An Early Look at AFC Playoffs and What the Browns Need to Do to Put Them in a Position to Make a Run at Them

The fact that the Cleveland Browns have lost the turnover battle in six of their seven games and have a winning record is somewhat remarkable. The Browns are tied for last in the NFL in the crucial category at minus-7.

The defense took the ball away two times in the loss to the Seahawks and six times in the last two games. However, the offense gave the ball away three times to the Seahawks, which was the difference in the game.

On the season, the offense is leading the lead the league in giveaways with 17, something not lost on Kevin Stefanski.

“Yeah, all those turnovers are costly, and that’s frustrating,” Stefanski said. “We lead the league in giveaways right now with 17, and it’s hard. It’s hard to win in the NFL, period. It’s hard to win on the road. It’s hard to win when you turn the ball over.

So, we have to really, really commit ourselves as an offense not to give that thing away. Obviously, it’s a team stat in terms of takeaways. That can happen on defense and special teams. But first things first, we have to take care of that football.”

Even with all of the giveaways, the Browns are 4-3. Realistically speaking, they had officials calls go their way in the final drive in wins over the 49ers and the Colts or they could be sitting at 2-5.

The 4-3 record is what it is and with the parity in the NFL and the AFC, the Browns would garner a playoff spot, if the playoffs were today in the third-Wild Card spot and the No. 7 seed.

However, there are 10 regular season games to go and despite the uncertainty at quarterback, the Browns still have a 48.3 percent chance to make the playoffs according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

The Ravens have a 92.7 percent chance to win the AFC North with a record of 6-2. The Browns still have a 9.6 percent of winning the division, but would likely need to beat the Ravens and Steelers in upcoming games.

Since the NFL expanded the playoffs to seven teams from each conference in 2020, only one team has not made the playoffs with at least 10 wins (Dolphins 10-6 in 2020).

In addition, nine teams have made the playoffs with nine or fewer wins since the 2020-21 season. There have been two teams to make the playoffs with eight wins (one division winner, one wild card) and one made it with seven wins (division winner).

Winning at least six more games of the 10 remaining regular season games on the schedule is doable, which would get the Browns to the goal of having at least, 10 wins.

In the next five games, the Browns have an opportunity to put themselves in a position to attain the goal during the stretch drive.

The combined record of the Browns’ next five opponents is 17-22 for a winning percentage of just .435. The strongest opponent is the Ravens (6-2) on the road. For any AFC North chances, the Browns need to win that game and likely the Steelers at home the following week.

Besides the Ravens game, the other four games are against the Cardinals (1-7), Steelers (4-3), Broncos (3-5) and Rams (3-5). Those four teams combined records are 11-20 for a combined win percentage of .354. The Broncos and Rams are on the road and it is always tough to win on the road, but those are very winnable games.

The Browns are planning on playing the Broncos and then spending the week in Los Angeles leading up to the Rams game, but both of those games will be challenging, due to the logistics.

The Browns have the defense and special teams to win games that they should win. Browns fans know that this isn’t always the case, but winning four of the next five games would get the Browns to 8-4 with the final five games of the regular season in play for the stretch run. Even 3-2 would put them at 7-5 for the stretch.

As of now, those final five opponents are the Jaguars (6-2), Bears (2-6), Texans (3-4), Jets (4-3) and the Bengals (4-3). The Browns host the Jaguars, Bears, and Jets. Winning three of those final five games would get the Browns to 10 or even 11 wins.

Obviously, it will help the Browns’ chances if the offense quits turning the ball over as the case could be made that the offense cost the Browns in at least two of their three losses (Steelers, Seahawks), if not all three of them as rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson helped jump-start the Ravens with two turnovers that turned into 14 points for the Ravens in the 28-3 loss.

Whether P.J. Walker starts again against the Cardinals this week or Deshaun Watson returns, the offense has to stop giving the ball away. The Browns have winnable games coming on their schedule, starting this week and they need to take advantage of the opportunity that they have in front of them.

And it starts this week against the 1-7 Cardinals, who have quarterback problems of their own. The Browns will not be facing former Browns quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who has been benched and then traded to the Vikings.

They will be facing either a rookie quarterback making his first career start in Clayton Tune or Kyler Murray, returning after not playing since last season.

Tune, like Thompson-Robinson, was a fifth-round draft choice this year and Murray would likely have some rust on him after not playing in any games since December of last season. Neither has taken a snap in a regular-season game in 2023.

Either way, this is a very winnable game for the Browns and they need to get to 5-3 by the end of Sunday.

Cleveland Browns Morning News 11/2: Cardinals Incoming, Three-Headed Beasts, and Exiting Quarterback Limbo

The Cleveland Browns hope to roll over the 1-7 Arizona Cardinals, but they must be ready to take on Baltimore the week after. Allowing Deshaun Watson to knock the rust off against Arizona would surely help their odds… It’s the Daily Newswire!

When the Cleveland Browns elected not to make a move at the quarterback position at the trade deadline, they were signaling one of a couple of things.

Either they didn’t think any of the available options were significant upgrades to their current backup quarterbacks, or they felt that Deshaun Watson wasn’t that far away from being back.

With yesterday’s news that Watson had returned to practice and was, according to some observers, looking stronger than before the Colts game, it appears that option two might have been in effect.

It’s about damn time. Not that I begrudge Watson’s need to heal or the irritatingly fuzzy nature of his recovery timeline, but this seemingly eternal copy-and-paste “Watson is day-to-day” storyline is boring.

Pity poor Fred Greetham, who has to go out to Berea each day and find a new way to write up the same old state of limbo for the Browns quarterback position. Ugh.

One OBR Weekly last night, I had finally had enough and told Fred to tell me something other than that we’re still stuck in quarterback injury hell.

Despite sources being cautious about the prospect of Watson playing, there was a kernel of enthusiasm in the eyewitness accounts of media folks who got their typically limited glance of Watson throwing during practice on Wednesday.

No, they couldn’t see him on seven-on-sevens or full-squad practices, but they saw him in drills and thought he looked stronger.

And just in time, because if Watson could play on Sunday, Fred argued during last night’s show, it makes sense for him to knock the rust off against the relatively harmless 1-7 Arizona Cardinals rather than the rolling, nasty Baltimore Ratbirds the week after.

Arizona’s defense is nothing to write home about, having given up 213 points and being particularly kind to opposing offenses in the fourth quarter.

Deshaun Watson

This is what everyone is so excited about.Indeed, if there is any chance for Watson to play, it behooves the Browns to let him get back in the groove against the struggling Cardinals at home rather than in the far-less-palatable (in all ways) environment of suburban Washington DC where the Ratbirds play.

Besides, the Browns may need the points. I’m serious. On the other side of the field, the Cardinals may start Kyler Murray, who is back at practice and is anxious to start as soon as possible.

With some great draft picks coming up, the Cardinals are also anxious to see Murray play, as they have big decisions about whether to continue to build around him or move along in 2024.

The Browns, moreover, have never really fared that well against Murray, an RPO-friendly quarterback who might be well-positioned to feed off the Browns’ aggressive defense.

Sure, the Cardinals have few weapons – especially with their top running back and tight end unable to play – but Murray could create some headaches for the Browns defense, and a loss to the Cardinals would put things in an unexpected tailspin with the Rats on deck.

So, Fred will be out in Berea again today, and he’ll be watching Watson’s situation closely to see if he’s a full participant in practice and whether he seems to be putting more into his throws during the glimpse of practice afforded the media.

It would be nice to get out of quarterback limbo, but even nicer to get out of quarterback limbo right now.

Jake is joined by Andrew Spayde and Jordan Zirm to go through the State of the Browns as the NFL’s midseason point is upon us. They look back and place grades of the Front Office, offense, defense, special teams, and coaching performances.

Then they answer which player has them the most excited from the first half of the year and which one let them down.

Lastly, they close with banter on what a bad outcome, silver lining, and successful outcomes look like for the second half — where most of it is, shockingly, driven by Deshaun Watson’s health.

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