The Cleveland Browns are a confusing team. 2021 has been an odd season for them – they have been alternating wins and losses since the middle of October. At times, they perform like a play-off caliber team. And almost as much, they flounder around and either lose, or win by the skin of their teeth.
The Cleveland Browns Continue to be a Confusing Team
Quite clearly, the Browns have been consistent in their inconsistency. Identifying if they are good or a bad team is difficult, and as Jay Busbee of Yahoo Sports says, there is plenty of evidence to support both arguments. Plus, the Browns have a knack for making things more difficult than they need to be. The barely-made-it victory against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, is a prime example. Like any good team would do, they owned the first half, powering themselves to 24 points. Then, as it the first half never happened, they allowed the Ravens back in the game with 22 points. Finally, Cleveland sputtered their way to victory, beating Baltimore by only two points and wondering how they came that close to losing again.
Credit to Baker Mayfield
While most would say the Browns first-half domination was due to Lamar Jackson’s injury in the second quarter, credit can be given to Baker Mayfield… this time. Just like his team, Mayfield has been great at times, and merely average at others. Against Baltimore, he navigated multiple drives, including a touchdown pass that enabled Jarvis Landry’s first end zone appearance this season. Mayfield finished with 22 of 32 for 190 yards and two touchdowns; a decent line.
However, it was not his stats that were most impressive. He took a hard sack in the third and left briefly, Case Keenum taking over. But it was clear he wanted to return to the game, and he did. Mayfield’s precision and decision-making are questionable, but his grit and determination are not.
Denzel Ward Is a Consistent Playmaker
On a team full on inconsistencies, one of the few constants is Denzel Ward. He continues to demonstrate his ball skills with three interceptions and five passes defended since Week 9. When healthy, his run game is sturdy, and he can flip his hips and close in on the ball carrier – a rare trait in defensive backs.
Continuously playing at an All-Pro level, he has only missed one game this year. He and Greg Newsome could be one of the league’s most explosive cornerback duos. Winning most of the games they have left is important not just for the Browns, but Ward, who will likely be rewarded with an enviable extension deal if he balls out.
There Is Only One Way To Play Now
The AFC North was once one of the tightest divisions, but now it is anyone’s to take. With the Browns and Cincinnati Bengals at 7-6, Ravens at 8-5 and the Pittsburgh Steelers now bottom of the division, Cleveland must win three of the next four games, including both division games. The alternating wins and losses just will not cut it. Making the playoffs may be possible because against the Las Vegas Raiders, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, their biggest challenge will be the Packers.
If there was ever a time to be winning consistently, these last few weeks are it. Stranger things have happened in the NFL, and the AFC North is still open. The Browns are cutting it close, but it is possible for them to make a playoff appearance.