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Browns Still In AFC North Hunt

Timing is everything and so are the consequences of one game in December. The Browns were ready to welcome the Raiders to FirstEnergy Stadium, get the W, and get a brand-new view from the top of the AFC North.

However, the game got moved to Monday, nearly a quarter of the team caught the virus, and key players like Baker Mayfield, top target Jarvis Landry, and defensive stalwart, Jadeveon Clowney not to mention the head coach, Kevin Stefanski, would all be sidelined for what was a critical game against Las Vegas.

Ultimately, there were too many missing pieces for the Browns to overcome. Despite late-game heroics by gritty third-string quarterback, Nick Mullens, who engineered a 14-play drive that chewed up over eight minutes of the fourth quarter and culminated in a six-yard touchdown pass to Harrison Bryant, putting Cleveland ahead 14-13, it was not to be.

Derek Carr had one last chance to pull his team to within field goal range and he did just that. Raiders’ kicker, Daniel Carlson, split the uprights from 48 yards out with no time remaining on the clock to give Las Vegas a 16-14 victory and a gut punch to the Browns’ postseason chances.

Special teams coordinator, Mike Priefer, took over the head coaching duties in Stefanski’s stead and stated after the game, “That locker room right now is hurting. That’s the most I’ve seen it in that kind of pain. You’re upset when you lose. Obviously, you’re joyous when you win. But when you lose that type of game, that was tough.

“They’re pretty down right now.”

The Browns are mired in the muck of the AFC North with just three games remaining on their schedule. Yet, it’s not all doom and gloom because if there is one basement apartment you want to rent in the NFL, it just happens to be in the AFC North. After all, the top team is only a game ahead of the bottom team and everyone has a chance, at least for now.

At 7-7, the season isn’t hopeless and those who happened to put a wager on the Browns after the odds flipped, from Cleveland -6 to +3 ½ once it was discovered the team had been ravaged by illness, were rewarded when the Browns covered the number despite falling in defeat. Before their game with the Raiders, Cleveland had failed to cover the point spread in four consecutive games and five of their last six.

What’s Next for Browns?

Next stop is not a favorable one as they head to Lambeau Field to face the NFC’s top team Green Bay which opened up as a 7 ½ favorite (-108). You can check all the NFL odds as this holiday we have a full schedule of football starting with Thursday night’s game, two Christmas day games, and a normal Sunday packed with key matchups that will have playoff implications.

No matter how you slice it, the next three games will be an uphill climb for the Browns, and the first of their three remaining games will be the sternest test of all. A date with the high-flying Packers in hostile territory will be a tall task even with a fully healthy team. These clubs haven’t met since the Packers claimed a 27-21 overtime victory against the Browns a little over four years ago.

But that’s ancient history at this point and it will take an impeccable performance to tarnish the Packers’ perfect 6-0 home record. But statistically, the Packers don’t stick out, all they do is win. For instance, they are in the lower third of the league in rushing, in the middle in points scored, and ninth in passing yardage. Aaron Rodgers isn’t running a juggernaut this season and they are far from invincible. So with a little luck, the Browns could steal one at Lambeau. Fingers crossed.

After that, it gets a bit less challenging for Cleveland. It’s certainly no cakewalk but anything is easier than a trip to the frozen tundra in December. Next on the docket, the Browns will get to avenge their 15-10 loss earlier this season to the Steelers. Unfortunately, this too will be a road game, but Pittsburgh is no longer the dominant force they once were, and neither is Ben Roethlisberger.

If they can win at least one of those games, they could still be in the hunt for a playoff spot. If they win both then they will definitely be in the thick of the postseason discussion. Either way, their final game of the season will be at home and the Dawg Pound will be woofin’!

That is when the Cincinnati Bengals come to town and this should be a dandy if the boys are healthy and still in playoff contention. Back on November 7th Baker and the boys laid a world-class whoopin’ on the Bengals and they did it in the Queen City. Now they will get them on their home turf and if this game resembles anything like the first then it’s nothing but good news for Cleveland fans.

So, there we have it. The Browns are not out of it, and they can inject themselves very much into it with a win over the Packers this Saturday. After that, it’s anybody’s guess but if Baker and company get back on their feet, it could be an interesting three weeks!

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