challenge more daunting.
Stefanski might need to check his job title and realize that as the head coach he’s allowed to sit down an injured player, despite the fact the injured player wants to give it a go each week. That’s been the case with quarterback Baker Mayfield, whose performances have been less than optimal because of injuries to a hip, ankle and shoulder.
Maybe it’s time for Stefanski to sit Mayfield and go with Case Keenum Sunday in Baltimore, which will give Mayfield three weeks of rest when factoring in the bye next week. It’s never been easy for the Browns in Baltimore, and having a healthy Mayfield would give them their best chance of a win, but common sense should tell Stefanski to start Keenum.
The Browns aren’t where they had hoped to be 11 games into the season. Most preseason picks listed them as a probable playoff team with an outside chance of advancing to the Super Bowl. Quite honestly, that can now be considered wishful thinking.
There’s a need for the defense, which has been wildly inconsistent, to step up and carry the load for the wounded offense that lacks playmakers at receivers. Stefanski also has to rely on the tight ends and hope that running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who may return this week from an injury, can carry a bigger portion of the load.
It can be argued that the Chubb-Hunt tandem is the best in the NFL. Let’s see if that’s true.