The bye week was kind to the Cleveland Browns, a team on the brink of falling from relevance in the 2021 NFL season.
The rival Pittsburgh Steelers helped greatly with their win over the Baltimore Ravens. Entering the games of the coming weekend, the Browns are 6-6, two games behind the Ravens and one game behind the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers inched ahead of the Browns with a 6-5-1 record.
With three of their final five games against AFC North Division opponents, the Browns could control their destiny. It starts Sunday at +First Energy Stadium with a rematch of their 16-10 loss to the Ravens on Nov. 28.
To say the game is vital is an understatement. This is the exact definition of a “must” win. As rocky as this season has been, a win Sunday will put the Browns in a decent chance of qualifying for the playoffs.
The Browns haven’t fared well in these types of games for a long time, with the exception of last season. This season has been especially frustrating because of the lofty expectations after what occurred last season and an offseason when attractive pieces were added to the defense. Now is the time for it all to come together. Now is the time for the Browns to silence the growing and non-stop complaints of disgruntled
Quarterback Baker Mayfield obviously needs a big game, but it’s not that simple. Pass protection has been an issue, and it won’t improve with the loss of right tackle Jack Conklin for the remainder of the season.
Coach Kevin Stefanski needs to adjust the offense to compensate for the issues up front and a receiving corps that lacks big-play talent. Getting the ball to the backs and tight ends on a regular basis is key.
Another good idea might be to follow Bill Belichick’s plan in New England’s Monday night win in Buffalo by sticking to the ground game(Patriots quarterback Mac Jones attempted just three passes). For that plan to have success, the defense, which played so well against the Ravens, needs to duplicate that effort.
It’s all sitting there in front of the 2021 Cleveland Browns. Either the players start making tee times for January next week or they can begin thinking about playing
football deep into the month. Fans are too often calculating where the Browns will slot in the draft at this time of the season. Some hope the team loses to improve its draft position.
It’s time for that silliness to stop. Go win a game.