No one said it was going to be easy, but the Cleveland Browns need to regroup fast while they still have a slim chance of making the playoffs. Their situation is all the more painful because they could have been at the top of the AFC North had they won against the Las Vegas Raiders. Instead, they now sit bottom of the division and face the difficult task of winning their last three games of the season. And the Browns have not won two consecutive games since October 3.
Cleveland Browns Must Regroup, Still Have Slim Chance of Playoffs
COVID and Missing Key Pieces
Before the Browns became even more undermanned due to positive COVID-19 tests, they were already struggling to live up to lofty expectations because of an endless string of injuries. However, fans and analysts agreed that a team should not use injuries as an excuse. This sentiment was echoed by the Browns players and coaches. But Monday, the Browns played without 22 players and three coaches, all of whom were out due to being in the COVID-19 protocol, including head coach Kevin Stefanski and quarterbacks, Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum. The tune has changed and now all anyone can do is be sympathetic. Cleveland has been one of the most severely affected teams, and they underperformed due to there being so many obstacles against them.
The Challenges Ahead
The Browns will spend their Christmas playing the Green Bay Packers on the road and they will be short-handed once again, with the added strain of playing on a short week. Thereafter, they will stay on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers and then come home to face the Cincinnati Bengals. As Jim Ingraham of Forbes reports, Stefanski is calling each game “one-game season.” That is how Cleveland will have to approach each remaining game. With the Browns playoffs hopes slipping away, there is no room for error.
Can Nick Mullens Shine Again?
Cleveland may have to once again start emergency quarterback Nick Mullens, who was fantastic against the Raiders. Against Las Vegas, Mullens completed 20 of 30 passes and threw a touchdown, with no sacks, fumbles, or interceptions. It seems he was a secret weapon that Stefanski was hiding away until an opportune moment came along. “He played how I thought he’d play,” Stefanski said. “He was efficient… got through his reads, delivered the ball on time, and he fought to the end. Nick’s a grinder. I’m not surprised.”
While some of the almost two dozen players in COVID protocol are returning, the Packers will be a problem for the Browns. Winning in Green Bay is a major task for any team, and even more so for a limited Cleveland roster. Stefanski knows the Browns must be smart. “They are a great team. Well coached, and Aaron Rodgers is a great, great player. Our job is to put together a game plan that will put us in a position to succeed, and find a way to win.”
Cleveland’s players and coaches have had a rough year and the Browns goal of returning to the playoffs for a second consecutive year is in serious jeopardy.